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The Egyptian: A Novel [Paperback]

Mika Waltari , Lynda S. Robinson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2002 Rediscovered Classics
First published in the United States in 1949 and widely condemned as obscene, The Egyptian outsold every other novel published that year, 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.

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"Waltari successfully combine[s] research, imagination, and the cunning of a good tale-teller in bringing the generation of Akhnaton to life.” —New York Herald Tribune


"A grand immersion into an epic tale." —Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author

Mika Waltari (1908–1979) is best known for his historical novels, which include The Etruscan and The Roman. He is widely considered the greatest Finnish writer of the 20th century.

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First Sentence
"I, SINUHE, the son of Senmut and his wife Kipa, write this." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full-bodied recreation of the 14th century BC Egypt April 18 2004
Format:Paperback
The Egyptian set in the Amarna period of Ancient Egypt during the reigns of the pharaohs Amunhotep III, Akhenaten and Horemheb, covering the concluding years of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom (1386 - 1293 BC), an ear in Egyptian history that was marked by significant religious and political upheaval. The Egyptian is Sinuhe, a physician of unknown birth origin who was wrapped and cradled in a reed boat floating down the Nile. As he narrates his life story, which transcended years of warfare, plague, and fierce battle between gods. On the outside The Egyptian delineates the history of Egypt through its inveterate religious devotion to many gods. At the core of the novel finds one man's lifelong journey through many countries, like Babylon, Crete, and Mitannia, to knowledge. Sinehu possessed such lonely idealism that motivated him to devote his life searching for something so intangible yet greater than he beyond his understanding did. He was not ready to merely worshipping the gods - in fact, he insisted on questioning traditions and thus marked him as an outsider of his own culture.
The spine of the novel concerns the ferocious contention between Aton and the Ammon. Pharoach Akhenaten sought to disestablish the old gods with a relatively unknown deity called the Aton as the Ammon, the present godly sponsor, had accumulated so much wealth and power that the Ammon priests began to rival to that of the Pharoach. In order to achieve balance of power between Ammon and the throne, Akhenaten deposed the ancient gods and established Aton as a new state divinity. No sooner had Akhenaten adopted the new deity than Sinuhe ineluctably became entangled in conflict between tradition and innovation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Nov. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
As a Finn I feel slight guilt over not having read Waltari at all before 2003. Prejudiced towards his era's Finnish authors or just against his name which for some peculiar reason represented something for "old generation" and boring, unenthusiastic way of story telling (who can claim Kalle Päätalo doesn't sound like a boring author too..). I read couple of his earlier works which haven't been translated into other languages I think and after those I was convinced that prejudice had ecclipsed the masteful story telling abilities of Mika Waltari. The Egyptian is the third Waltari book I have read. Doctor in ancient Egypt?? Written by a Finn and gotten huge success all over the world? Somewhat uncommon framework for a book and I had no idea what to expect. I did some cautious non-spoiling background digging in order to establish some sort of an idea of the book. I learned that egyptologists consider the book amazingly accurate description of the culture in that era and that Waltari had done his Egypt + surrouding areas research very well but had never visited Egypt. It is said that he didn't make notes about the facts but just remembered and understood the essence and wrote the book.
I found the story telling captivating and humour embedded in especially Kaptah's long monoloques in a dialoque with Sinuhe were hilarious. Yet this story has a lot of philosophical pondering which always fits the storyline and doesn't seem separate from the story. Hence a combination of things that make one stop to think and digest every once in a while and the entertaining and uplifting humour and tragicomedy. Simplicity and complexity of characters, cunning manipulation and clever psychology all coats the story with even more interesting aspects not to mention the adventure Sinuhe and Kaptah go through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfull novel for patient readers only .... Oct. 28 2003
Format:Paperback
First published in 1949 and now reprinted this is actually a wonderfull book defining the times of ancient Egypt through the eyes of one of the 'common' folk.
The author allows us to see the wold through the eyes of a young man, Sinuhe, who, following in the footsteps of his physician father decides to dedicate his life to furthering his knowledge and become the best physician for both the rich and the poor....
Having a very limited 'social' exposure the the wealthy our hero meets a young nymph, so beautifull and alluring she may as well have been Nefertiti herself. The reader practically squeams in anguish as we see the young Sinhue sell anything and everything, including his own parents burial tomb in order to spend even one night alone with this girl. To say that things go badly would be an understatement and so we see our hero forced to flee his homeland in search for knowledge ....
The interesting thing about this book is that we get to see the times through the eyes of a commoner rather than thruogh the eyes of the more obvious royalty of Cleopatra, King Tut or Nefertiti ..... As a reader I did find the story frustrating in that one would almost want to scream out ... no no no no you idiot, can't you see that you are being used .... but I guess thats the whole point of reading a book that allows the reader to get involved ....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Of Men and Gods July 7 2003
Format:Paperback
Thebes, the Nile, the pyramids sitting in the background: the setting for this remarkable novel of ancient Egypt. Told through the eyes of the physician Sinuhe, this is a dramatic recounting of one of the most unsettled times of this nation, as Amenhotep IV, self styled as Akhenaton, attempts to throw out all the old gods (and their associated priesthoods) and install in their place his vision of a single god, Aton, a new version of the sun god Ra.
Sinuhe is a finely drawn character. We follow him from childhood through his initiation into the priesthood and physician's school, and his first infatuation with a 'noble' lady - a lady who strips him of all his wealth, even down to selling his foster parents' home, a rude introduction to the adult world for Sinuhe. Beggared, with a price on his head, he is forced to travel to other countries, Syria, Babylon, Crete, in fact most of the 'known' world of that time. From this position, Waltari presents a comprehensive portrait of the lives of both the rich and poor, noble and slave, the various cultures and religions that held sway at that time. Throughout these travels, he maintains a very positive engagement with the maturing Sinuhe, showing how the events of his life drive him towards a philosophical viewpoint that is partially in accord with Akhenaton's vision of a brotherhood of all mankind, a man prone to a certain amount of romanticism, but more and more leavened with a sense of hard practicality. When he finally returns to Egypt and becomes enmeshed in the political swirl of events surrounding the Pharaoh, it is as a significant player, with a viewpoint that enlightens both the promise of the Pharaoh's dream and the actions that others, from Horemheb to Nefertiti, feel are necessary to save the kingdom.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction at its best !!!
I read this years ago - about 46 or so (when I was 15 and should have been studying for my exams ...)

