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"I have spent my life in seeking knowledge. This is what I know. ... It's a poor legacy. But it's all I have."
"During my life I have seen, known, and lost too much to be the prey of vain dread; and, as for the hope of immortality, I am as weary of that as I am of gods and kings. For my own sake only I write this; and herein I differ from all other writers, past and to come."
The Egyptian (or Sinuhe the Egyptian) is a historical novel by Mika Waltari first published in Finnish in 1945. It details the life-story of an Egyptian doctor named Sinuhe, and his interactions with others during the turbulent reign of Akhenaton during the 18th dynasty.The story is told via the Framing Device of Sinuhe writing down his memoirs; as this clever device allows for plenty of room for doubts as to his reliability, the novel is an impressive example of combining both Shown Their Work and Science Marches On: Much of what Waltari writes was considered the best historical knowledge of his day, although much has also been reevaluated by modern historians. The main character of the book is named for the protagonist of a story called The Story of Sinuhe who overhears a secret and has to leave Egypt. The parallels to the protagonist of the novel is noted by characters inside the story.Sinuhe's story begins when he is found floating down the Nile in a reed boat; he grows up to become a doctor and in the process meets and befriends the Pharaoh, Akhenaton, as well as the general, Horemheb. After losing all his possessions to a woman he escapes into exile, where he spends his time spying and learning in various foreign lands. In Babylon he meets and sets free a woman named Minea destined for human sacrifice on Crete; after her death Sinuhe returns to Egypt and becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Pharaoh Akhenaton with his new god Aton and the old church of Ammon. Eventually Sinuhe poisons his friend the Pharaoh, and Horemheb becomes the true ruler of Egypt, although first under a succession of puppet-rulers. Finally Sinuhe confronts Horemheb over his various misdeeds and is sent into exile, where he writes down his life's story.Sadly, the only English language version available of the novel is an abridged version, which cuts the original 900+ page novel down to 500+ pages. The complete novel has been translated unabridged to several other languages though.The novel was made into a 1954 20th Century Fox film starring Edmund Purdom as Sinuhe, Michael Wilding as Akenaton, Bella Darvi as Nefer, and Victor Mature as Horemheb; Peter Ustinov does his usual scene-stealing as Kapteh. It is hard to believe that this rather ponderous movie was directed by Michael Curtiz, the director of Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Casablanca. Nevertheless, it has a memorable score by Bernard HerrmannandAlfred Newman. Marilyn Monroe apparently auditioned for the role of Nefer. The movie has some substantial differences from the novel.This work provides examples of the following tropes:
Charm Person: It is noted that Akhenaton can make people see the world the way he does. Horemheb notes that if it were possible just to bring everyone in the world to the Pharaoh so that he could talk to them the world might be changed. In a Crowning Moment of Funny we later hear that he'd actually made calculations for trying to achieve this.
Saintly Church: The church of Aton. A deconstruction in that the novel asks the question of which one is worse.
Crapsack World: The Aesop of the story ends on the somewhat existentialist note that you really can't change anything but your own attitude, that people are corrupt and weak, and that the only person who really wished everyone well is completely incapable of grasping this fact, which just ends up making things worse.
Happiness in Slavery: Kaptah is often nostalgic for the days when he was Sinuhe's slave, although he notes that in part this was because being a slave he could move around without being noticed, and that Sinuhe usually left him to his own devices anyway.
Heroic BSOD: Sinuhe has a really bad one, when Minea dies. It hit him so hard, that he actually sank into an alcoholic, self-harming, nearly suicidal depression for several months, before Kaptah gives him some Epiphany Therapy
Overall I was deeply bored with Kaptah during these days, because he served me food constantly even if I wasn't hungry and all I would have wanted was wine. You see, I had a constant thirst, a thirst that only wine could ease — I tried to explain this to Kaptah, but he didn't listen to me at all, and ordered me to rest and keep my eyes closed so I could relax. However, I was completely calm in my mind and cold blooded like a dead fish in a barrel of oil — That's why I didn't want to close my eyes at all and I tried to take my cane so I could hit him, but my arm was so weak, that he only wrenched it out of my hand — He also hid my excellent knife - the one that I had got as a gift from the Hethic dockhand - so I couldn't find it when I would've gladly seen the blood flowing from my veins.
Ironic Nursery Tune: Or rather Ironic Nursery Fairytale. During their "dating" Nefer tells Sinuhe a story of a man who sacrifices everything to his loved one, including killing his wife and children and as a punishment he gets thrown into a red hot, steaming oven. Later on, Sinuhe gives Nefer everything he has when trying to win her love. This also includes his family's house and later his parent's tomb when they die in the streets as beggars. And the red hot, steaming oven is his own guilt when he realizes what he has done
Karma Houdini: Two people end up making it in the book: One is a rapist, the other a ruthless "Greed Is Good" kind of capitalist. Everyone else is either dead or in exile. Nefernefernefer also qualifies. While Sinuhe has her imprisoned in the House of the Dead she charms her captors, turns them against each other and escapes with greater riches than she had before.
Love Freak: Akhenaton is a deconstructed example, although in a more subdued manner than most.
Love Martyr: Nefer uses Sinuhe, Baketamon abuses Horemheb.
Magic Realism: While it's mostly a straight historical drama there are elements like the blood stancher, whose mere presence can stop a wound from flowing, the Cretan god and the cures that Ammon's priests perform for Sinuhe that qualify as this.
Necessarily Evil: Everything Horemhotep does, [[spoiler; except for his marital rape of baketamon]] is done to prederve Egypt from the external threat of it's enemies and/or the internal threat of his deluded Stupid Good Pharoah.