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'River God' Interview


.....Everyone is always wondering about the actual amount of truth behind the amazing story 'River God'. One of the generous people who visited this page, Mark Bieri, wrote to three experts on ancient Egypt, and received replies from all of them. He was then nice enough to send them to me. None of the experts had ever heard of 'Lostris' or the tomb described in the story, which leads me to believe that the story is pure fiction. However, below is an interview with Wilbur Smith that may help you make up your own mind as to the truth of the matter.


Gold for Wilbur in ancient Egypt

.....FANS of Wilbur Smith have had their call answered after 20 years: his latest adventure novel has an ancient setting.

.....Smith said that since he wrote The Sunbird 20 years ago he had been badgered by readers to write a similar type of story.

....."This is my answer to them," he said, "River God, which has the same sort of mystical element and an ancient historical background."

.....River God, which Smith will discuss at a Courier-Mail literary dinner at the Sheraton on August 5, is a tale of adventure, sex, power and ambition, set in ancient Egypt.

.....The idea for the novel came from the 1988 discovery of the tomb of a previously unrecorded Egyptian queen, who died about 1780BC. The academic who led the dig on the West Bank of the Nile invited Smith to assist in the transcription of precious scrolls found in a hidden niche.

.....Smith used his imagination to expand on the material in the scrolls, written by the eunuch slave Taita about his beloved queen, Lostris, her lover Tanus, and the Pharaoh, whom Lostris had been forced to marry when she was only 14.

....."As a writer of fiction, primarily, and not as a historian, I have taken liberties," Smith said. "I've added dialogue and built up the characters, but generally speaking the historical background is authentic.

....."The Hyksos invasion was a time of confusion and chaos, so very little has come down to us from that period, and that's why I was able to indulge my imagination a little bit, filling in the gaps. (The broad theme) is accurate not only from the Taita scrolls but from what we know, what Egyptologists know about that period. It all fits in."

.....Smith said the scrolls, which were translated at the Cairo Museum, were fragmentary.

....."The author had no character coming through at all because the script is not conducive to conveying subtle emotions," he said. "So I've had to pile on a lot of my own feelings. The slave Taita, the narrator of the story, has a lot of me in him: I've managed to usurp the chair from him.

....."The scrolls were written as a personal account and a tribute to the woman he loved, and also to his own genius and power and to brag about what an extraordinary person he was. I've kept that sort of feeling in the book and I thought it was quite endearing that he was such a braggart and such a blowhard, but also had other qualities which were of great value: faithfulness and love, compassion, love of animals and his people.

....."All these things were hidden in the text, but I had to fossick them out. My imagination was allowed to run riot."

.....The novel has been 19 weeks on the British bestseller list and Pan Australia says it has broken records here.

.....Smith, who is married to novelist Danielle Thomas, agreed that he was concerned about the volatile situation in his home, South Africa.

....."I'm actively investigating buying some property in Australia, not only because of the situation in South Africa but because of my feelings for Australia," he said.

....."Over the years I've been coming to Australia at intervals and slowly getting a feel for the country. It would be, after Africa, my favourite place in the world."




Copyright Terry O'Connor, 1993 Permission granted for reproduction in Gary Steele's Wilbur Smith page, one use only. No further rights granted.