From the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and author of the Cairo trilogy, comes Akhenaten, a fascinating work of fiction about the most infamous pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In this beguiling new novel, originally published in 1985 and now appearing for the first time in the United States, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story ...
From the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and author of the Cairo trilogy, comes Akhenaten, a fascinating work of fiction about the most infamous pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In this beguiling new novel, originally published in 1985 and now appearing for the first time in the United States, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the "heretic pharaoh," or "sun king,"--and the first known monotheistic ruler--whose iconoclastic and controversial reign during the 18th Dynasty (1540-1307 B.C.) has uncanny resonance with modern sensibilities. Narrating the novel is a young man with a passion for the truth, who questions the pharaoh's contemporaries after his horrible death--including Akhenaten's closest friends, his most bitter enemies, and finally his enigmatic wife, Nefertiti--in an effort to discover what really happened in those strange, dark days at Akhenaten's court. As our narrator and each of the subjects he interviews contribute their version of Akhenaten, "the truth" becomes increasingly evanescent. Akhenaten encompasses all of the contradictions his subjects see in him: at once cruel and empathic, feminine and barbaric, mad and divinely inspired, his character, as Mahfouz imagines him, is eerily modern, and fascinatingly ethereal. An ambitious and exceptionally lucid and accessible book, Akhenaten is a work only Mahfouz could render so elegantly, so irresistibly.
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Publishers Weekly, 2000-02-07 Nobel-winning Egyptian novelist Mahfouz (The Cairo Trilogy) appropriates, to wonderful effect, the craft of the biographer in these 14 elegant fictional testimonies on the brief but dazzling reign of the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten and his enigmatic queen, Nefertiti. First published in Arabic in 1985, newly translated into English, the narrative comprises many subjective versions of the early religious zealot Akhenaten's rule. Twenty years after the end of his reign, witnesses, royalty and relatives recount their stories to a young nobleman's son, Meriamun, who professes a passion for unearthing the truth. The particulars of Akhenaten's reign are unquestioned: the son of the great pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Akhenaten is a sickly, irreverent and spiritually inclined young man who ascends the throne when his brother dies. Inspired by religious visions, Akhenaten scorns Egypt's traditional pantheism and declares his devotion to the One and Only God. When his fervor leads him to decree that his religion shall be Egypt's creed, the pharaoh offends the all-powerful priests and invites civil dissension and foreign invasion. Eventually, he dies alone in his deserted city. Some of the narrators remain sympathetic to Akhenaten, including the heartbroken former royal sculptor Bek, who designed the shining new city of Aketaten. The High Priest of Amun, on the other hand, bitterly rues the era of the "mad king," while Ay, father of Nefertiti and former counselor to Akhenaten, diplomatically vacillates. The record culminates with Nefertiti's impassioned confession, though intentionally readers are left wondering: Which point of view are we supposed to believe? The making of history, like fiction, dwells in its infinite ramifications, and Mahfouz, ever the masterly stylist, accomplishes his lesson flawlessly. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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