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Thebes at War Paperback – October 18, 2005

3.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“His work is imbued with love for Egypt and its people.” –The Washington Post Book World

“Mahfouz is the single most important writer in modern Arabic literature.” –Newsday

“Mahfouz’s understanding of human psychology and history is profound.” –The Boston Globe

“A storyteller of the first order in any idiom.” –Vanity Fair

About the Author

Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, his works range from reimaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 33 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays, and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer in Arabic to do so. He died in August 2006.

Humphrey Davies (translator) took first class honors in Arabic at Cambridge University and holds a doctorate in Near East Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. His translations from Egyptian literature range from the Ottoman period to the present day.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076697
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,401,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I too looked forward to reading a book ABOUT ancient Egypt written not only by an Egyptian but by a Nobel prize winner for Literature. I guess then I too must blame the translater for the stodgy dialogue and descriptions. Style also seemed old fashioned which may or may not have to do w/ it being written in the '40's. I have read non fiction reports of this era and this war because my interest was piqued by one of my very favorite Egyptian historical novels the series: The Lords of the Two Lands by Pauline Gedge which I do very much recommend to anyone for comparison with this book.

Historically, no one can say if Ahmose had an affair with the king's daughter just as there are some fictional elements in Gedge's book.

Historians are also not sure if Ahmose was Sequenenra's son or grandson, apparently the records are just not clear. Gedge's books ( a trilogy) DO get into the roles of the Tao women (family name of the Theban kings) Aahotep, widow of Sequenenra apparently was for a time regent and was given the Golden Flies by King Ahmose, a seldom given award for MILITARY bravery. They were buried with her and are now in a museum. The mother of Sequenenra, Tetisheri, was also apparently involved in military stategy as well as in holding the family estates while the men were at war, for her as well as Aahotep King Ahmose later erected stalae stating their valuable contributions.

These facts, as well as photgraphs of Sequenenra's mummy with its 5 or more wounds to the face and head, any one of which would have been fatal, can be seen in several Egyptian history books, including Nicholas Reeves' book about Akhenaten when Reeves is laying the historical framework for the Akhenaten period.
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Format: Paperback
The Hyksos people, from the Asian continent, were the first foreign rulers of Egyptian land. The story of the book begins at the time when the Hyksos, lead by their King Apophis, were occupying the northern part of Egypt and when Pharaoh Seqenenra was in rule of the southern part. The capital of Apophis was Memphis while that of Seqenenra Thebes.

Seqenenra is lured into war and gets murdered. The book chronicles the war from that point on till Seqenenra's grandson and Pharaoh Ahmose finally defeats Apophis, reclaims the entirety of Egyptian territory, and starts the New Kingdom. All wars were fought along the Nile, from the southern Nubian city Napata to the final stand off at the northern city of Avaris located in the Nile delta.

I picked up the book for two reasons. I wanted to get acquainted with ancient Egypt history before I embarked on a trip there. I also wanted to read Mafouz, the only Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel prize in literature to this date. The book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. For one the story was told monotonically, as a sequence of descriptions of the cities and battles thereat on Ahmose's campaign to Avaris. The story of Ahmose's love interest with Apophis' daughter provided perhaps the only refreshing interludes. However even this affair wasn't delivered as convincingly as it could have been. Intentionally or not, the story telling sounded old.

I had learned from somewhere that Mafouz' prose is famous for its fluidity. If such is the case the translator of this particular book may be at fault. I plan to read Mafouz' Cairo Trilogy to find out.
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Format: Paperback
This book reads like a Young Adult novel, which might be one the reasons it is part of the curriculum for students in Egypt (per the introduction). The style was basic and the descriptions of battles was repetitive. I felt like I was reading a novelized version of an Ancient Egyptian palette. However that does not mean the book was horrible. It has its exciting moments. It is my first foray into a novel about Ancient Egypt and it helped as a springboard into understanding some history of the dynasties and periods of Egyptian history. You might find it a good introduction to Egyptian history that is not a stuffy academic text. However, as much as it is based in fact, it is not completely factual. One reason is that the whole history has not been uncovered and the other is that the book is in fact a novel.

I recommend this book but, before you read it, realize that the style is not what you would expect from a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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