Tuesday, August 17, 2004

When the Eagle Hunts

When the Eagle Hunts: "Britain 43 AD: after a series of bloody battles, Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester) has fallen to the invading Roman army. The Emperor has returned to Rome, leaving the fearless Centurion Macro and his young Optio, Cato, to rest and regroup, along with the rest of the Second Legion. But trouble is not far ahead and as their noble leader General Plautius plans the next phase of their campaign, word arrives that the ship carrying his family to join him was wrecked in a storm off the south coast. His wife and children have fallen into the hands of a dark sect of Druids, who now demand the return of those of their brotherhood taken prisoner by the Romans. Unless their demands are met within one month, Plautius's family will be burned alive. Will Cato and Macro discover where the Druids are hiding their hostages? Can they find some way to rescue them before time runs out?"

Friday, August 13, 2004

Steven Pressfield Tackles Alexander the Great

As someone who practically fell in love with Alexander the Great after reading Mary Renault's trilogy and her biography of him, I was excited to see that Steven Pressfield's new book will be about Alexander. His viewpoint of Alexander is, perhaps, a bit more realistic but at least not the severly brutal image put forward by Paul Cartledge in his recent treatise.

Steven Pressfield - Official Website: "Within the era that Alexander lived, undying glory meant military conquest. For Alexander, that meant the demonstrating of innate preeminence, like a lion or an eagle, by challenging and overcoming every other champion on the field. But it wasn't enough for him, in my view, just to conquer, just to roll over his enemies by superior might or generalship. His conception of virtue was heroic. Alexander sought great and glorious struggles against great and glorious foes. That's how I see Alexander's intention.

Now, beyond that, beyond Alexander's aims or ambitions, real-world reality enters. Now it gets interesting. Because a conquering warrior, however heroic his aspirations, must confront the grimy reality of success, of conquest, of rule; the reality of motivating an army; of keeping an enterprise going once you've started it; of altering it as necessity causes it to evolve; of maintaining a vision for it; of containing the jealousies and hatreds of enemies and friends. A dream achieved is never what it was when it was only a dream.

And a conqueror on the scale of Alexander must confront even more primal questions: What is the point of victory? Of endless expansion? What status can the conquered peoples claim? What is my obligation to them? What are the ends of war? When does heroic virtue become plain slaughter and madness? "

Wisdom's Daughter : A Novel of Solomon and Sheba

By Lindsay Clarke

Wisdom's Daughter : A Novel of Solomon and Sheba: "This is the tale of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, who rules the spice lands and bows before the will of the Goddess.

This is the tale of Solomon, the King of Israel and Judea, who built the golden temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. Once he prayed that he might rule wisely.

This is the tale of Solomon's wives, of his concubines ... and of his daughter Baalit, more beloved than any son. Here are their voices, their mysteries, and their deepest secrets. Here they sing their songs and weave their tapestries.

As the queen's search for a true heir to her throne takes her to the court of the wisest man in the world, both she and the king learn how to value truth, love, and duty...and the king's daughter learns that not all the world is ruled by men.

Wisdom's Daughter is a vivid and richly textured rendition of the biblical tale of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Told in a tapestry of voices that ring with authenticity, Wisdom's Daughter profoundly reveals the deep ties among women in a patriarchal world."

Naguib Mahfouz

I noticed that long-lived prolific author, Naguib Mahfouz is releasing yet another novel. When I searched on Amazon for his other titles I was amazed at the breadth of his work. I found this very interesting article about him produced by the Egyptian government Ministry of Culture:Naguib Mahfouz: "With dozens of novels to his name, collections of short stories, fully-fledged studies of his work in book form, an increasing number of doctoral theses, and an enormous number of articles in literary and academic periodicals (in English and other languages), Naguib Mahfouz can rightfully claim the title of the best-known and most studied Arab novelist in the Anglophone world.

Naguib, who was born to a middle-class family in one of the oldest quarters in Cairo, was to give expression in powerful metaphors, over a period of half a century, to the hopes and frustrations of his nation.

Readers have so often identified themselves with his work, a great deal of which has been adapted for the cinema, theater and television, that many of his characters become household names in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.

On the other hand, his work, though deeply steeped in local reality, appeals to that which is universal and permanent in human nature, as shown by the relatively good reception his fiction has met in other cultures."

The works he produced in the first phase of his career, focusing on ancient Egypt, naturally looked particularly interesting to me.

