“I, SINUHE, the son of Senmut and of his wife Kipa, write this. I do not write it to the glory of the gods in the land of Kem, for I am weary of gods, nor to the glory of the Pharaohs, for I am weary of their deeds. I write neither from fear nor from any hope of the future but for myself alone. 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, Mika Waltari

The Egyptian (Sinuhe, egyptiläinen, Sinuhe the egyptian) is a historical novel written by Finnish author Mika Waltari. Personally, I think it’s the best Finnish book ever to be written. It has been translated to over 40 languages and it is by far the only Finnish to be adapted into a Hollywood film.

The Egyptian (Sinuhe, egyptiläinen, Sinuhe the egyptian) is a historical novel written by Finnish author Mika Waltari. Personally, I think it’s the best Finnish book ever to be written. It has been translated to over 40 languages and it is by far the only Finnish to be adapted into a Hollywood film. (I have seen the film, I think it’s very shallow compared to book.)

The book is set in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th dynasty.  The plot circles around Sinuhe who is found in the Nile and adopted to family of a poor doctor. Sinuhe grows up and learns his father’s profession and eventually becomes a royal physician. I love this book but it’s quite sad/pessimistic. During the book Sinuhe – he who is alone, feels lost because he doesn’t know of his origins. He falls in love with three different women and none of these relationships work out.  Nefernefernefer whom Sinuhe thinks is the most beautiful woman he’s seen is traitorous courtesan, Crete Minea happens to belong to wrong religion and Sinuhe’s last love bar singer Merit is perfect but they are separated by civil war. Also, every situation Sinuhe encounters seems to have the worst outcome.

There are many themes in this book. Sinuhe rises from humble beginnings, makes some wrong choices and is forced to go out to the world and seek his fortune (have we heard this somewhere before?) Novel describes well the power structure and changes in it and also the underdevelopment of the society in the Ancient Egypt.  The book also observes war (the novel was published in 1945, during/ shortly after the Second World War. Sinuhe goes to see it as he has never seen it before. One of the very important themes are also the religions. In the beginning of the book, in Thebes, they worship Amon as only right god. Later Pharaoh changes and he forces people to worship Aton.

I would rate this book 9+/10.

How-To Read The Egyptian

1. It’s the best book by Finnish author I have ever read. Translation can be hard! to find but it is definitely worth of it! You’ll thank me later. I would recommend the English translation of Naomi Walford.
2. Language is very beautiful and poetic and the  story pulls you in from the first page.
3. It’s hard to believe Mika Waltari never was to Egypt after reading this book, sometimes I forgot it was fiction. There have been some arguments of how historically accurate the book is but I think there are only some points that are non-accurate.
4. The main character and narrator Sinuhe is pessimistic, he has his reasons though. The novel is quite long, about 800 pages.
5. If you like historical novels, I would also recommend other historical novels of Mika Waltari such as The Etruscan and The Dark Angel.

“Sinuhe, my friend, we have been born into strange times. Everything is melting – changing its shape – like clay on a potter’s wheel. Dress is changing, words, customs are changing, and people no longer believe in the gods – though they may fear them. Sinuhe, my friend, perhaps we were born to see the sunset of the world, for the world is already old, and twelve hundred years have passed since the building of the pyramids. When I think of this, I want to bury my head in my hands and cry like a child.”
-The Egyptian, Mika Waltari

Buy The Egyptian: A Novel (Rediscovered Classics) on Amazon