Egypt fascinated Golding all his life. Here, in the first of these three stories, Golding recreates the world of ancient Egypt at the time of the earliest pharaohs. His marvellously funny -- though characteristically unsparing -- view is combined with his vivid realisation of the dust, colour and blazing sunlight of a world he had imagined since childhood.
'Clonk Clonk' plunges us into an even more ancient way of life, primitive, delightful, matriarchal. It contains one of Golding's most appealing female characters, as well as a fascinating and surprising portrayal of masculinity.
'Envoy Extraordinary' brings to life the court of a Roman emperor, nameless, benign yet accustomed to power. He is confronted by a brilliant but unsophisticated Greek whose fertile inventions, centuries before their time, include printing, the pressure cooker, and explosives. This story, later adapted by Golding as his play 'The Brass Butterfly', is fastidiously comic, philosophical and, as always with Golding, full of narrative irony.
All three stories show Golding as a gentle satirist, bringing the past colourfully before us, with an awareness of human frailty but an amused affection towards the individuals who manifest it.