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Ancient Evenings

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  1,347 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
Crossing three millennia to Pharaonic Egypt, this tale returns to that land's essences - the war, magic, gods, death and reincarnations, the lusts, ambitions, jealousies, and betrayals.
Paperback, 709 pages
Published 1997 by Abacus (first published 1983)
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Jan 30, 2013 Szplug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Beyond any doubt, Mailer can write: witness the incredibly vivid, disorienting, existentially-inebriated explosiveness of a Nile-nourished soul's rupturing reincarnation within fleshly garb that opens Ancient Evenings. This was so well done that my hopes for the thickish remainder was nigh unbounded. Alas, Mailer also cannot seem to discipline himself, and his voluminous story progressively spirals into sheer authorial indulgence, almost as if all thoughts of the patient reader accompanying such ...more
Mar 13, 2008 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
As the reviews below suggest, this will be a 1 star or a 5 star for you, but unlikely to be anything much in between. I adore Mailer - for his cockiness, his absolute conviction of his own brilliance, for the sentences whose structure make me drop my jaw and laugh, for insight, and for buggery. Who else could write a sprawling Egyptian epic stuffed with filth of roaches and make it so thoroughly mine? I love this best of all he's written and think about it more than the rest combined. God help m ...more
Oct 18, 2007 Holly rated it did not like it
The recent news aboput Mailer being on his deathbed reminded me of my one and only attempt at reading his stuff. I must have gotten through at least the first third of this book but godalmighty... pretty much just an excuse for vivid descriptions of buggery, buggery, and incest. Also, buggery.

Dude has issues.
In a recent post on my blog, I spent a good deal of time discussing how ancient Egypt receives a disproportionate amount of popular attention as far as classical history goes. And then I promptly began reading a novel by Norman Mailer set in ancient Egypt. I learned about Ancient Evenings (and a number of other extremely interesting books) from a post by Wilfried Houjebek on the original and worthwhile site SpaceCollective. Houjebek describes it this way:

"[Ancient Evenings] is the autobiography
Magdelanye drifting

So insists the man with the pus-filled eye,even if he is about to be given a severe thrashing by a boatman who violently disagrees. But it is a good way to approach this massive,astonishing work of historical fiction that spans dynasties. It is also indicative of NMs tendency to mingle the repulsive and the sublime, and in so doing he weaves a rich and vivid tapestry of reality that we can taste and smell and almost touch.

No matter that some of the details are sorely askew,
Jack Mason
Aug 22, 2012 Jack Mason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
ANCIENT EVENINGS is so many things. It's one of the greatest gay love stories ever written, for one-- something that is downplayed by reviewers in favor of a categorical dismissal of the novel as merely "endless descriptions of sodomy." The tempestuous love between Ramses II and Menenhetet I forms the core of the novel, couched in a complicated, beautiful framing device that resembles Proust as much as THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. It's also an arty fantasy/ sci-fi epic in the manner of DUNE-- supernatura ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Hadrian rated it did not like it
Oh, what the fuck, Norman. You've completely lost it.

I respected The Naked and the Dead very much. A true epic of the Pacific War, no question. This is something by a different person entirely. Now, in his later career, he just seems to be fascinated with shit - literally. The historical novel about Hitler seemed to have too much rambling rants about piss in it. I refuse to read too much into his personal life, but this almost seems fetishistic.

Aside from that, I've always had a fascination for
Leo Robertson
Jul 25, 2015 Leo Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an odd one.

This is, I think, what Stephen King was trying to say about writing even big books across the length of a season and no longer. Few authors can pull off greatness when it comes to projects they hold on to for too long. They get complicated, overly dense, they hold onto passages that should be snipped out, they forget the eureka moment that spurred the author to write them, they suffer from Will Self’s everything-itis.

Heller was successful with Something Happened and likely oth
Bryn Hammond
Nov 15, 2013 Bryn Hammond rated it liked it
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I can only tell you my experience of the book.

It was knocking on the door of greatness. The beginning was staggering, and I was floored by the musicality of its sentences, its startling imagery, and the depth of thought that made these ancient Egyptians remind me, as others before me, of aliens in a science fiction novel – that is, the past is an alien world. I was having an encounter with this novel, like you have with extraterrestials or great beasts. This reached its pitch with the Battle of
Feb 15, 2016 Andrew rated it it was ok
Okay, so people either love Mailer, or hate him; after dragging myself through "Ancient Evenings", I now hate him as well as love him.

I am fascinated with Ancient Egypt and (usually) blown away by Norman Mailer, so I was really looking forward to this book. And it started well - brilliantly, even - with a beginning that keeps the reader on their toes with some crafty twists that somehow incorporates Egyptian mythology with today's sensibilities.

