Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth

3.2 11
by Naguib Mahfouz, Najib Mahfuz

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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 new novel, originally published in 1985 and now appearing for the first time in the United States, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the


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 new novel, originally published in 1985 and now appearing for the first time in the United States, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the "heretic pharaoh," or "sun king,"--and 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Naguib Mahfouz:

"The greatest writer in one of the most widely understood languages in the world, a storyteller of the first order in any idiom."--Vanity Fair

"A Dickens of the Cairo cafés." --Newsweek

"The incredible variety of Naguib Mahfouz's writings continue to dazzle our eyes."--The Washington Post

"Naguib Mahfouz virtually invented the novel as an Arab form.   He excels at fusing deep emotion and soap opera."--The New York Times Book Review

"Mahfouz's work is freshly nuanced and hauntingly lyrical.   The Nobel Prize acknowledges the universal significance of his fiction."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nobel-winning Egyptian novelist Mahfouz (The Cairo Trilogy) appropriates, to wonderful effect, the craft of the biographer in these 14 elegant fictional testimonies on the brief but dazzling reign of the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten and his enigmatic queen, Nefertiti. First published in Arabic in 1985, newly translated into English, the narrative comprises many subjective versions of the early religious zealot Akhenaten's rule. Twenty years after the end of his reign, witnesses, royalty and relatives recount their stories to a young nobleman's son, Meriamun, who professes a passion for unearthing the truth. The particulars of Akhenaten's reign are unquestioned: the son of the great pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Akhenaten is a sickly, irreverent and spiritually inclined young man who ascends the throne when his brother dies. Inspired by religious visions, Akhenaten scorns Egypt's traditional pantheism and declares his devotion to the One and Only God. When his fervor leads him to decree that his religion shall be Egypt's creed, the pharaoh offends the all-powerful priests and invites civil dissension and foreign invasion. Eventually, he dies alone in his deserted city. Some of the narrators remain sympathetic to Akhenaten, including the heartbroken former royal sculptor Bek, who designed the shining new city of Aketaten. The High Priest of Amun, on the other hand, bitterly rues the era of the "mad king," while Ay, father of Nefertiti and former counselor to Akhenaten, diplomatically vacillates. The record culminates with Nefertiti's impassioned confession, though intentionally readers are left wondering: Which point of view are we supposed to believe? The making of history, like fiction, dwells in its infinite ramifications, and Mahfouz, ever the masterly stylist, accomplishes his lesson flawlessly. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Fascinated by the abandoned city of the Pharoah Akhenaten, young Meriamun sets out to find the truth about the ruler. Armed with letters of introduction from his respected father and a willingness to listen without judging, he interviews Akhenaten's contemporaries. Each conveys his own views and prejudices. Some brand the Pharoah heretic for his beliefs in only one god, others call him mad, still others believe in one god too. All speak of his abandonment by Nefertiti at the end. Finally Meriamun interviews the former Queen of Egypt, still a beautiful woman. He learns of her true love for Akhenaten and the real reason she left to become an exile in her own palace. In this fascinating story about a fascinating man, Mahfouz lets the reader see all the contradictions surrounding a true believer. Akhenaten never wavered in his belief, thinking all would come in time to see as he did. This is a beautifully written novel by the Nobel Laureate, ably translated by Tagreid Abu-Hassabo. For all those fascinated with ancient Egypt. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students, and adults. 1998, Random House/Anchor, 168p, 21cm, 99-056659, $12.00. Ages 17 to adult. Reviewer: Susan E. Chmurynsky; Media Spec., E. Kentwood Freshman Campus, Kentwood, MI, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.48(d)

Meet the Author

NAGUIB MAHFOUZ was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen.  The author of more than thirty novels and fourteen collections of short stories, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1988.    Mahfouz lives with his family in the Cairo suburb of Agouza.

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Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
This is a great little book. A little different, and maybe not quite as profound as Mahfouz' more modern stuff, but a very worthwhile read nonetheless. The themes of religious impact, the relative nature of truth, and the complexity of human motivation are all the more powerfully portrayed by the fact that these characters are supposed to have lived some 3500 years ago. Some things never change. This slim volume can be read in one, or at most two, sittings, so do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick but enjoyable read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Janus More than 1 year ago
Akhenaten is the story of the "heretic" pharaoh, who nearly brought Egypt to civil war with his belief in a single god, and his wife, the beautiful Nefertiti. The story is told through various interviews as a young man seeks to learn the whole truth behind Akhenaten's brief reign. Mahfouz's prose is crisp and beautiful. For a subject that could potentially become rather dry, he expertly infuses the right amount of zest into his words to keep the story moving at a good pace. This is perhaps one of the best character driven novels ever. Each interviewee injects their own personal bias in telling the story. Thus giving the reader a clear picture of who these people were, but more importantly, tying the theme (that there are many versions of any story and truth can be found in all of them) together. Some readers may be put off by the subject matter (a story of religious persecution and political ambition, less any elements that would truly make this a 'thriller' type novel) but for the openminded reader who has an appreciation for excellent writing and a fascinating story, I can't recommend Akhenaten enough.
Name4me More than 1 year ago
Because there is scant data on the facts of this time period, the books I've read all offer different perspectives on the motivation and details of Akhenaten and those around him. It is enjoyable to read various books and imagine which author has painted the most accurate picture, but we will never know for sure. This book doesn't flow like one story. It is written from a type of interviewer's perspective, with each person being a new section. I enjoyed reading it and appreciated the perspectives given, but I found the other books I've read from this time period more interesting.
jlacerra More than 1 year ago
Mahfouz takes plenty of liberties with the scant historical evidence regarding his subject, Pharaoh Akhenaten. He employs the tactic of a traveling (ancient) reporter gathering data from eyewitnesses. Each tells essentially the same story, albeit with different shadings and spins. This device is clever if properly used, but here it is not.

We are given virtually no character development for the reporter or his interviewees. Separator paragraphs inserted in each interview are almost identical, and tedious. Mahfouz writing style is wooden; one might just as well be reading an engineering manual.

The book has no beginning, no middle, and no ending ... it just rambles. I finished it because it is mercifully short. Actually, it is too short to be a true novel, and is more of a lengthy short story, but at a full novel price. The real mystery is not Akhenaten, but how Mahfouz got a Nobel prize!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best historical fiction reads I've come across. No one knows what really happened with Akhenaten, but this author has some interesting views that come across in a vivid story. It's hard to remember that this is fiction when reading it! A lot of the views represented differ from archeological "evidence", but it was terrific nonetheless - a great read. If you can find a copy of this - READ IT!!