In the autumn of 1915, in a "slightly heroic mood", E.M. Forster arrived in Alexandria, full of lofty ideals as a volunteer for the Red Cross. Yet most of his time was spent exploring "the magic, antiquity and complexity" of the place in order to cope with living in what he saw as a "funk-hole". With a novelist's pen, he brings to life the fabled, romantic city of Alexander the Great, capital of Graeco-Roman Egypt, beacon of light and culture symbolised by the Pharos, where the doomed love affair of Antony and Cleopatra was played out and the greatest library the world has ever known was built. Threading 3,000 years of history with vibrant strands of literature and punctuating the narrative with his own experiences, Forster immortalised Alexandria, painting an incomparable portrait of the great city and, inadvertently, himself.
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