Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth

Naguib Mahfouz

translated from the Arabic by Tagreid Abu-Hassabo
Anchor Books 2000
A book review by Danny Yee © 2002 https://dannyreviews.com/
Intrigued by the ruins of Akhetaten, the young noble Meriamun resolves to find out the truth about the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten. And so he interviews everyone who knew him, from Akhenaten's archenemy the high priest of Amun to his wife Nefertiti: his father-, sister-, and mother-in-law, his commanders and ministers, his priests, his physician, and his sculptor. All these people present their own perspectives on Akhenaten and the events of his life.

Dweller in Truth (al-`A'ish fi-l-haqiqa, 1985) is highly stylized. There is no drama or mystery in the framing narrative, which is really just a device, and little in the individual accounts, since they tell essentially the same story, albeit in rather different ways. There is no final resolution: we are left at the end to make up our own minds about Akhenaten from the conflicting voices we have heard. And with the focus on the psychological and the personal, there is little historical detail — as a reconstruction it is sparse, and perhaps implausible in its lack of violence. Despite all this, Dweller in Truth makes a compelling short novel. As well as the multi-faceted portrait of Akhenaten himself, there is a fascination in the ways in which the other characters reveal themselves in describing him. And it is hard to break off reading Naguib Mahfouz's prose, which even in translation has a unique poetry.

September 2002

External links:
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- details at Anchor Books
Related reviews:
- Naguib Mahfouz - Respected Sir; Wedding Song; The Search
- more Arabic literature
- books about Egypt + North Africa
- more historical fiction
%T Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth
%A Mahfouz, Naguib
%M Arabic
%F Abu-Hassabo, Tagreid
%I Anchor Books
%D 2000
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0385499094
%P 168pp