The Third Translation: A Novel

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Overview

Walter Rothschild is an American Egyptologist living in London and charged by the British Museum with the task of unlocking the riddle of the Stela of Paser, a centuries-old funerary stone. In the final hours of his quest, with six days left before his contract is up with the British Museum, Walter meets a young woman who expresses an interest in him and his work. That night, he invites her back to the museum; the next morning, she bids him a speedy farewell, and secretly makes off with a precious antiquity. When...
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2005 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Signed by author. 378 p. 1st edition hardcover from Hyperion, 2005. SIGNED BY MATT BONDURANT! FINE IN FINE DJ, an unread ... copy. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Walter Rothschild is an American Egyptologist living in London and charged by the British Museum with the task of unlocking the riddle of the Stela of Paser, a centuries-old funerary stone. In the final hours of his quest, with six days left before his contract is up with the British Museum, Walter meets a young woman who expresses an interest in him and his work. That night, he invites her back to the museum; the next morning, she bids him a speedy farewell, and secretly makes off with a precious antiquity. When Walter discovers the theft, it becomes clear that outside forces have designs on his research, and his entire career - and life - is on the line.
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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
"An impressive first novel about life and death and how we interpret each."
Matt Bondurant
"A luminous debut...an ingeniously literate and incandescent historical thriller that mixes linguistic cryptology and translation with gripping success."
Washington Examiner
Publishers Weekly
Walter Rothschild, a middle-aged Egyptologist at the British Museum, has abandoned his wife and child to spend his time obsessively poring over the dusty inscriptions of a dead civilization. He is forced to reconnect with life when he is seduced by a mysterious woman who then steals an ancient papyrus containing the key to the enigmatic hieroglyphics of the Stela of Paser. The conspiracy trail leads Walter to a modern-day cult of the Egyptian sun god, Aten, protected by a menacing team of pro wrestlers. In Bondurant's ambitious debut, a sprawling picaresque is infused with mythic resonance by linking it to ancient Egyptian literature and mythology and to concepts in avant-garde physics, including black holes, general relativity and string theory. The author has an inventive imagination and an ardent feel for place; much of the book is a prose poem to London's squalid demimonde. Though some may feel that Bondurant's erudition and philosophical engagement ("the only way... to make sense of the magnitude of the time and the space and the span of humanity on earth is to grasp onto the one thing that gives you a clear look") slow the pace of his mystery, the success of previous literary novels of suspense bodes very well for this one. Agent, Alex Glass. (Apr. 6) Forecast: A big push by Hyperion should give this a shot at major sales, though it's not the only mysteries-of-the-ancient-world thriller in the running (in this issue, see also The Geographer's Library, p. 222). Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With time running out on his contract to decode an ancient Egyptian tablet, an obsessed scholar is seduced and seemingly abandoned by others with equal but less pure interest in the deep past. Bondurant's debut entry in the growing genre of academic crypto-thrillers considers the real-life Stela of Paser, an Egyptian relic held by the British Museum (and viewed there by the author). Cracked in two and missing critical pieces, the Stela has mystified scholars with its internal suggestion that its hieroglyphics, which can be read in two directions like some sort of early New York Times Sunday teaser, may have a third message for those clever enough to decode it. If anyone in the small and decidedly weird world of Egyptology is able to tease out the hidden meaning, it would have to be Walter Rothschild, an American scholar in his 40s whose facility with languages, monstrously huge intellect, and encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Egypt has led him to abandon his family for a life of nearly monastic scholarship in the deserts and museum basements where his passions lie. But the Stela has him stumped. With little time left to solve the riddle before being kicked out of his ratty but free digs in Bloomsbury, Rothschild lets himself be distracted by a friend who drags him to a druggy debauch. There, he's snagged by a pretty young thing who is so fascinated by his description of his work that she insists on being taken to his laboratory, where she slips into nearby historic duds, has spectacular but rather creepy sex with Walter, and makes off with a priceless bit of papyrus. To recover the purloined paper, Walter enlists the help of an attractive Sorbonne scholar in the employ of the NationalLibrary and follows leads all the way to Cambridge, where a rich madman has enlisted the assistance of murderous professional wrestlers in his search for sublime, ancient, divine experience. Then it's back to London for a lot of boff, bang, and pow. Archaeology outshines the action.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401301811
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/6/2005
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.75 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Bondurant began working on this novel while living and working in London, and finished it while employed at the British Museum, where he first saw the actual Stela of Paser and learned of its elusive and mysterious third translation. A professor at George Mason University and two-time Bread Loaf scholarship winner, his short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, the New England Review, and numerous other publications. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2006

    Brilliant first novel!

