Pharaoh (Prus novel)  

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"If the gods, instead of making me the youngest son of his holiness, had made me a pharaoh, like Ramses the Great, I would conquer nine nations, of which people in Egypt have never heard mention; I would build a temple larger than all Thebes, and rear for myself a pyramid near which the tomb of Cheops would be like a rosebush at the side of a full-grown palm-tree."--Ramses, born of Queen Nikotris, daughter of the priest Amenhotep cited in Pharaoh (1897 ) by Bolesław Prus

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Pharaoh is the fourth and last major novel by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus (1847–1912). Composed over a year's time in 1894–95, it was the sole historical novel by an author who had earlier disapproved of historical novels on the ground that they inevitably distort history.


The novel is set in the Egypt of 1087–85 BCE as that country experiences internal stresses and external threats that will culminate in the fall of its Twentieth Dynasty and New Kingdom. The young protagonist Ramses learns that those who would challenge the powers that be are vulnerable to co-option, seduction, subornation, defamation, intimidation, and assassination. Perhaps the chief lesson, belatedly absorbed by Ramses as pharaoh, is the importance, to power, of knowledge. Prus' vision of the fall of an ancient civilization derives some of its power from the author's intimate awareness of the final demise of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, a century before he completed Pharaoh. This is a political awareness that Prus shared with his 10-years-junior novelist compatriot, Joseph Conrad, who was an admirer of Prus' writings. Pharaoh has been translated into 20 languages and adapted as a 1966 Polish feature film.

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