"Admittedly written under the influence of Sir Walter Scott's historical romances, the last of the three, "The Struggle of Thebes", is particularly interesting for the way in which the novelist brought history to bear on the political scene at the time.
The novel draws on the heroic struggle of the Egyptians and their patriotic Pharaohs to expel the Hyksos, as foreign ruling invaders, from their country. "

Voices from the Other World: Ancient Egyptian Tales

"A seductive dancer is invited by the forces of law and order to disturb a district's too-perfect peace at the dawn of Egyptian civilization. A wise and popular pharaoh is betrayed by his own son, and by his dearest friends - then makes a most peculiar decision. A mummy returns to life after 3000 years, to confront the arrogant new race that now rules the land. A favoured prince flees to a faraway country when the king dies suddenly, leaving his true love behind - only to come back to question her about their lost 40 years. A famous young writer, composer of a legendary epic of Pharaoh's greatest battle with the Hittites, is carried off without warning by a mysterious disease - then speaks to us in this life from beyond the veil of death."

Khufu's Wisdom

"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 spend ten years building, with little yet showing above ground - what will become the Great Pyramid of Giza. Mirabu and the clever vizier Hemiunu try other amusements as well - but to no avail. Then one of the king's sons fetches a magician with the power to predict the future. The sorcerer says that Khufu's own offspring will not inherit Egypt's throne after him, but that it will fall instead to a son born that very morning to the High Priest of Ra. Furious, Khufu and his crown prince, the ruthless Khafra, set out to change the decree of the Fates - which fight back in the form of Djedefra, the boy at the centre of the prophecy, and his heart's desire, Princess Meresankh. Yet will the unsuspecting Khufu survive the intrigue around him - not only to finish his long-awaited book of wisdom, but to become truly wise?"

Rhadopis of Nubia

"Against the background of the high politics of Sixth Dynasty-Egypt, a powerful love grows between Rhadopis, a courtesan of low birth whose ravishing beauty is unmatched in time or place, and youthful, headstrong Pharoah Merenra, worshipped by his people as a divine presence on earth. Despite the attention of an endless stream of suitors, entertained by Rhadopis' dancing, singing and stimulating conversation in her white palace on an island in the Nile, her heart remains cold and loveless - until events conspire in the strangest of ways to bring her to the attention of Pharaoh himself. From there the two of them embark on a journey of intense passion that is totally absorbing and ultimately tragic. As their obsession for one another burns wildly, they become caught up in the violent turbulence of the politics of the day - Merenra through his desire to sequester the properties of the priesthood and Rhadopis by her efforts to control the march of destiny and avoid their untimely but inevitable fate. But for Rhadopis, who has played with men's minds and danced on the scattered shards of their broken hearts, and Pharaoh, who has sought to flaunt ancient tradition for his own ends, can the power of love ultimately offer protection?"

Thebes At War

"After 200 years of occupation, the Hyksos leader in his capital in northern Egypt tells Pharaoh in the south that the roaring of the sacred hippopotami at Thebes is keeping him awake at night and demands that they be killed, galvanizing Egypt into hurling its armies into a struggle to drive the barbarians from its sacred soil forever. In battle scenes that pit chariot against chariot and doughty swordsman against doughty swordsman, and through his sensitive portrait of Ahmose, the young pharaoh whose genius brings this epic to its climax, Mahfouz dramatically depicts the Egyptian people's undying loyalty to their land and religion and their refusal to bow to outside domination. This is not just a tale of ancient, clashing armies. When Mafouz was writing this novel in 1939, other outsiders, British and Turkish, held sway over the land of Egypt, and its inhabitants were engaged in a struggle against a foreign usurpation of their sovereignty that mirrored that of their ancestors. Nor is the novel simply a tale of men and arms, for as Ahmose discovers, while the Nile flows majestically on forever, the violent currents of politics may pull hearts asunder and in gaining a kingdom, a man may lose what his soul most."

Ancestors of Avalon

By Diana L. Paxon

Ancestors of Avalon"Paxson, who completed Bradley's Priestess of Avalon (2001) after the widely revered novelist died in 1999, fashions an entirely new entry in the Avalon saga, one that telescopes the evocative notion that the otherworldly forces supporting Arthur were remnants of Atlantis. The curtain opens on an Atlantean island just prior to its destruction; most of the novel, however, is set among refugees of the doomed kingdom who make landfall in pre-Christianity Britain."