But then.

But then the book degenerated into a self-
Ted Burke
Dec 13, 2013 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing
Mailer once remarked that his intention with writing Ancient Evenings was to compose a long sequence of novels telling the history of the Jewish people through the experience of one family, beginning in Ancient Egypt before the arrival of Christ, onward through time past various diasporas , persecutions, genocides, successes and setbacks, with the concluding edition of this fictional saga being somewhere in the future , in outer space, with the eyes of the protagonist trained outwards still. As ...more
Bloated and exhausting, this is still an exhiliratingly perverse phallocentric psychodrama as set in the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. Not as sharp or original as Mailer's fiction (and non-fiction) of the 60s, it manages to hit some heights amidst its 700-plus pages: the hallucinatory opening in which a soul screams through rebirth, a boat trip down the Nile, and the Satyricon-esque Battle of Kadesh. Personally I prefer more of Mailer's magic (mind-reading, reincarnation, curses) than his soap o ...more
May 27, 2011 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
Really Norman? An anal & incest fetishist's interpretation of the whole Osiris myth? Not only is that disrespectful to Egyptians, but obscene to people who care about mythology. I didn't care to read it long enough to find out if Menenhetet was just putting his own filthy twist on the myth, or if Norman really thought it was ok to have their Gods corn-holing each other just because Egyptian pharaohs wanted to keep their genes pure by copulating with their own family. This ghastly choice of c ...more
Oct 11, 2011 Sammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A startling work of creative imagination.

Norman Mailer - love him or hate him - had a mastery of the language that very few could rival. It is apparent in all his works, including "Ancient Evenings", which takes place at a variety of Egyptian locales, from royal dinners to family barge rides, from distant mining camps to tombs. Much of the story is told in flashback, much of it recited by a ponderous old man. The highlights of the book are:
a) Mailer's immense knowledge of the age. I adored Ancie
Apr 11, 2011 Savannah rated it did not like it
A literary pornographic slasher flick.

Made it up to pg. 380 and quit. I can't take it anymore. The beginning few parts were interesting and original, and here and there parts would sparkle off the page, making me sob that I shall never write so well. But! That said: the main thread of this entire book is a pre-adolescent boy listening to his parents and great-grandfather speak with the Pharaoh (while his mother tries to seduce the Pharaoh) about lots of lively topics like blood-drinking, canniba
Oct 23, 2013 Jtmichae rated it liked it
Though the first ninety or so pages of this book outmatch a bit for stylistic and gutsy integrity the remaining six-hundred, the critical treatment of /Ancient Evenings/ still seems largely unfair. One of the things I admire most about Mailer as a writer is the fact that he really does write very well, and in a style that could almost be called metaphysical, matching the poets like Marvell and Donne who are sometimes grouped together under that same textual adjective. Like the metaphysical poets ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 12, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The is a song “Islands of the Dead” by Be Bop Deluxe: “Come with me to the fire festival, let us burn each other blind. Let us dance, let us dance away, dance till the end of time. Come with me to the islands of the dead, to the soul house, to the fire-house, to smoke and ash of laughter in your head, sweet laughter, hereafter, ever after, in the islands of the dead”.
And in Ancient Evenings Norman Mailer literally takes us inside the Book of the Dead.
“We sail across dominions barely seen, washed
Cosmin Criveteanu
Jul 29, 2016 Cosmin Criveteanu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O constructie literara faraonica ce-ti hipnotizeaza simturile ca fumul dulce dintr-o narghilea vicleana. Cum sa astepti metroul in plictisitoarea statie de la Semanatoarea si in chiar acelasi moment sa musti din intensitatea cumplitei batalii de la Kadesh dintre egipteni si hititi?! Ramaneam incremenit in fotoliul meu Ikea din sufragerie subjugat de povestile deocheate ale Nilului, de curtea lui Ramses al 2-lea, carele lui de lupta, de haremul lui, de berea prost fermentata a oamenilor de rand, ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Lyn rated it really liked it
Fantastically detailed and colorful, truly a literary masterpiece yet maintaining Mailer's personality, as if he were narrating with a wink and grin.
Sanjay Varma
Feb 23, 2016 Sanjay Varma rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
You really shouldn't read this book unless you are in the mood for something totally different.

