Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mika Waltari's The Egyptian

(Everytime I blog about something I've read, I'm reminded by my conscience that someone somewhere wrote that those blogs in which someone writes about the books he's read are boring and they shouldn't really exist. Try to bear with me.)

I wrote earlier that Mika Waltari's Sinuhe Egyptiläinen/The Egyptian (1946) is overwritten and thus overrated. Well, it is still, in my opinion, since it is so uneven. Waltari sure writes beautifully, but some scenes and chapters lack rhythm and some are just too long - and overwritten. But the overall effect is, well, effective and some of the scenes are great adventure. I was especially fond of the scenes in Crete in which Sinuhe goes to the labyrinth after his lover, Minea, and finds the Cretean god. It could've been in a pulp magazine of the thirties... Some of the battle scenes later on were also very effective and I liked the scene in which Sinuhe is lured to kill the crazy pharaoh. The book is pretty grim and given what year it was originally published, someone might say there's a tone of noir in there. Sure, Sinuhe is trapped inside his own outsideness, his own loneliness, his mixed heritage, his opportunism and willingness to please his superiors (even though he tries to battle that same willingness), and therefore he's doomed.

It's been a while since I saw the Michael Curtiz film from the late fifties and I can't really comment on that. It has a bad reputation and Waltari disowned it almost immediately. One sure wishes that Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe would've played the lead parts... But seriously, the book would require something like Peter Jackson made with Lord of the Rings - I don't mean he did a very insightful job, but he had the courage to include almost all of the book in one piece. The same should be done with this. I don't think there's anyone in Finland now who would be my choice to direct this, even if the finance could be found. And it surely couldn't. Maybe some Egyptian bankers could back this up - or Muammar Gaddafi? He has the money and the film could be shot in Libya.

It seems that the book was published as a trade paperback by Chicago Review Press in 2002, plus there are lots of cheap copies on Abebooks. How is the translation, I wonder. It would be interesting to compare. An Abebooks seller says that the book was deemed obscene at the time, does anyone know anything about that? The same sentence can be found on every website about Waltari...

The jacket of the Pocket Books edition from 1955 doesn't seem to be on-line. That means I'll have to post a scan. (Which means I'll have to locate a magazine in the midst of the chaos that is our study.)

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