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Khufu's Wisdom

(The Egyptian Trilogy #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,885 ratings  ·  372 reviews
Pharaoh Khufu is battling the Fates. At stake is the inheritance of Egypt's throne, the proud but tender heart of Khufu's beautiful daughter Princess Meresankh, and Khufu's legacy as a sage, not savage, ruler. As the tale begins, Khufu is bored in his great palace at Memphis. To entertain him, his architect Mirabu expounds on the mighty masterwork he has so far spent ten y ...more
Hardcover, 193 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by American University in Cairo Press (first published 1939)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Sidharth Vardhan

"What augustness, and what grandeur! And what suffering and struggle in their pursuit! Was it right for so many worthy souls to be expended for the sake of his personal exaltation? Was it proper for him to rule over so noble a people, who had only one goal — his own happiness."

Khufu's wisdom seems to be such a waste of idea. It could be a fine story about a man's obsession with his death. Or rather immortality.

"immortality is itself a death for our dear, ephemeral lives."

Perhaps it is
Rating: 3.5/5.0

I love Naguib Mahfouz' work and this book is among his earlier work. This is a story about ancient Egypt. At the times where Pharaoh Khufu was ruling the land. Of course the story is fictional but Mahfouz add some realism to it by setting the historical atmosphere, highlighting a side that was known for the Pharaoh (Wisdom) and some historical events like the built of the pyramids.

The story is mainly about fate and that a human might not be able to change a written fate no matter
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most inspiring novels I've ever read.. Although I hated the fact that the soothsayer is always telling the future that comes true, I found in this novel more focus on the fact that "Yes, we can create our future and choose our destiny but only among what Allah has previously written for us".. It's a bit complicated issue, but it answers the question "هل الإنسان مخير أم مسير؟" in a simple way.. It maybe a novel with an ordinary plot that we might have read before in a Shakespea ...more
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this while in Egypt. Khufu was the Pharoah who built the great pyramids, and at the part where he is dedicating them we were flying over them! Surreal! (sidenote: i told the guy next to me: "look its the pyramids!!!" and he said: "What, you want me to take a picture or somethings"..."why did you even come to egypt?")
its a great story about fate and mystery and the land of reeds, camels, Bedouins and scarabs! READ IT!
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting story inspired by the story of Moses and written by a beginner Mahfouz.
No matter how you try to escape your fate, it will eventually find you.
Although the plot is simple and the events highly predictable, the language is still capturing and the story entertaining.
May 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good writing, though the story is just a wee-bit cliche.
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-non-english
Fascinating time period highlighted by a quick paced story and good character motivations. Overall enjoyed it, but could have used even more emphasis on certain characters.
J. Andrew Brantley
In Khufu's Wisdom the theme of fate versus free will appears often throughout the novel. Khufu's dynasty is in jeopardy when a magician prophesies that a newborn baby has been blessed by the gods to inherit his throne. That baby was Djedefra, son of a priest of Ra no less! Having this displeasing prophecy looming over their heads, Khufu and his sons pay a deadly visit to the priest and try to keep their dynasty in power. Their attempt to assert their free is foiled when fate intervenes, in the f ...more
Katy Berman
I give this novel four stars due to the author's beautiful writing style (he won the Nobel prize in literature for a later work), and for the philosophical ideas that are explored. Set in ancient Egypt, when the gods and the divine pharaoh ruled, society had a rigid class structure. Royalty did not marry commoners, and people were expected to accept their lot in life and the will of their pharaoh, who was considered divine and therefore always acting according to the gods' wishes.

4th century ph
Chloe Snyder
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful prose, rich storytelling. Enjoyed every inch.
Rehab salah  Saad
A wonderful story about the power of destiny and the responsibility of kings to their people. Khufu, the pharaoh responsible for the building of the great pyramids, learns from a magician that none of his sons will inherit his throne. When he finds out who will inherit instead, he decides to take fate into his own hands and rid himself of the competition. Little does he know that his power only extends so far.
Gabriela Francisco
"Here is the malady: you believe in duty... Which of the two do you think will be the first to be sold? Duty, or the avoidance of doing harm?“

This is the first novel in THREE NOVELS OF ANCIENT EGYPT by Naguib Mahfouz, he who writes in such an epic style!

Instead of saying "the trees swayed in the evening light," he goes: "In the darkness, the date palms looked like slumbering ghosts, or souls whose tortures stretched throughout eternity."

