Naguib Mahfouz: Akhenaten

February 13, 2021

For its size, this book is surprisingly so many things at once! It is a subtle commentary on religion and faith aside from being an inquiry into the life of Egypt’s most controversial pharaoh who was persecuted and known as the “heretic pharaoh” for his monotheistic beliefs.

There is something so simple and elegant in the way Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz allows Akhenaten’s story to unfold through the fictional narrator’s quest for the truth as he interviews the pharaoh’s contemporaries. Each chapter is named after these characters and it is through them that the reader is shown conflicting opinions and theories about the pharaoh and his powerful and beautiful queen, Nefertiti.

“…to set off along the path of history in search of truth, a path that has no beginning and no end, for it will always be extended by those who have a passion for eternal truth.”

What gave me goosebumps after reading it was when I learned that, out of all the days, The Metropolitan Opera was also streaming the premiere staging of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten! It became a mesmerizing continuation to what I had just read.

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