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[90] The Egyptian – Mika Waltari

egyptian.jpgEgypt in fourteenth century BCE was a period of turmoil but strangely it was an forgotten era in terms of historical record. That Pharaoh Akhenaton attempted to depose the old gods, Ammon-Ra (see this post for background info), and replaced with a relatively unknown, Christian-like deity engendered a deadly repulsion among the Egyptians. It was believed that Akhenaton contrived to establish a balance of power between priests of Ammon and the throne. By means of black magic that bewitched the new god’s image and of manipulation that aroused public rage, backers of Ammon had not only restored the old gods but also wiped from the face of Egypt any evidence of the heretic Akhenaton’s existence. His name had been hacked from reliefs, the deity’s name was quickly forgotten as the pillars of Akhenaton were effaced.

At the center of this contention between pharaohs and gods, the fragment of history that all of Egypt sought to expunge forever, stood Sinuhe, a man of mysterious origin who raised from degradation to become personal physician to Pharaoh Akhenaton. The modest skull surgeon during his late years of exile has written probably the only unabridged account of events leading to overthrowing of Akhenaton, the three-year war against Syria, the bloodshed in Thebes on the heels of his extensive travel to Babylon, Crete, Syria, and Jerusalem. It documents how he became the royal attending physician and stood as the last obstacle to the fall of Egypt, which he saved thanks to his being in good terms with the enemies.

While Sinuhe’s account dated over 3000 years, his notion of keeping an opening mind and allowing every man his own faith is all the more familiar and pertinent in the present context. Why should one who is above the absurdity of power struggle between gods or faith be reviled, not to mention being accused of sloth and indifference? Why should anyone be tormented into accepting cross and horn (the two deities in question in the novel). In exploring man’s corruption, cruelty, and lust for power, Sinuhe brings alive the war between two value systems and religions that has only multiplied a hundred fold in the world we live in today. He is just as weary of gods and the deeds of Pharaoh as we are weary of religions and terrorism now. The core of the matter is beyond the distinction of good and evil, for good and evil have no meaning when men have raised up for themselves gods that suit their purpose. Greed, along with hatred and desire, rule the world. This greed is more than mere materialistic craving: to infiltrate and manipulate minds and to gain absolute obedience.

Look at the so-called religions today. Many of them are no more than sects that trample on other sects, wield power over people in the pretext of liberation and protection, chip away the difference between good and evil, indulge in gray area where nobody really knows what the doctrine is. Instead of practicing compassion, religions scheme and provoke warfare that harden men into further savagery. This book reads almost like horrible prophecy coming true.

3 Responses

  1. […] Give an example of a piece of description that’s really pleased you in your reading lately: “You who carry your destiny in your heart, may find it better to remain alone and be able to order your life and actions untrammeled by wife or child–this I read in your eyes when first we met. No, Sinuehe, do not talk thus to me. Your words make me weak, and I would not shed tears when such happiness enfolds me. Others fashion their own destinies and bind themselves with a thousand bonds, but you bear your own destiny in your heart, and it is a greater one than mine.” – Mika Waltari, The Egyptian […]

  2. […] obsessed with finding the tomb of an apocryphal king, Atum-hadu, the main subject of another novel The Egyptian. The unreliable narrator erroneously gives away the story. A major […]

  3. […] is the reason for digging books that set in Tibet (Seven Years in Tibet and Lost Horizon), Egypt (The Egyptian), and off-the-beaten-path places like the Sahara. These foreign terrains and landscape possess that […]

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