Equilateral by Ken Kalfus
A Novel

83%

6 Critic Reviews

...Kalfus continues the tradition of richness-in-restraint that runs through his other works of fiction...Equilateral is, ultimately, a satire about the ill-effects of empire, exploitation and greed...
-Financial Times

Synopsis

Equilateral is an intellectual comedy set just before the turn of the century in Egypt. A British astronomer, Thayer, high on Darwin and other progressive scientists of the age, has come to believe that beings more highly evolved than us are alive on Mars (he has evidence) and that there will be a perfect moment in which we can signal to them that we are here too. He gets the support and funding for a massive project to build the Equilateral, a triangle with sides hundreds of miles long, in the desert of Egypt in time for that perfect window. But as work progresses, the Egyptian workers, less evolved than the British, are also less than cooperative, and a bout of malaria that seems to activate at the worst moments makes it all much more confusing and complex than Thayer ever imagined. We see Thayer also through the eyes of two women--a triangle of another sort--a romantic one that involves a secretary who looks after Thayer but doesn't suffer fools, and Binta, a houseservant he covets but can't communicate with--and through them we catch sight of the depth of self-delusion and the folly of the enterprise.
Equilateral is written with a subtle, sly humor, but it's also a model of reserve and historical accuracy; it's about many things, including Empire and colonization and exploration; it's about "the other" and who that other might be. We would like to talk to the stars, and yet we can barely talk to each other.
 

About Ken Kalfus

See more books from this Author
Ken Kalfus is the author of two novels, The Commissariat of Enlightenment and A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. He's also published two collections of stories, Thirst and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. His books have been translated into more than ten foreign languages. He lives in Philadelphia.
 
Published April 16, 2013 by Bloomsbury USA. 220 pages
Genres: History, Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Equilateral
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by ANDREA WULF on May 10 2013

...Kalfus redeems “Equilateral” with some fine twists as the narrative becomes darker and more complex, evolving into a more intricate fable, an exploration of man’s hubris.

Read Full Review of Equilateral: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Steven Poole on Nov 29 2013

It cannot be an arbitrary fact that this novel has 32 chapters. Thirty-two is the fifth power of two, and a prime (31) plus one...That's one more mystery to ponder after the beautifully judged, haunting conclusion of this highly intelligent and rich work of fiction.

Read Full Review of Equilateral: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Ken Kalfus on Apr 24 2013

Like Thayer's enormous triangle, the Big Idea underlying Equilateral the novel isn't illuminated until nearly its completion. It's a pretty neat trick for a novelist to pull off...

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Glen Weldon on Apr 16 2013

...Equilateral reads as a compact and deeply satisfying work of fiction, which, moreover, boasts that rarest of endings: one that's surprising yet, if you've been reading closely, inevitable.

Read Full Review of Equilateral: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Kirkus

Excellent
on Feb 03 2013

The fifth book and third novel by Kalfu...is a slender but ambitious tragicomedy of ideas set in 1890s Egypt.

Read Full Review of Equilateral: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by John Sunyer on Dec 20 2013

...Kalfus continues the tradition of richness-in-restraint that runs through his other works of fiction...Equilateral is, ultimately, a satire about the ill-effects of empire, exploitation and greed...

Read Full Review of Equilateral: A Novel | See more reviews from Financial Times

Reader Rating for Equilateral
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Karen Russo

Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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