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Ancient Evenings, a dazzlingly rich, deeply evocative novel, recreates the long-lost civilisation of Ancient Egypt. Mailer breathes life into the figures of that 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. His hero, three times reincarnated during the novel, moves in the bright sunlight of white temples, in the exquisite gardens of the royal harem, along the majestic flow of the Nile and in the terrifying clash of battle. An outstanding work of creative imagination, Ancient Evenings displays Mailer's obsession with magic, violence and eroticism and lives on in the mind long after the last page has been turned.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349109701
ISBN-10: 0349109702
Format: Paperback
(157mm x 199mm x 34mm)
Pages: 720
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 2-Oct-1997
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Egypt, 1100 B.C.: a narrator without memory ("I still did not know who I was, nor how old I might be") finds himself in the Necropolis, in the tomb of young, dead nobleman Menenhetet the Second. . . and only slowly realizes that he is in fact "nothing but the poor Ka" (part of the soul) of Meni II. An unnerving, disorienting, promising beginning for this 700-page novel - but then, alas, the Ka of Meni II meets the Ka of his great-grandfather Meni I, a much-reincarnated High Priest who will be the primary narrator in the six long, lifeless sequences that follow. In "The Book of the Gods," Meni I offers a mini-history of Ra, Isis, Horus, Set, et al., seen in terms of "shit, blood-sacrifice, and fucking" (especially homosexual rape - a major preoccupation throughout the novel). In "The Book of the Child," Meni II remembers a childhood visit - with father, mother Hathfertiti, and Meni I - to Pharaoh Ramses IX, an endless evening during which Meni I tells the four-"Book" story of his previous existence in the bygone era of Ramses II: he is the Pharaoh's Charioteer and rape victim ("I was no longer myself but His, and loved Him. . . but I also knew I would never forgive him"); he's a leader in the Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites (powerful war scenes), indulging in cannibalism; he then becomes "Nanny of the harem," consorting in kinky rituals with the sorceress/ courtesan Honey-Ball (but also having threesies sex with the Pharaoh and a pig); next he's courtier/lover to Nefertiri, the Pharaoh's dumped queen ("you fucker, give Me your obelisk," she murmurs); eventually, in life #2, he'll become High Priest. And, while Meni I's reminiscences go on and on, Meni II's passive father sleeps (one can hardly blame him) - but the six-year-old Meni II himself becomes increasingly aware of the sexual cracklings in the air: the lust between Ramses IX and Hathfertiti, the sexual secrets of Meni I and Hathfertiti. . . and, above all, Meni II's own simmering "desire for my Mother" (they will indeed become lovers). Did Mailer's research into Ancient Egypt reveal a cultural fixation on Oedipal incest, fellatio, anal rape, and castration anxiety? Or is this a willful projection of Freudian preoccupations onto the world of the Pharaohs? Whichever the case, the result is oddly stagnant fiction - straining to conjure up a nexus between mysticism and sex. And though there are passages of vividly exotic Egyptology, along with a few of coarsely amusing anachronism, this flatly episodic epic most often seems embalmed in its own obsessions - with little to reward the many readets who'll be drawn by the Mailer name and the media interest. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer is the National Book Award and Pulitzter Prize winning author, a film director and political activist. He died in November 2007.

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