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Friday, 27 January 2012

Asenath by Anna Patricio

My debut novel Asenath is about the little-known wife of Joseph of the multicoloured coat fame. Hardly anyone knows who she is, and that is most likely due to the fact that the Book of Genesis mentions her only in passing. In fact, whenever I tell people I have written about her, the reaction I get most of the time is, "I didn't know Joseph had a wife!"

So why write about this obscure Biblical character? Well, the mere fact that barely anything is known about her provides great opportunity for fiction. I am thus at ease to stretch my imagination as far as I please.

That is just the surface though. My deeper reason for writing about Asenath stems from my interest in the Biblical account of Joseph.
I adore that story. It is a powerful tale of strength, hope and perseverance. I had known about it all my life, but it was later on that I realised how moving it is. I admire how Joseph maintained his integrity even after all he had been through: losing his mother during his childhood, being sold into slavery by his brothers, and being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. He survived it all and emerged as a very seasoned man.

My newfound interest then drove me to delve deeper into the story. I read everything I could get my hands on. First I began with Biblical commentaries, then later discovered other interesting accounts, such as Jewish folktales and Persian epic poems.

Along the way, I grew curious about his wife Asenath. I wanted to know what sort of a woman married so admirable a person as Joseph. All the Bible tells us is that she was given to him as a wife after he successfully interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.I wanted to see if there was more info on her. Alas, when I looked her up, I found barely anything on her.I found a few ancient tales such as the Greek 'Joseph and Asenath' which has as its theme Asenath's conversion to Judaism. But other than that, nothing. Nothing to tell me of her childhood, her marriage to Joseph, her family life with Joseph etc.

In the contemporary fiction of Joseph that I read, I was not too satisfied with the portrayals of Asenath, especially because she wasn’t given much attention. I wanted someone to expand on her life with Joseph, albeit fictionally. But when I did not find what I wanted to read, I then thought to write such a story myself.

In addition, I have always loved fiction set in Ancient Egypt, and thought it might be an adventure to contribute to the Egyptian fiction offerings. I knew though that it would also entail a lot of research, to try and stay as faithful as possible to the atmosphere of that era, and that would be a lot of hard work. However, it all turned out very fulfilling in the end.

Hence, Asenath.

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Anna Patricio said...

Thank you for posting about my book on your lovely blog. Cheers!

Maggie Anton said...

Tales of biblical women are so ripe for embellishment. I'm glad to see that Asenath is finally getting her moment in the sun. The story of Joseph is so compelling that surely his wife's own tale must be as well.

Maggie Anton