The Egyptian

“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

16 thoughts on “The Egyptian

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  1. Great book! My father gave this book to me when I was younger and made me read it – mostly because the author used to live his summers here where we live. But I’m glad he did it because I agree with you, one of the best Finnish books and a classic!

    1. Thanks for comment, glad you agree :D It is absolutely wonderful book, it should be made even more known. Haha, my father actually made me read it too.

  2. I have the book and started reading it maybe 6 years ago but for some reason I didn’t finish it. I had about 200 pages left or something.

    I really liked the book so I don’t understand why I didn’t finish it.. Now it just been standing in my bookshelf, I think I might have to read it again from the beginning this summer! (:

    1. Sometimes it happens that we have too less of time and then I for example take many months to finish some book…sometimes they are left unfinished too.
      Anne, you definitely have to, I challenge you to re-read this book during the summer! :D

    1. Thanks for the comment! I do strongly recommend Mika Waltari to start with (maybe even to finish with) as he is the best Finnish author there is and the Egyptian is his masterpiece. There are other somewhat famous Finnish authors like Väinö Linna and his trilogy Under the North Star and his other novel The Unknown Soldier that circle around the wwars in Finland. And Frans Emil Sillanpää, the only Finnish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

  3. Very cool; I’ll have to check this out! As an American, I feel that the majority of what literature I’m exposed to is American, or maybe British, so it’s always very nice to find good works from other places, particularly if there are quality translations available. Thanks for the review!

    1. Thank you for commenting! I think the huge part of books are just written in English so it’s hard not to be exposed to that. I definitely recommend this one, hope you can find good translation!

  4. The Egyptian is really special book to me. My teacher on first and second grades often had the book around his desk, and once being curious I asked about it. He kind of recommended me to read it by myself at some point and I did pick up on the advise many years later. I loved the story, life wisdom and various kinds of historical settings to enjoy.

    1. It is for me too :) very beautiful book! There are so few books that offer that kind of life wisdom. Haha I’m happy you had a teacher who kept the book around his desk… I mean he probably was planning to make kids read it

      1. Yeah!

        Btw. As a coincidence as I listened this weeks monologue by Jari Sarasvuo from Yle Areena advised there to study Horemheb character from this book when it comes to influencing.

        So interesting timing that, I might as well read it again soon enough.

        1. Interesting! I don’t think I paid much attention to that character. I Yeah I guess I’ll have to re-read it soon as well. There are so many books to read & re-read and too little of time.

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