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Rhadopis of Nubia Paperback – March 8, 2005
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“Mahfouz’s characters blaze with intensity, his Egypt pulsates with unresolved tensions.” –The Atlanta Constitution
“Through works rich in nuance–now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous–Mahfouz has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind.” –The Swedish Academy, The Nobel Prize in Literature
“Mahfouz’s novels provide a voice for his culture.” –The Denver Post
“He is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola and a Jules Romains.” –Edward Said, London Review of Books
From the Inside Flap
Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz mines the riches of his homeland's ancient past in "Rhadopis of Nubia," an unforgettable love story set against the high politics of Egypt's Sixth Dynasty.
While the ravishing courtesan Rhadopis is bathing, a falcon lifts one of her golden sandals and drops it into the lap of the Pharaoh Merenra II. Upon hearing Rhadopis described as "beauty itself," the young pharaoh decides to return Rhadopis's sandal himself. When the two meet, they are immediately seized by a passion far stronger than their ability to resist. Thus begins a love affair that makes them the envy of Egyptian society. But blinded by their love and the extravagant attentions they lavish on each other, they ignore the growing resentment of the world around them in this extraordinary tale of star-crossed love.
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At that epoch in Egypt, half of the lands of the kingdom belong to the priesthood. But for reasons of prestige, the very ambitious and jealous Pharaoh wants to build new palaces and needs therefore new land and vast new resources. He finds nothing better than to annex the temple domains to the lands of the crown.
This annexation is a very dangerous bet, because the priests constitute a formidable social force. They reign over the hearts and the minds of the people via the temple sermons and the educational network.
The psychological struggle for the heart of the people reaches a new high when the Pharaoh falls in love with a demonic beauty, the courtesan Rhadopis. He squanders vast amounts of gold to construct a new palace for his favorite. But, the religious authorities begin to sap his prestige.
For Naguib Mahfouz, the Pharaoh is the symbol of Egypt and the Egyptians, lovers of female beauties and luxury and squanderers of big fortunes.
They pose the eternal question: Shouldn't we live by the gospel of hedonism, 'Carpe Diem'? The tomb is said to be the door of heaven. But, no one has ever emerged from that door to reassure our hearts. What did the powerful win by exercising their power? What did they get in return from the riches they tried to acquire during their whole life? Smoke.
On the other hand, pleasure is pleasure! Everything that isn't beauty is worth just nothing.
In this strong novel, where the innocence of art is used as the ultimate means to achieve dubious purposes, Naguib Mahfouz raises and answers crucial questions in the life of every human being.
A must read for all lovers of world literature.