Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth

Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth

Book - 2000
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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.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, [2000], c1998.
ISBN: 9780385499095
Characteristics: 168 p.
Additional Contributors: Abu-Hassabo, Tagreid


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Jun 24, 2018

Akhenaten is often given credit for being the first to establish a monotheistic religion. This novel masterfully views the sun king's life from the different perspectives of those around the pharaoh, including his Queen, Nefertiti. We see all the controversies that surrounded this charismatic leader through many first person views. This would be a great process to explore other controversial political figures. Nefertiti is saved for last, and I felt myself looking forward to read her view as I made my was through this relatively short novel by the Nobel-prize winning Egyptian novelist. Mahfouz leaves readers to finally judge Akhenaten and others involved in this political and religious battle skillfully brought to life.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 05, 2014

The narrator delves into the character of Akhenaten, Egypt’s controversial ruler, son of Amenhotep III and husband of Nefertiti. With letters of introduction he interviews those closest to the recently deceased Pharaoh, both enemies and supporters, to reveal a man deeply tormented and yet dedicated to follow his belief in the one true God, regardless of the political and religious consequences. Some thought him a madman.

ChristchurchLib Aug 24, 2014

Twenty years after the death of Akhenaten, budding historian Meriamum interviews those who knew the "heretic pharaoh" in an effort to understand the ruler whose unsuccessful attempt to replace Egypt's traditional deities with his own unique brand of monotheism made him a deeply divisive figure. However, as he talks to Akhenaten's most intimate associates - from childhood friends to lovers to bitter enemies - Meriamum soon discovers that truth is relative. Was he a religious zealot? A canny politician? Or something else entirely? Originally published in 1985 in Arabic, this novel by Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz presents 14 overlapping yet contradictory biographical portraits of a complex man and a controversial ruler. Historical Fiction newsletter August 2014.

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