    This is a solid literary novel in the spirit of Dellilo, Bellow, or Pynchon. I laughed like hell and though the writing sharp and at times mesmerizing. Not a thriller as people seem to think it should be, not at all. Something much bigger and better than that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2006

    Plot like bottle in the ocean

    As a lover of history-mystery books, I was disappointed. Egyptologist Walter Rothschild is working on a third way of translating the mysterious Stela of Paser, when he gets seduced by a young tart who uses him to steal a valuable papyrus from the British Museum. In his attempt to recover the document, he bumbles around with the help of a sensible young English girl, has a series of encounters with weird characters, touches base with his long estranged daughter and before his contract with the museum is up finds there is really no mystery about the stela at all. Rotschild is a totally amoral and unsympathetic protagonist and the plot is tossed around like a bottle in the ocean.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2006

    Rambling, pointless, and gross

    There are very few books I don't like. This tops the list. I forced myself to finish, thinking it had to get better. It didn't. There's a week of reading time I'll never get back. Do yourself a favor, read anything else....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2006

    not exactly thrilling

    I must say that this book wasn't exactly what I expected it was really disapointing. I thought the author put too much descrition and characterization into subjects and scenes that weren't interesting. The book almost caught my attention 200 or so pages in but it just didn't cut it. I like books with research and information in them but this just slowed down a story that wasn't that great to begin with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2005

    Read something else. Anything else.

    This book has so many (unbelievable) twists and turns you get dizzy, that is if his graphic descriptions of how he bleeds and throbs from repeated facial injuries don't make your head spin first. Halfway through, I had no interest in the main character or his many 'friends', neglected relatives and history. This book focuses too much on the seamy underside of London (you feel dirty after his report on how the streets look in the different neighborhoods he frequents), his flat's toilet, and his roommate's hallitosis and very little on what could be an interesting story. By stating in the book that it's an almost unbelievable thing that the character is experiencing doesn't make it ok to come up with a disjointed 'twist' involving punting, American wrestlers and hari krishnas. I didn't laugh at the idiocy of this book after a while, because I was so nauseous--it's like being thrust upon a high-speed ferris wheel for hours. Here's a thought: perhaps the author should steer clear of the hallucenogens while he's writing and develop a gripping story. Instead he and his publisher have teased the reader by starting a tale about man who translates egyptian artifacts and then neglecting to actually satisfy them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2005

    Very Unsatisfying

    I received this book from the publisher asking me for a review. I was excited by the subject, but ended up a little disappointed. I have to agree with some of the reviews stating that this book should not be compared to 'The Da Vinci Code' (DVC). While the DVC reads more like a movie script this book is well written. That being said, the story is where I was disappointed. The narrative tends to ramble and be very repetitive. Several points were repeat that I lost interest in them. The main character is a very sorry individual, and try as I might to connect with him it was too difficult. The ending also left me hanging with unresolved story lines.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2005

    boring, boring, boring

    typically, i love these type of books. i just couldnt get into it at all. i read the first 100 pages or so, and was just so bored, i had to move on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2005

    Literary Page Turner

    Yes, it's true, if you are interested in reading a sequel to The Da Vinci Code, you will be disappointed. However, if you like writing that is more that is rich in elegant prose, original style, and reminiscent of writers invested in writing, like say, Henry Miller, Alexander Dumas, or Saul Bellow, than Matthew is your man. Unlike many of the best-sellers today, that read more like plot driven screenplays written for made for TV movies, this writing comes out of the literature. Yes the protaganist has a heart. He has issues and an unresolved past. A human character with flaws. Also something we don't find much in modern fiction. Also, the end, has some even more interesting turns and twists. If you like literature, and are interested in what it looks like when it is written in this century, read The Third Translation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2005

