Until the age of forty-one, Peter Hessler had spent much of his adult life in China, where he worked as a correspondent for the New Yorker. He had mastered the language, written four acclaimed books and won a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’ for his portrayals of ordinary people dealing with China’s sweeping transformation. Then something compelled him to start all over again. He decided to take up Arabic amid the ruins of Egypt. ‘Nothing changes in Cairo,’ an editor told him. ‘I liked the sound of that,’ Hessler writes.
If he was expecting a quiet time, he may have been disappointed. While he was preparing to move to Egypt, an uprising broke out. He arrived nine months later, in October 2011 – ‘the first fall of the Arab Spring’, as Hessler calls it. The Buried is the product of his adventure, and it is both beautiful and heartbreaking.