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The Egyptian: A Novel (Rediscovered Classics) Paperback – April 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Series: Rediscovered Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 2002 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556524412
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556524417
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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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Customer Reviews

Truly an amazing and well written book.
Although set in ancient times, Sinuhe's portrayal by Waltari could indeed be the story of any young man in any era.
Standing In Motion
I first read this book ten years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 166 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Mika Waltari's "The Egyptian" tells us the story of one physician of ancient Egypt, Sinuhe, set against the background of the reign of the fourth pharaoh Amenhotep, whose attempt to impose monotheism on his polytheistic country was one of the strangest and most fascinating experiments of early civilization. Sinuhe is a foundling, adopted by a lowly physician, and in the tradition of ancient times, trained to follow in his adopted father's footsteps, coming of age at the same time a decisive event is about to take place: the death of the reigning pharaoh, Amenhotep III, around 1380 BC, and the accession of his son, Amenhotep IV, who styled himself Akhenaton.
Sinuhe is a loner and a wanderer, whose self-imposed exile from his native country takes him to Syria, the ancient Hittite kingdom of Hatti, and Crete, before finally returning to Egypt, at the same time that Akhenaton attempts to overthrow the reigning god Ammon and his priests, and install his own vision, Aton, the one and eternal god, in Ammon's place. As a political move, trimming Ammon's power in Egypt may have been a wise idea; the priests' power had grown so great that it was challenging that of pharaoh himself. But as a religious experiment it was a disaster, especially in a country as rigidly conservative as ancient Egypt where change of any kind was anathema. We see Akhenaton as a visionary out of touch with reality and with his people, a tragic figure doomed to failure. And we share Sinuhe's ambivalence about this enigmatic figure, intrigued by pharaoh's vision of one just god who brings equality to all mankind, but repelled by the spreading social chaos this vision brings with it, especially when it threatens his own security and the lives of those he loves.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If one reads no other novel by a Finn, one must read Waltari's "The Egyptian." It is arguably the greatest work of Finnish literature in much the same way that Dvorak's New World Symphony is arguably the greatest work of Czech music. Each brings a national influence to what has essentially been an international masterpiece from its very inception. An American bestseller for a period after its first publication in English, The Egyptian has remained stubbornly popular throughout Europe with every new generation of literate readers.
Mika Waltari was a prolific and versatile writer whose historical fiction, of which The Egyptian is the premiere and defining opus, treats the great turning points of world history with a voice and perspective that bring to mind the sweep of a James Michener, the gently ironic familiarity of a Mark Twain, and the authorial presence of a William Faulkner.
The Egyptian ostensibly relates the autobiography of Sinuhe, a baby boy found in a basket among bullrushes who rises to become a doctor and advisor to pharaohs, during the coming of age and regency of the pharaoh Ekhnaton, who attempted to overturn established religions and replace them with a new one worshiping a new god. (Waltari contrives to make this element of the plot vaguely suggestive of the birth of Christianity more than a millennium later.) Through his travails and his travels, Sinuhe meets people of all stations of life in many areas of Egypt and its neighboring countries, informing us on many details both grand and minute of ancient Egyptian life and history.
But the true genius of The Egyptian is that it is really not about Egypt or ancient times at all.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Yau on 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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