My gooooooosh!!!! Such a pleasure to read a novel full of b
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every time I come back to Mahfouz I am happy that I did. The way he tells stories is so compelling. It is a unique mixture of traditional storytelling and more modern European writing. This combination makes every story feel a little more epic. This works particularly well in a story as grand as Khufu's.

While it is worth noting that the story itself does not line up with much of what we know of the time, but the experiences and feeling of the era rings truer than I expected. The story is simple,
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rereading the novel now for that specific scene I want to cite in my newest post on my blog, I remembered that it and not "كفاح طيبة" was my first novel to ever read.
How epic that it's also the first novel for Naguib to write. How great of an omen is it!
بعيداً عن البُعد التاريخى, لأنه غالباً غير دقيق. إلا إن فكرة الصدفة فى الرواية والقدر وبُعدها الوجودى مُثير للتأمُل بشكل جميل.
5 out of 5!
Jun 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east, fiction
I love Mahfouz, but I didn't know what to expect from this book because it is so different from any thing else of his I have read, but I loved it. Good characters, great pace, and simply fun to read. ...more
Overwrought and purple and misogynistic. Several times while reading this I had to flip to the back and re-read the flap copy to reassure myself that I hadn't somehow picked up a pulpy romance novel rather than a work by a Nobel Prize winner. ...more
Mohammed Hamed
amazing amazing just brilliant
Amr Rashad
Good novel, so melodramatic, and typically Egyptian, but feels out of time. It feels like it was written about 52 revolution, not the pharaonic era.
Enjoyable read, but a bit anachronistic
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this author's Cairo Trilogy. Palace Walk, in particular, is a masterpiece that should be read by all. Khufu's Wisdom, then, was a huge disappointment. Not once in this book did I feel transported back in time to ancient Egypt. This was more like a fantasy novel, with all the modern trappings and clichés such a work entails. Soothsayers, princesses falling in love with soldiers, who rise from humble beginnings to become rulers of kingdoms, etc etc.... More of a crappy young adult novel th ...more
Maud (reading the world challenge)
[#12 Egypt] Khufu's (Khéops, pour les francophones) Wisdom is the story of a prophecy slowly unfolding, about how a baby born far away from Memphis eventually ended up inheriting the throne of Egypt. Although not historically accurate, it was a pleasant read. Nothing that happened was tremendously unexpected since we know the ending from Chapter 1, but the story managed to surprise me a bunch of times. I hadn't read a book set in Ancient Egypt for a while and it was nice to get back to it. ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it liked it
The style of the novel is reminiscent of mythological stories of ancient Greece. It's heavy on things like fate and obviously good or bad characters. It's written simply and tries to convey an equally simple message. But it works and is quite a joy to read, because Mahfouz just writes in such a beautiful prose. It's nothing to write home about, but if you're in the mood for a sort of adult fairy tail similar to the stories of 1001 nights and such, then this is a pretty good catch. And the novel ...more
Loose retelling inspired by the stories from papyrus Westcar. Khufu is told a prophecy by a magician that he will not be succeeded by his own children. This sets in motion a series of events that will test ideas of fate, power, and morality. Mahfouz clearly doesn't intend to have a rabidly faithful retelling of the ancient story or to strictly adhere to historical accuracy. Nonetheless it is quite evocative of the 4th dynasty, horses and chariots and artist's workshops notwithstanding! ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The storyline is very much predicted. A lot of strange technology and culture used that is not suitable with this historical period like using Pharao as the name for Egypt king, mentioning horseback riding or even chariots, staying in a hotel, referring to a desert road showing the writer inability to research or negligence to the facts about this period. I was shocked that a known writer with Nobel prize will have such falls. 2 stars for the good language and philosophical ideas.
Joan Damiens
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good read! The characters and their relationships are very well built and written. Only weak point : characters are mainly Male and women tend to have the bad roles (except if young and pretty...)
I am happy I discovered this author... I'll definitely read more from him! His writing style in French is intense but simple. Every word is at the right place, with a great feeling of simplicity and efficiency in the discourse.
Stuart Savage
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5, rushed in places.
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely give 5 star reviews; this was a great book about a real pharaoh and how no matter how you might try, you cannot change fate. The words are rich and beautiful.
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, egypt
A fairytale that is not historically accurate, but does show Mahfouz's storytelling skills. I recommend the Cairo trilogy instead. ...more
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Naguib Mahfouz (Arabic author profile: نجيب محفوظ) was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He published over 50 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career. Many of his works have been made into Egyptian and foreign films. ...more

Other books in the series

The Egyptian Trilogy (4 books)
  • رادوبيس
  • كفاح طيبة
  • Naguib Mahfouz: Three Novels of Ancient Egypt

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