A post by Maynard

If you’ve got an eye for a good book, take a peek at Mika Waltari’s novel, The Egyptian. This was first published in Finland in 1949, and went on to take the world by storm. It became a best-seller, and has remained in print ever since. From the Amazon page:

The Egyptian outsold every other novel published in 1949, and remains a classic; readers worldwide have testified to its life-changing power. It is a full-bodied re-creation of a largely forgotten era in the world’s history: the Egypt of the 14th century B.C.E., when pharaohs and gods contended with the near-collapse of history’s greatest empire. This epic tale encompasses the whole of the then-known world, from Babylon to Crete, from Thebes to Jerusalem, while centering around one unforgettable figure: Sinuhe, a man of mysterious origins who rises from the depths of degradation to become personal physician to Pharaoh Akhnaton.

This is a historical novel, and it’s a pleasing way to absorb a meaty slice of ancient history. Akhenaten was a controversial pharaoh; he is portrayed here as a mystic and a true believer who aspires to lead Egypt away from corrupt paganism and toward something resembling ethical monotheism. However, dreams such as his don’t translate smoothly into reality, and Akhenaten’s attempt to transform Egypt yielded catastrophic results. His religious advocacy faded upon his passing.

As a side note, the historical Exodus would be placed somewhere in the aftermath of Akhenaten’s reign. Some secular scholars have suggested a connection between Akhenaten’s advocacy of primitive monotheism and the religion of the early Jews. That has nothing to do with this novel, but it’s an interesting point.

Anyway, The Egyptian is told as living history from the first-person perspective of a fictional narrator. As such, it’s not about historical details so much as it is about people. This is what makes it a readable, engaging tale. It was also considered a bit racy for its day, but really nothing inappropriate or more than mildly risqué. It shows humanity as it is, for better or worse.

I thought of this book because Egypt is today in the news. Of course, today’s headlines have nothing to do with this bit of history…except that people are people, and human nature remains unchanged over the eons. Perhaps I take some comfort in the reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. Other than the fact that we can kill more people with greater ease these days, it’s all the same story.

If any of the foregoing sounds interesting, click to Amazon and go to the “Look Inside” link and read a few pages.

(Oh, I suppose I should mention the film version, from 1954. And I’m not slamming the film, but neither do I really care about it. It’s the book that captured me, not the movie.)

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3 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. RuBegonia says:

    Maynard, simultaneous to the TammyTweet for this post, I was tweeting a link to this. http://youtu.be/a5N7RNQUKts
    You have out-classed me. 🙂

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tammy Bruce, PalinPromotions. PalinPromotions said: Via @HeyTammyBruce Maynard’s (Non-Political) Book Note: “The Egyptian” http://bit.ly/dKcBnY […]

  3. thierry says:

    i only want a copy with the 1955 ‘bodice ripper’ cover. the subtitle should be ‘ Lust in the Hot Dust.’ wow.

    considering Akhenaten had himself represented with all his rather feminizing physical flaws instead of idealized like all other pharaohs… still if Akhenaten wasn’t all that, Nefertiti certainly was. (tutankhamun was akhenaten’s son with one of the sun king’s sisters,btw, proven through dna testing.)


    the original’ god’ of egypt was actually one- only it was a Goddess from whom all the other’s flowed: Isis. and her worship demanded a high level of ethical behavior.

    “You see me here, Lucius, in answer to your prayer. I am nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the ocean, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, my nod governs the shining heights of Heavens, the wholesome sea breezes. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names … some know me as Juno, some as Bellona … the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship call me by my true name…Queen Isis.” -Apuleius

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