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Old 04-16-2014, 04:27 PM   #16
Bookworm_Girl
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I would like to read one of his longer novels someday. So many sound interesting that it is tough to decide which one. It was nice to be introduced to another author.

Your adventures sound exciting as always, desertblues. Have fun on your latest journey.

Hope you recover quickly, ccowie.
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:50 PM   #17
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Enjoyed the book, but can't participate in discussion now - surgery on right arm a week ago and can't type. I look forward to reading from others and writing when I can.
Hope you make a speedy recovery.
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Old 04-16-2014, 07:54 PM   #18
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I think I might be slightly biased aboud Mahfouz as a writer, as I read his trilogy on Caïro when I was in that very city and read his book about Ahknaten when travelling through the desert and seeing Egypts wonders......also his 'adrift on the Nile' had me thrilled after seeing for myself those elegant white houseboats ( though not its decadent occupants...)on the Nile.
( and now in Medan, Sumatra after some 26 hours of travel and am reading and rereading Hella's Haase books about the Dutch in Indonesia). I'll be away for a month....tomorrow I'll see the orang utangs in the protected forest of Sumatra.)
Have a wonderful time there, desertblues.

I have the Cairo trilogy on my "one of these days" list. I agree with Bookworm_Girl that I would like to try something else by Mahfouz.
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:39 PM   #19
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Bookworm-girl and Bookpossum. Thanks, I can recommend the Caïro trilogy as its context is the British role in the politics of Egypt and a secluded family life. I am glad to be travelling at last, as I had to go into hospital the week before and will get the diverse testresults while traveling. That's digital progress; I can access my medical file online. And I am enjoying myself.

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Old 04-18-2014, 03:35 PM   #20
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I wish you both well ccowie and desertblues, and your travels do always sound so interesting, desertblues.

I found the idea for a novel about Akhenaten and the construct of the story being told by various partial characters all very fascinating, however I found the execution lacking.

There could be something said for making most of the characters very obvious in their attitudes if one is imagining that the prevalence in that society was to be as such, but the author and the book in toto shouldn’t also come across that way, while Mahfouz and this book do.

Many characters were too similar, used phrasings too similar to each other and generally came off as unbelievable. It all came off as actually somewhat unintentionally childish, as if I were reading a fairy tale. Some of it may have to do with my knowing beforehand some things about Akhenaten’s time that made Mahfouz’s reconstruction of it seem at times false despite his own scholarship in the area (I’ve read somewhere that Mahfouz knew a lot about this history). Instead, I found it more of an historical Egyptian novel too influenced by modern Egyptian sensibilities.

Mahfouz was, in my opinion, also trying almost too hard to relate Akhenaten to Jesus or even perhaps Muhammad. I don’t know enough about Muhammad to spot the similarities, but certainly Mahfouz makes a case for Akhenaten to be a progenitor of the legend of Jesus, if one believed Jesus not to have been a real person. It could be possible that this was actually the case; however, I feel that Mahfouz was heavy-handed.

Overall I’m happy to have finally read something by Mahfouz, and actually think it’s not a bad book to read, despite some major flaws, since it’s short and makes one think and somewhat realistically puts one’s imagination into this specific obscure historical period. I also want to thank Hamlet for an excellent slate of selections this month! I’ve also added Burger’s Daughter to my “to read soon” list and am excited to read it.
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Old 04-18-2014, 07:24 PM   #21
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Early on I got the impression that the book would be more pleasurable if I did no research before I read the book. Then I could approach each testimony with less bias of my own as a listener. Thus I waited until afterwards before researching the people in the book. More of it contradicted what is believed to be the historical record than I expected. I am not surprised, sun surfer, that your perspective of the book was influenced by having some knowledge of this subject.
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Old 04-19-2014, 09:47 AM   #22
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I don't have much to add to the cogent comments above. I think it's entirely possible that a poor translation erased all the nuance differentiating the various voices, but the book is still skimpy and flat. The device of using various viewpoints should have progressively revealed further "truths" about Akhenaten, but he remained essentially the same character throughout; in fact, we learned more about the various interviewees through the process, which was the most interesting aspect of the book.

I agree with sun surfer both about the book's being pitched to modern sensibilities and beliefs and also about its reading young. It felt like a book directed to the middle school audience to me and indeed, the interviews read like something a kid would do for his school paper. I expected a wealth of historical detail and immersion in the Egyptian royal court of millennia ago, essentially a great read in addition to any tricks in discovering the truth that Mahfouz could employ and I think my disappointment in how the book read has perhaps unfairly impacted my judgment of it. I was happy enough to read it and was entertained, but clearly Mahfouz's Nobel didn't rest on this slight effort.

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Old 04-21-2014, 08:20 AM   #23
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issybird, as I was reading this I thought you wouldn't like it that much. The writing was just too straightforward. There wasn't any sophistication or subtlety - or at least not enough.

I'm quite often influenced by my thoughts in the here and now when reading novels and the message, even if delivered with sledgehammer blows, was resonating with some of my more recent thoughts and observations.

I had quite a bit of contempt for the narrator. He wasn't even an amateur historian, just a romantic. From the start you could sense that the queen alone in her palace enticed him into his quest more than any genuine search for truth. It was no surprise to me at all when he confessed his bias at the end. I wasn't so concerned about lack of differentiation in the voices because I assumed that Mahfouz was trying to deliver the work in the voice of this incompetent.
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Old 04-22-2014, 10:10 AM   #24
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I had quite a bit of contempt for the narrator. He wasn't even an amateur historian, just a romantic. From the start you could sense that the queen alone in her palace enticed him into his quest more than any genuine search for truth. It was no surprise to me at all when he confessed his bias at the end. I wasn't so concerned about lack of differentiation in the voices because I assumed that Mahfouz was trying to deliver the work in the voice of this incompetent.
I think this was reading to me as a boy because of the involvement of his father, but sheer incompetence works also. The callow youth in love with his vision and unwilling to examine the evidence critically explains the flatness of the account. The end is a foregone conclusion and the narrator is in a rush to get there, abandoning nuance and evaluation; the title and expressed intent are therefore ironic. Thanks! With this as Mahfouz's intent, the execution of the story has to be seen as successful. It's still not a very compelling read, but I can't argue if he achieved what he intended.

Great insight.
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Old 04-22-2014, 07:45 PM   #25
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I’ve wanted to jump into the conversation for a while, but elbow and forearm surgery left me without any use of my right hand. Although a little slow, it’s working reasonably well now!
I concur with many of the observations made by others regarding this book. I enjoyed reading it, but felt it was simply too brief and somewhat superficial. The word “flat” has been used by a few and I would say that captures it best. I’m not sure what exactly is looked for in a Nobel prize winner, but I’m a little surprised that a book like this would take such a prestigious award.
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Old 05-23-2014, 10:55 AM   #26
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I'm putting this novel on my to-read list for later exploration. I was looking forward to it but I find that the story and characters simply don't keep me involved. Perhaps later on I'll appreciate it properly.
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