Saturday, December 10, 2011
Guest post by
Anna's website is http://www.annapatraticio.blogspot.com and her publisher's site is http://www.imajinbooks.com
THE WONDERS OF RESEARCH
by Anna Patricio
My debut novel 'Asenath' is about the wife of Joseph of the coat of many colours. Many people do not know about Asenath, for she is mentioned only in passing. So when I wrote my book, I was at great ease to take as many liberties as possible.In fact, all we are told about Asenath is that she was a priest's daughter who married Joseph after he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. So in filling the gaps before and after that event, I stretched my
imagination to no end.
I did, however, write the novel in such a way that her life was intertwined with Joseph's even before he became a ruler. In doing this, I stayed close to the Genesis account. However, there are other accounts of Joseph outside the Bible which I had previously come across, and which I thought to draw from as well, as they seemed
pretty interesting. Some of these tales even centre on Asenath, which astonished me seeing as she is so obscured in Genesis.
Such a tale would be 'Joseph and Asenath,' which apparently dates to 1st century Alexandria. The background of this story is that some early rabbis didn't think it feasible for one of the patriarchs to marry a pagan priestess, and thus wove a story which had Asenath convert to Joseph's faith. This is a rather fantastical tale - indeed
nearly like a fantasy - as it involves Asenath seeing an angel who ooks like Joseph as well as some bees which feed her "sacred" honey, thus marking her conversion. Because this seems to be the most famous tale of Asenath, I wanted to give a nod to it in my novel but wasn't sure how. When going through the final draft with my editor, she suggested that in a garden scene with butterflies, I replace the butterflies with the bees. I really
liked the butterflies, as they were beautiful not to mention butterflies are my second favourite animal after dogs. But I also thought it would be cool to acknowledge the 'Joseph and Asenath' story, plus I like the way my editor wove it in. So I wholeheartedly agreed.
There is also a part in the novel in which, during a banquet at Potiphar's house, a female guest is so entranced by Joseph's good looks that she accidentally cuts her hands instead of her fruit. This was derived from one of the Islamic accounts of Joseph - if I recall correctly, it is even in the Quran (there are many poems and songs
recalling this event as well). As we know, Potiphar's wife sought Joseph. In the Islamic tales, her
friends, upon hearing of her desire for her steward, mock her for it. So one day, Mrs Potiphar holds a banquet and orchestrates things in such a way that Joseph will enter the room for everyone to see him - and to see the "torture" she has been going through, of wanting something she cannot have. She then serves her friends fruits, along with knives to peel the fruit. When Joseph appears, her friends are so caught up in his good
looks, they slice their hands instead of the fruits! Mrs Potiphar then says, "This is what I've had to endure every day!"
Also, the name which I used for Potiphar's wife - Zalikha - is a variant of the Islamic stories' "Zuleika."
I also took liberties with Asenath's parentage as well. It's probably best I don't elaborate here, though this has already been echoed in some reviews of my novel. But I got the idea from a Jewish folktale which has Asenath as Dinah's daughter. Again, some folks didn't likethe idea of Joseph marrying a pagan, so they rewrote Asenath's life in such a way that she was secretly a Hebrew. In this story, Asenath was born as a result of the unfortunate events of Dinah at Shechem. Dinah's brothers then abandoned the infant Asenath in the wilderness, where she was rescued by an eagle and taken to Egypt. Many years later, Joseph would recognise his "niece" from a special medallion she wore, inscripted with Hebrew letters.
I did not realise that there were so many interesting stories of Joseph out there. But I am glad I came across them, especially as they greatly aided me in the writing of 'Asenath.'
SYNOPSIS OF 'ASENATH:'
Two Destinies...One Journey of Love
In a humble fishing village on the shores of the Nile lives Asenath, a fisherman's daughter who has everything she could want. Until her perfect world is shattered.
When a warring jungle tribe ransacks the village and kidnaps her, separating her from her parents, she is forced to live as a slave. And she begins a journey that will culminate in the meeting of a handsome and kind steward named Joseph.
Like her, Joseph was taken away from his home, and it is in him that Asenath comes to find solace…and love. But just as they are beginning to form a bond, Joseph is betrayed by his master’s wife and thrown into prison.
Is Asenath doomed to a lifetime of losing everything and everyone she loves?
Anna Patricio is a lover of ancient history, with a particular interest in Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome. She is also intrigued by the Ancient Near East, though she has not delved too much into it but hopes to one day.
She undertook formal studies in Ancient History at Macquarie University. She focused mostly on Egyptology and Jewish-Christian Studies, alongside a couple of Greco-Roman units, and one on Archaeology. Though she knew there were very limited job openings forancient history graduates, she pursued her degree anyway as it was
something she had always been passionate about.
Then, about a year after her graduation, the idea to tackle historical fiction appeared in her head, and she began happily pounding away on her laptop. ASENATH is her first novel.
Recently, she traveled to Lower Egypt (specifically Cairo and the Sinai), Israel, and Jordan. She plans to return to Egypt soon, and see more of it. In the past, she has also been to Athens and Rome.
Anna is currently working on a second novel, which still takes place
in Ancient Egypt, but hundreds of years after ASENATH.