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The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
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The Egyptian (1983)

by Mika Waltari

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1,326245,837 (4.27)60
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English (13)  Spanish (6)  Finnish (4)  Czech (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This just misses five stars--because it took me a long time to warm up to the Sinuhe, the protagonist and narrator, and it's just a little bit too much of a downer. So no, I wouldn't call this a happy tale--but it is a rich epic and great historical fiction of Ancient Egypt under Akhenaton, its heretic pharaoh. Had I not known going in, I wouldn't have guessed this novel was written in 1945. Although that might explain some of its bleakness--I've read that when it was published, it resonated with people who had seen humanistic ideals collapse in the face of Stalin, Hitler, the Holocaust.

This is set in Ancient Egypt over 1,300 years before the birth of Christ. Akhenation is thought to be the first monotheist, so he holds some fascination for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Before this I had read Naguib Mahfouz's Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth. Mahfouz is a Muslim and I thought I could detect that coloring his novel. Waltari, for his part, was supposedly a believing Christian. His novel doesn't come across as Christian fiction though--at all. As I said, it doesn't come across as written in 1945. I didn't feel as if there was a overlay of a worldview alien to the time in which this was set--and for me that's the mark of great historical fiction, that you feel transported to another place and time, rather than reading modern people in historical costumes. In fact, I think Waltari did almost too well--as I said it took a long time for me to warm to Sinuhe. Especially in his youth he was arrogant, misogynist, and too-stupid-to-live. But there are positive, strong female characters in this novel--they're just not very apparent early on.

And Waltari set this not just in Egypt--this is like a grand tour of the Bronze Age world--Egypt, Canaan, Syria, Babylon, Hatti, Crete. There are allusions to both Biblical stories and Greek myth. Sinuhe was found as a baby floating in the river on a reed boat and Minea, one of the positive female characters, is a bull-leaper from Minoan Crete--and there is a minotaur and a labyrinth. According to what I gather from online, Waltari did extensive research for this book and garnered praise even from Egyptologists. So truly, this novel is a great ride I'd recommend to anyone looking for great historical fiction--even if I found it a rather melancholy read. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 18, 2013 |
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. Can still remember the opening paragraph and just recently re-bought it to read it again.

A great book for anyone interested in historical fiction and Ancient Egypt ( )
  moonfish | Jul 23, 2013 |
Mika Waltarin vuonna 1945 ilmestyneen Sinuhe Egyptiläisen luin lukioaikoina. Päähenkilönä on orpo Sinuhe, josta monien vaiheiden jälkeen tulee Faaraon henkilääkäri. Waltari kirjoitti kirjan Kalhon huvilallaan, mutta teos on hyvin tarkka historiallisilta yksityiskohdiltaan. Jotkut ovat luulleet kirjoittajan olevan Egyptologi. Waltari käytti kirjassa paljon raamatullisia viitteitä ja siinä on nähty paljon toisen maailmansodan nostattamia tuntemuksia. Kirjasta tuli nopeasti bestseller ja se on käännetty 40 kielelle. Se on mielestäni hyvin kiehtova ajankuvaus. Siitä on tehty mös Michael Curtizin ohjaama elokuva The Egyptian. ( )
  roseraija | May 26, 2013 |
"Would that I had words that are unknown, utterances and sayings in new language, that hath not yet passed away, and without that which hath been said repeatedly, and without that which hath been said repeatedly - not an utterance that hath growth stale, what the ancestors have already said."

-Khekheperre-Sonbu, a learned man and priest of the reign of Senusret II, c. 2150 BCE

With all due respect to the complaints of millennia past, I must instead defer to Mark Twain. He offers that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Such is the story of Sinuhe, the royal physician to a heretic king, the Egyptian who wanders from Egypt to Babylon to Syria to the Hattusa to Crete. This is the archetypal story of love and loss, and yet it is new and familiar. He struggles for meaning and existence, both naive and sly, enduring the currents of dogma and war of history - all words repeated so much they are nearly meaningless, but still a cipher of every human being's story.

Waltari, though a rather astonishing depth of research, recreates a long-distant world, and dare I cliche - makes them Come Alive. A linear plot seldom exists, save for the wanderings of our eternal protagonist, and the surroundings and people around him, from his beginning to the end.

It is also an interesting coincidence that the author is Finnish - a country placed squarely in the middle of the most brutal conflict of the last century, between Nazi and Soviet, yet suffered far less than its southern neighbors. In that far country, they survived well enough to give warnings of war and dogma and tyrants, that we might learn from their history. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
My first introduction to "The Egyptian" was through a late night movie with Michael Rennie playing Sinuhe. The credits stated something like :Adapted from Mika Waltari's bestsellling novel." I got the book out of the library the very next day and found several things, not the least of which is that Hollywood doesn't always follow the story in the book.
The story of Sinuhe, an Egyptian physician, is told in first person and describes his life in the time of great change. He is just oeripheral to the major historical happenings, close enough to see what actuallyhappens to ordinary peopke when the leaders make monumental changes.

I read this first in the early 60s and again now, almost 50 years later and I find I still enjoy the book and see even more layers than I did so long ago. ( )
1 vote BarbaraHouston | Oct 2, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mika Waltariprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bendow, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I, Sinuhe, the son of Senmut and of his wife Kipa, write this.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The Egyptian" (1945) is actually an abridged translation of the original work "Sinuhe, egyptiläinen".
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A man of mysterious origins rises from poverty to become.

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