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The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
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The Egyptian (1983)

by Mika Waltari

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1,417265,339 (4.25)63
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http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2475568.html

Published in 1945, this was apparently a huge classic in the middle of last century, described as the best known book written in Finnish (Tove Jansson wrote in Swedish), the only Finnish book ever adapted to become a Hollywood movie, and the best-selling translated novel in America until The Name of the Rose.

It's about an ancient Egyptian doctor, Sinuhe, who spends most of the first half of the story travelling through Egypt's neighbours, as far as Crete, Smyrna and Babylon, and then in the second half returns home to participate in the intrigues at the courts of Akhenaton and his successors Tutankhamun and Horemheb (an old friend of the narrator). It was hailed for its "realistic" portrayal of ancient life, which to me tends to signal that it buttressed existing popular conceptions; I definitely felt that the scenes of ideologically driven internal conflict and brutal military suppression of popular uprisings might be drawn from more local experience of mid-century Europe than from any study of ancient Egypt.

It is a solid book of its kind, which would have appealed to the prejudices of mid-century readers while at the same time making them think that the author was informing and enlightening them. Of course, it has a comic slave character, almost all the women are seductresses, and none of the many "Negroes" are named. But there is a decent sense of scale in both space and time, and the reflections of the politics of the day are sufficiently oblique to remain interesting. ( )
  nwhyte | May 30, 2015 |
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 ( )
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  Tutter | Mar 2, 2015 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (56 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mika Waltariprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bendow, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landström, BjörnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walford, NaomiTranslatorsecondary 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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