As for me, when I turned 16 I decided to start reading "serious literature" and so I went to the library, walked past my beloved fantasy/sci-fi shelves, and ended up in the fiction section. Somewhat randomly, I chose "Ancient Evenings" by Norman Mailer. Why? I didn't put too much thought into my choice (because I figured I'd have to read it all in the end anyway) but I associated Mailer with 60's writi
La Stamberga dei Lettori
L'antico Egitto messo in scena dalla penna di Mailer si presenta con una veste inusuale: se l'immagine più comune che se ne ha in genere è quella delle mummie immerse nei sarcofagi in uno stato di sospensione eterna, dei reperti archeologici e delle pitture tombali sui muri delle piramidi, dal racconto della vita - delle molte vite in realtà - di un alto funzionario vissuto ai tempi della X dinastia, Menenhetet, emerge un'immagine molto diversa dal solito.
Il romanzo si apre proprio con la scena
Jul 17, 2012 Jo rated it it was amazing
When we pierce deeply into human nature we find more filth than glory. So this novel seems to assert.

There is a cynicism to this book, a raw disdain for humanity that doesn't bother hiding in the subtext. It stains the page, and it can be difficult to read. The main character is born into the world multiple times, and the world never changes, not really. Not where it would count.

The story is told via frame. Menenhetet is offered a prestigious and powerful position by the pharaoh. Instead of just
Jan 25, 2015 Amy rated it did not like it
I rarely don't not find.ish a book, but sadly this was a struggle that I chose not to continue.Sorry N.Mailer!
Richard Beasley
Read as teenager. Literary pyrotechnics captured me, but still have no clue what it is about
Anthony Bolton
Feb 16, 2014 Anthony Bolton rated it liked it
Given that this book inspired Burrough`s ``Western lands , and a new film by Matthew Barney `River of Fundament`, as well as countless other artists and writers since it`s publication it might have to go down as one of the most influential bad books ever written because I for one have never seen a legitimate positive review of it .I TRIED TO READ IT WHEN I WAS A KID 18-19 and never got past the first remarkable pages but I memorized the first page and I can still recite it (almost accurately).
Geoffrey Nutting
Jun 12, 2016 Geoffrey Nutting rated it really liked it
If you want to know something about the Egyptian gods, you can learn it here.

Good read, although at ~700 pages, it would never be published now. FRom the length, I'd imagine that it would be published as a series, but it's hard to see how that could be done. Mailer breaks a lot of rules about how novels 'should' be written: about 1/4 of the book is setup for the other 3/4 of the book, which is backstory. The 1st 2 sections of the book are about the main character's awakening, finding that he is
Jimmy Jump
Sep 17, 2014 Jimmy Jump rated it it was amazing
"Ancient Evenings" isn't to everybody's taste (which is true for most books, actually) because Mailer has written this in a difficult-to-read style, with chopped-up overly long sentences and a grammer that has been put to paper like an ancient witch just rolled the bones.
On the other hand, this is a remarkable and fascinating read, spanning almost three millennia in which we follow several incarnations of the same spirit through a magical and mystical world, with fiction intertwined with histori
Mailer show formidable erudition in this massive account of live in the court of the Pharaoh Rameses II as told to his descendent, Rameses IX by his courtier, Menenhetet who is no less that the fourth reincarnation of a previous Menenhetet who had served as a charioteer at the Battle of Kadesh and later as general at the head of the armies of Egypt.

The account blends together the politics of the ancient world with a religious viewpoint in which the Gods in countless numbers permeate every aspec
Sep 30, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing
Famed for his gritty war novel "The Naked and the Dead" (incidentally another great read)Ancient Evenings is an abrupt departure from the usual Norman Mailer novels we have come to expect, but it is no less entertaining.
Ancient Evenings is an astonishing achievement of creative imagination. For most people, ancient Egypt is an enigma, but somehow Mailer conjures it all up as though he himself has lived it - just like all great writers of fiction.
Mailer's flair with the written word and its eloqu
Charlene Gordon
What can I say? This is quite simply the WORST book I've ever read in my life! I'd never read Mailer before and at the time I read this I was on a serious ancient Egypt reading binge. I'm no quitter...I kept thinking that it had to get better and that is the only reason I even bothered to finish it. A few years after I read it I we visiting an aunt and saw that she was about 1/3 of the way through it and I asked her how she liked it so far. She said she really didn't like it at all so far and ke ...more
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Egyptian Realms: Ancient Evenings 1 6 Jul 18, 2015 08:31PM  
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Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.

Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, Mailer is considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism, but which covers the essay to the nonfiction novel. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize twice and the National Book Award once.
More about Norman Mailer...

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“We sail across dominions barely seen, washed by the swells of time. We plow through fields of magnetism. Past and future come together on thunderheads and our dead hearts live with lightning in the wounds of the Gods.” 5 likes
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