    What a disappointment

    I actually bought this book and returned it the next day. I read about four chapters and got tired of the protagonist's woes with regard to his failed marriage, and estranged daughter. It was depressing, and anticlimatic. Should not be compared to the Da Vinci Code.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    grammatically appalling

    There are wonderful descriptions of the English scenes; the sights, sounds, and odors are virtually tangible. The interweaving of the cultures of the present and Ancient Egypt are exceptionally noteworthy. However, it is difficult to comprehend the positive reviews and support of prize-winning authors this book has received. Not one direct quote has been encased in quotation marks. The reader must constantly reread dialoge in order to construct the correct meaning because of the lack of quotation marks. There are also numerous sentence fragments, problems with subject-verb agreement, and consistency. All of these grammatical errors have interrupted the flow of story, making the text difficult to read. The chief editor at Hyperion would be remiss in not taking the editor in charge of this book to task. Comparison of this book to The DaVince Code is misleading. The Third Translation does not have the excellerated pace nor the cliff-hanger chapter endings of The DaVince Code; anyone expecting this will be disappointed. However, readers that appreciate the plotting of The DaVince Code will also appreciate the plotting of The Third Translation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    Quirky, different , and very readable

    I just finished the book and have to say that I enjoyed it. It is different and should not be compared to the Da Vinci Code whatsoever but it is more in the vein of the Geographers Library (as mentioned in another review). The writing at times is stunning in terms of description and use of metaphors. However, the characters and their reactions to various events are not always believable and the plot at times does appear to be careening out of control but in the end it all works out. A major plus for this novel is the injection of Egyption mythology which sometimes is overdone but nevertheless an interesting theme in support of the main character's raison de etre. All in all an excellent first novel by an up and coming author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    The only twists and turns were-me squirming in my chair

    Sorry any comparison to the Da Vinci Code is unfair to the reader and way out of whack. The only comparison is both books have a 'professor'-end of comparsion. Reading this novel feels like a bad date and you wish it soon would be over. Am a history major so I do enjoy, engaging stories and in depth plot lines and this book does not provide this. Thought the characters were all juvenile and shallow. Plus the word 'I' is over used in every sentence and this became a distraction. This novel should be entered in the annual Bullwer-Lytton writer's competition where the worst stories are submitted. It gets my vote.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2005

    Very disappointing

    I am fascinated by Egypt and cryptology. I understand being obsessive compulsive and having your life overtaken by an invading passion. I like reading 'smart' intelligent fiction. Reviews of this book made me VERY eager to read it. Unfortunately the mix of fiction and obscure egyptology did not gel for me. I found it impossible to 'see' and 'feel' through the eyes of Walter Rothschild. The writing is of high-quality, with a wealth of information about the Stela of Paser (and also in string theory) but, while seductive, the book as a whole with its' fish-tailed end is more aggravating than enjoyable..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2005

    Horrible

    This book should in no way be compared to The Da Vinci Code. That comparison (along with a love for Egyptology) is how I got suckered in to buying this book and I was kicking myself by the third chapter. The only thing that made me finish the book was stubbornnes because I paid good money for the thing. The main character is a very depressing man who is apparently mentally and physically incapable of making good choices and we are supposed to feel sorry for him as a result. The mystery of the Stela of Paser takes a far second place to his woes. Furthermore, I have never read a book that left so many loose ends flapping about--and if that is a hint from the author that there will be a sequel, I will live with the suspense because I will never pick up another book by this man again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2005

    Personally Inspired

    As an introductory novel. Matthew Bondurant does a fantastic job of putting his own life experiances into this work. I know becuase as of right now he is still my English 201 teacher at George Mason University. It is interesting to see how his stories of himself living in London, such as his room, and history museum worker made it to the book. I enjoy learning from him each week, and hope this book of his does well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2005

    The Writer's New Clothes

    Where is the thrill? Where is the mystery? Where is the action? Without the Egyptian prose we have a 'B' novel and that isn't fair to the 'B' novels. Without the DaVinci code this work would never have been published. Sorry..someone else feel the same?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2005

