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The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel García Márquez, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

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Cancel Forgot your password? This could be a little boasting Here's a story so old it was "written" before our alphabet was invented. It was first "published" on papyrus. It's also so short you can read a modern translation of it in only a slightly longer time than it takes to read this article. You'll find the story is rather simple and fantastic, like a fairy tale: Egyptian guy seeks an audience with the Pharaoh to tell him about his experience as a castaway on an island with a talkative, friendly serpent. He has gifts for the pharaoh from the serpent.

The Pharaoh's screener agrees it's a good story, whether or not it's true, and lets him in.

The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor

Well, it's kind of neat to realize this is the first example of the classic shipwreck tale to come down to us in one complete piece. Perhaps for these reasons of influence on later fiction, The Shipwrecked Sailor is one of the more popular and enduring literary works of ancient Egypt. You'll also note translations of the story vary wildly. The original was in Egyptian hieratic script, which is like hieroglyphics but sketchier.

There's a lot of leeway for interpretation.

The Story Of A Shipwrecked Sailor

Some translators render it in prose, others in poetry. I don't know how they make this choice based on the rows of symbols. I understand the old Egyptian writing employs literary devices such as puns and homonyms in the story but I'm not sure this requires poetry to translate. Another problem is that there's a dispute over how much of the writing on the papyrus that preserves the tale and is kept in the State Hermitage Museum at St.

Petersburg, Russia is supposed to be part of the story. If we take it all, the narrative appears to offer a framing device in which two men are returning from a failed expedition and the more senior one is fearful of their leader's wrath.