I still remember it today as one of my favorite books. Read more
Published 11 months ago by moonfish
4.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Tale
If you enjoy reading about Egypt during the 14th century, you should find this a fascinating read. For the most part I found it quite captivating and was totally immersed in the... Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2012 by Frances
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best?
I just read all the other reviews and don't have anything to add. I am just so happy to have found this book and this writer. Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2007 by John R. Bolton
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
Every time I've read this book I've enjoyed it. I know this book was scandalous when it was first released and banned in a few places for its raciness but I've never found the... Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by Sarah Sammis
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books that really matter
I first read The Egyptian when I was 14 and just beginning to understand the beauty of more complex books. Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by "neppiw"
3.0 out of 5 stars This seems to be an abridged version
After comparing this book with two non-english translations, it is obvious that this is an abridged version of the novel. Read more
Published on May 6 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Masterpiece!
To say that the author made History come alive in this novel would be a huge understatement. This is a life changing book, with many life lessons. Read more
Published on March 10 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars The grand scope of humanity
In this epic novel, Mika Waltari traces a portion of Egyptian history through the eyes of Sinuhe, the physician to the Pharaoh Akhnaton. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2004 by "blissengine"
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book!
This was the second Mika Waltari book I have read-the first being the Wanderer. I found this book to be better than the Wanderer which I also loved. Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2003 by Rosario Robin
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book!
I'm generally not a lover of historical novels but I loved this book. I could not put it down. I literally lost sleep reading this book because I just HAD to know what happened... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2003 by Alison
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