Drawn by the controversy surrounding Dr. Youssef Zidane’s Novel; I read the book with the unusual title*. The book then went on to win this year’s Booker’s Prize.
The book is a tale of a Coptic monk’s journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of turmoil in Christianity. The self-christened “Hepa” journeys both physically and spiritually as he encounters both enlightenment and temptation. At times he’s resisted at other times yielded to both, realizing in some occasion that temptation and enlightenment could be one and the same, sides to the same coin.
I found the book’s pace to be slow at times and the plot started out quite mundane but became more and more intriguing as it approached the end. Hypatia fans will be both pleased and shocked by Zidane’s depiction of Alexandria at that time and of the woman herself, her achievements and her violent demise.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Zidane in person and can assure you he is nothing short of remarkably fascinating. True to his background and education he was an interesting conversationalist who could cite evidence to support his claims from holy books and literature across the ages in multiple languages. When asked about the title, he responded that religions since the dawn of time had offered versions of God’s or deities who represent the higher power and embody all that is good or righteous. With the rise of Judaism; man sought the other end of the spectrum, a higher entity which embodied all that is evil, for otherwise man himself would have had to bare responsibility for his evil actions, hence the birth of Azazeel.