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This article is taken from PN Review 250, Volume 46 Number 2, November - December 2019.

Animal Spirits: 2 Iain Bamforth

A FEATHERWEIGHT


Truth is light, feather-light even. We have this from the ancient Egyptians who believed that in the afterlife the heart would be weighed on the scales of justice by the god Anubis against the feather of Ma’at, or truth. If it proved to be as weightless as the traditional ostrich-feather, scribes would record the result and the person under judgement would be allowed to pass on the long and perilous way towards Osiris and immortality. Should the heart’s deeds have acquired the notoriety of heaviness, the heart was fed to the monster Ammit – part lion, part hippopotamus, part crocodile. Ammit was not worshipped; she was a composite creature embodying the fearsome qualities of the natural world as it appeared to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley. For the heart to be eaten by Ammit was to be condemned to the second death of eternal vagrancy.

JEUNESSE ROMANTIQUE


Sauntering down the long narrow deserted valley of the rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire close to midnight I was compelled to stop and gaze at the sight of a whole row of clochards cocooned for the night on the marble ledge outside a row of modern apartment blocks while, across the road, mastodon hulks gleamed white and spectral through the large windows of the grand gallery of the Muséum d’Histoire naturelle. Marooned in moonshine, these men were sleeping on sheets of corrugated cardboard and old newspapers laid over the heating ducts. Peering out of the windows at them were the skeletal relics ...


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