The Debate between a Man and His Soul: A Masterpiece of Ancient Egyptian Literature. By JAMES P. ALLEN. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, vol. 44. Leiden: BRILL, 2011. Pp. xii + 311. $168.
The Egyptian literary text transmitted in P. Berlin 3024 has always been considered as one of the more important and unusual compositions. In spite of the many specialized studies devoted to it, many questions are not yet definitely settled, so a new monograph is certainly welcome. The most important contribution of this publication is a very close look at the material evidence of the papyrus and an attention to philological detail. Asa result, a substantial number of new readings emerge, and some overall progress in the translation is evident. Also, there are valuable observations on the construction of the papyrus out of halved sheets of an account. text and on scribal practice--including the usage of larger and smaller forms of some signs, as well as the questions of where a word is divided at a column break, of where the scribe has corrected his own work, and of where he has left obvious errors uncorrected. New high-quality images of the papyrus are included and these will prove to be essential for all future work.
However, the publication is much less developed as far as discussions of overall content and meaning are concerned, and should, for these domains, rather be considered a stepping-stone than a source of definite answers. Furthermore. the question of the date of the text's composition is hardly treated at all, with only a brief notice that some particularities in the use of verbal forms point to an origin somewhat earlier than the date of the preserved manuscript (p. 121).
There are signs of a not altogether successful final redaction of the hook, like the varying thickness of the lines of the hieroglyphs. As a mere slip of the keyboard, the reviewer has noted that in the transcription of cols. 130 and 138 within the running text, the "large" instead of the "small" w has been given; on p. 109 simple r is given in error for mr.
Given the attention to detail evidenced in the publication. It seems appropriate to focus in a review on questions of paleographic and philological relevance. The discussion here will be organized according to the columns of the original manuscript. One overall remark may be set forth: In a rather large number Of cases the author argues that a particular translation is to be preferred because it makes better sense...