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Norman Mailer: Ancient Evenings

Over seven hundred pages of ancient Egypt might be fun but not in Mailer’s hands. If you want to read a great novel set in Ancient Egypt, read Thomas Mann‘s Joseph und seine Brüder (Joseph and His Brothers). It’s longer than Norman’s book but much better written. Though outside our period (just), Boleslaw Prus’ The Pharaoh and the Priest is also much better. Which brings us back to Norman.

Menenhetet, the narrator, is reborn three times in this novel (it opens with one of his rebirths), which means we get to see Ancient Egypt over a period of nearly two hundred years. He becomes the adviser to two pharaohs, who differ very much from each other. Mailer gives us all the war, violence, magic and, of course, sex (every which way) we can handle. You’ll have a hard time remembering the names and following the various plots and you may well ask yourself whether it is worth it and you will probably say, no, it is not.

Publishing history

First published 1983 by Little, Brown and Co.