    A MYSTERY OF ANCIENT EGYPT MASTERFULLY READ

    Almost taking a page from his own life debut novelist Bondourant selects a middle-aged Egyptologist as his protagonist. This character, Walter Rothschild, is working for the British Museum, assigned to unraveling the mystery of the Stela of Paser, an ancient funerary stone. In actuality, Bondourant began working on this novel while living in London and employed by the British Museum. His attention to detail adds greatly to his setting; his knowledge of ancient Egypt provides intriguing backdrop material. As our story opens Rothschild is close to solving the puzzle, the baffling third translation. His work is interrupted by a young woman who voices an interest not only in Rothschild's work but in the man himself. Their liaison, which takes place in the Museum after hours, results in one less antiquity. His lover has stolen a priceless papyrus and seemingly disappeared. Rothschild's search for the papyrus and the woman leads him to a modern day cult complete with menacing henchman and worshipers of an Egyptian sun god. As it turns out, not only is Rothschild's work on the line but also his life. Voice actor Paul Michael has a degree in drama from the University of British Columbia, and the perfect tonal quality to deliver this tale. His articulate reading enhances a tale that is both erudite and suspenseful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2005

    Third Translation

    I really never spend much time writing reviews, but just finished 'The Third Translation,' and absolutely fell in love with it! I read mostly literary novels and short story collections, but a friend recommended Matt Bondurant's first novel, and I couldn't put it down. The writing is eloquent, interesting, informative, and original. I can't wait for his next book--what a great introductory novel by a new writer!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2005

    Third Translation

    For the opposite reasons that I had to toss ¿The Da Vinci Code¿ onto the top of my unread pile of poorly written novels, I was happily entranced and engaged by ¿The Third Translation.¿ In this novel I found all of the things that were missing with Dan Brown¿s narrative¿Bondurant gives you original and human characters, real world sorrow and confusion that one expects in good literature, unsettling and wonderful plot movements, and the confident craft of tension that is seen more often in the works of Chabon and Irving. Matt Bondurant is a novelist with a long and brilliant career ahead of him¿rarely have I picked up a first novel from a new writer and been so impressed with the characters, tension, and craft of the narrative. Unlike the pulp mysteries that ¿The Third Translation¿ is compared to, this novel is filled with brave and original characters who challenge us with their particular obsessive behaviors¿there is no comparison between the obtuse brilliance of Bondurant¿s Walter Rothschild and the ¿Indiana Jones¿ mimicry of Dan Brown¿s Robert Langdon. It is a shame that these two novels are even being compared, and it is a disservice to Bondurant¿s craft that they are mentioned in the same breath. That said, if one enjoys the pressure and tempo of novels like TDVC, I would recommend they take the next step into the realm of literary suspense that Bondurant represents so splendidly. Bondurant intersperses complicated Egyptology within the constricts of the novel (a difficult task in itself) as the plot runs us through the London underground, the British Museum, Soho, Covent Garden, etc. His adept handling of this monumental task is tempered with the wonderful humor of the novel, not to mention the great pathos he develops for the main characters (not since Ignacious J. Reilly from ¿A Confederacy of Dunces,¿ have I fallen in love with such an unloveable character). But more than all of these great qualities, this novel is written with great care and great ability¿Bondurant mixes the complicated axioms of the scholarly with the equally poignant world of the mad and fetid London club scene. Often, this transition from the sterility of the British Museum to the urine soaked cobbled streets of Soho reminds me of those transitional moments of cytology and whale lore in ¿Moby Dick.¿ Beyond all of this, however, TTT is a fun and uproariously wild ride that will make you ache for the feral madness of London. It is human, absurd, wonderful. It is literary, scholarly, intense, and untamed. If you are like me, you will consume this one in a day, then start over in order to discover what you might have missed on the first read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2005

    Smoking away the translation

    After having read The Third Translation I feel like I wasted precious time in the endeavour. Not only did I waste this time but the constant references to smoking-cigarettes-etc. were sickening. I mean, if you take this environment seriously any nonsmoker would stay 180 degrees away from England. I expected more action and a lot less 'smoke'. However, anyone that gets a novel published deserves at least 2 stars.

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