Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ancient Evenings” as Want to Read:
Ancient Evenings
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ancient Evenings

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  1,358 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
Norman Mailer’s dazzlingly rich, deeply evocative novel of ancient Egypt breathes life into the figures of a lost era: the eighteenth-dynasty Pharaoh Rameses and his wife, Queen Nefertiti; Menenhetet, their creature, lover, and victim; and the gods and mortals that surround them in intimate and telepathic communion. Mailer’s reincarnated protagonist is carried through the ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 800 pages
Published December 22nd 1988 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1983)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 30, 2013 Szplug rated it it was ok
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
Ted Burke
Dec 13, 2013 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2016 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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-
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
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
Apr 11, 2011 Savannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 31, 2011 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Cosmin Criveteanu
Oct 11, 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
Jan 25, 2015 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely don't not find.ish a book, but sadly this was a struggle that I chose not to continue.Sorry N.Mailer!
Catherine Mommsen Scott
Jul 19, 2012 Catherine Mommsen Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-list
Astoundingly good book.
Richard Beasley
Read as teenager. Literary pyrotechnics captured me, but still have no clue what it is about
Jun 13, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have ever read--8 times!
Oct 02, 2016 Karyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all time favorites, I've read it about 5 times.
I heard a podcast interview with the surrealist filmmaker Matthew Barney and he described his fascination with this book. Ancient Evenings surprised me because I never realized that Norman Mailer wrote this very out-there book that defies any trend and seems completely out of context- as if it could have been written in Ancient times or modern times without any clear allegory or lesson and in that quite dream like.

Ancient Evenings transported me into ancient Egypt and convincingly took on the pe
Aug 05, 2015 Gordon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Ancient Evenings gets off to a highly original start, but despite Mailer's obvious skill - and this is the first book of his I've read - it left me disappointed in the end. As I ploughed with some difficulty through the second section, a retelling of Egyptian myths, I was torn by a peculiar mixture of revulsion and boredom: a combination of feelings previously aroused by readings of dry Greek mythology that the unusual style in this part of the book duplicated with great success, if that's the r ...more
If D.K. Broster's books strike one as being overly-clean for their hidden emotional subtext, this novel gives the absolute opposite impression of dirtiness and filth. The mud of the Nile pervades the whole, as does the sheer, stinking physicality of human sex, even in the most palatial surroundings. The main story of the novel is about the relationship between Rameses II, his charioteer Menenhetet, and various female appendages of Rameses - his two wives and one of his concubines. It is a story ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Egyptian Realms: Ancient Evenings 1 6 Jul 18, 2015 08:31PM  
  • House of Illusions  (Lady of the Reeds, #2)
  • Pharaoh's Son
  • Selected Stories of Eudora Welty: A Curtain of Green And Other Stories / The Wide Net and Other Stories
  • The Coup
  • The London Novels
  • From Death to Morning
  • The Disenchanted
  • The Pistoleer
  • The Aerodrome
  • Eureka: A Prose Poem
  • The Right Hand of Amon (Lieutenant Bak, #1)
  • Uncollected Poems
  • The Complete Plays
  • The Memoirs of a Prague Executioner
  • A God Against the Gods
  • Picture This
  • Falstaff
  • Nefertiti: An Archaeological Biography
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...

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…