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Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth (1985)

by Naguib Mahfouz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5582742,999 (3.61)27
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  novel, originally published in Arabic in 1985, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the "heretic pharaoh," or "sun king,"--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.… (more)
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» See also 27 mentions

English (15)  Spanish (8)  Arabic (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
OK but hard to deal with. Several conflicting accounts. ( )
  kslade | Jun 12, 2023 |
This is the story of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten, related to a young man by each person who was close to, or who served, the pharaoh. I couldn't help but be reminded of the current state of American politics. Everyone tells a different story. Every single person had a differing opinion on Akhenaten. So, who do you believe? The one consistent thread among all was that he had a strange appearance and that his faith in the One God was unwavering.

I would really like to read other books by Mahfouz, as I'm thinking this probably isn't his best. I mean, it was interesting enough, but the many points of view relating the story made character development difficult...and I'm a big fan of character development. I'm not saying I disliked the book immensely, but I have read other historical novels about various ancient Egyptian royalty and found them much more interesting.

That being said, historical fiction always leaves me wishing I could travel back and find out the real story. A fly on the wall, so to speak. As Akhenaten's life is somewhat of a mystery compared to other pharaohs (due to his name, etc. being obliterated because he was judged a heretic), I especially wish I could learn the truth about him. ( )
  TheTrueBookAddict | Mar 22, 2020 |
Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth is the story of Egypt's heretic pharaoh. The format of the book is that a young Egyptian decides to interview contemporaries of Akhenaten in order to uncover and record the truth for posterity. Each chapter was the version of the story from a different one of the historical characters. I liked how Mahfouz was able to get in the head of the different characters and present their version with all of their probable biases. He lets the the history reveal itself to the reader over the course of the book. I found it interesting how the country reacted when Akhenaten challenged their religious beliefs and traditions, especially since his new beliefs would be mainstream today. I also liked how the last line of the book put a different spin on the purpose of the book and its message. It really made me think and I bumped up the star rating a whole 1/2 star because of that one sentence. ( )
  Cora-R | Jul 31, 2019 |
A young man wishes to find out the truth about Akhenaten, the monotheistic pharaoh, whose new faith in the god Aten, did not outlast him or the beautiful city he had built in the god's honor. With a letter of introduction to various erstwhile members of the court, the narrator gets a more complete picture of Akhenaten. Each person whom he interviews and tells their impressions of the man, has a different opinion about the man and various facets of his life. Some, such as Ay, the counsellor, and the Aten high priest have nothing but good to say. Others, although they had given lip service to that religion, denigrated him after his death, calling him insane. Each has a different theory on why his wife, the beautiful Nefertiti, left him. Some felt he had died of natural causes and others, that he had been murdered. Sort of a Rashomon-type story set in ancient Egypt.

Recommended. A smooth translation and a quick read. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Nagib Machfus ist ein Erzähler in einem sehr ursprünglichen Sinne dieses Wortes: Er schreibt Geschichten, die sich Menschen gegenseitig erzählen, die sich wie ein pluralistisches Puzzle zur Wirklichkeit zusammenfügen und am Ende geschichtete Wahrheit bilden. Machfus, 1988 Arabiens erster Literatur-Nobelpreisträger, ist nicht nur Schriftsteller, sondern auch einer der bedeutendsten Kulturkritiker seines Landes. Und so ist Echnaton nicht nur ein historischer Roman. Thomas Mann hat schon in den 40er Jahren Echnatons Glaubensrevolution im Roman "Joseph und seine Brüder" zu einem Akt der Aufklärung stilisiert. Mit Joseph an seiner Seite wurde Echnaton zu einer Symbolfigur des Humanismus, die Mann im Exils der Herrschaft der Nationalsozialisten entgegenstellen wollte. Machfus schreibt mit der Geschichte des wahrheitsliebenden Pharao auch eine Parabel über das moderne Ägypten mit seinem religiösen Fanatismus und der Machtgier seiner Führungseliten. Damit ist dieser Roman, der im Original schon 1985 erschien, heute aktueller denn je.
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naguib Mahfouzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abu-Hassabo, TagreidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It all began with a glance, a glance that grew into desire, as the ship pushed its way against the calm, strong current at the end of the flood season.
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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  novel, originally published in Arabic in 1985, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the "heretic pharaoh," or "sun king,"--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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