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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Khufu's Wisdom

Naguib Mahfouz

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To purchase Khufu's Wisdom

Title: Khufu's Wisdom
Author: Naguib Mahfouz
Genre: Novel
Written: 1939 (Eng. 2003)
Length: pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Khufu's Wisdom - US
Khufu's Wisdom - UK
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Khufu's Wisdom - India
La malédiction de Râ - France
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  • Arabic title: عبث الأقدار
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Raymond Stock

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Our Assessment:

B+ : simple, but appealing and colourful

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Seattle Times . 9/12/2005 Michael Upchurch
Die Welt . 17/9/2005 Wolfgang G. Schwanitz

  From the Reviews:
  • "The pleasure of the novel then comes from seeing how the gifted young boy draws closer and closer to Khufu's throne -- until, through his talents, charm and virtue, he is poised to become his successor." - Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Khufu's Wisdom is very much a traditional and familiar story, a variation on a popular myth, set here in ancient Egypt.
       Khufu is the great and powerful leader, King of Kings of Egypt, Pharao -- and builder of a spectacular pyramid (which, however, is taking ages to construct). The book opens with Khufu rather bored, and to entertain him a prince brings Djedi the magician to perform for him. Unfortunately the seer has some bad, bad news for Pharao:

"Sire, after you, no one from your seed shall sit upon the throne of Egypt."
       In fact, Djedi knows who his successor will be: the just-born son of the high priest at the Temple of Ra.
       What to do with this news ? Defy the fates ! of course. So off Khufu goes to slaughter the innocent.
       Needless to say, the Fates defy defying, and the newborn survives. But it's not easy going, and the switches that take place make it unlikely he could ever come anywhere near the throne. By the time the dust (and blood) settles, it's unlikely that anyone could connect the baby -- named Djedef -- with the son of the high priest.
       Djedef has a happy-enough childhood, the woman who everyone knows as his mother, Zaya, marrying the inspector of the pyramid, Bisharu. When he has to decide on his future, Djedef opts for a military career -- and at school he becomes (what a surprise) "the academy's prodigy without any peer". But to complicate matters further, he falls for a girl who turns out to be Her Royal Highness Princess Meresankh.
       His bravery and abilities win Djedef the trust of the royals and a position at the court, but it still takes quite a few incidents for all the pieces of the jumbled puzzle to fall into place and for destiny to be fulfilled.
       Despite the simplicity and obviousness of the tale, Mahfouz offers a few nice twists, and he does the local colour very well. This isn't very historical fiction -- there are quite a few ahistorical details -- but on the personal level Mahfouz presents the story very well, and that's what makes it an enjoyable and often even compelling read. The outlines of the story are reassuringly familiar, but there's enough novelty to make it feel fresh, too.
       Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable enough.

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Khufu's Wisdom: Reviews: Naguib Mahfouz: Other books by Naguib Mahfouz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz (نجيب محفوظ, Nagib Machfus) was born in 1911 and died in 2006 He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1988.

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