October 2, 1958
Dear Dr. Federn:
I have received your letter of Sept. 30about which you have told my wife yesterday when she called you by phone when in New York, and also a postcard of October 1.
It took you eighteen years to accede that my “Ages in Chaos” is basically true. In May or June last when you came out to Princeton you have still with complete disregard for my proofs and sustained labors, flat denounced “Ages in Chaos” as impossible and basically wrong. I could have now my satisfaction; although you have helped me much in answering all my bibliographical questions and criticising my work that you have read in manuscript, to which innumerable letters carry witness, yet in so many of them you insisted that I am wrong with the entire scheme of reconstruction. Since you knew and studied my work so completely, I had to refer your rejection of my work to, first, the unprecedented scope of my realignment of the histories of ancient peoples, and, second, to your peculiar human attitude in which a neurotic moment, as in so many of us, was not lacking. To what should I ascribe your sudden reappraisal of my work and its basical acceptance? And why exactly my work on Oedipus and Akhnaton caused in you this metamorphosis?
Yet I am not without concern. It is to me not understandable how you place the Exodus and Ipuwer papyrus after the 11th dynasty, instead after the end of the entire Middle Kingdom (to which points also the devastating catastrophe that ended that Kindom), and then decide on the basis of my Oedipus work that Thutmoses IV was the pharaoh who drowned. In the days of Thutmose IV there was no Exodus and Habiru were not the Israelites—who they were you know from the chapter “Tell el-Amarna Letters” in “Ages” vol. 2, as one of the many arguments relating to the content of vol. 1 that have come up in the years since the publication of that volume.
Your scepticism and negative criticism were always very fruitful for me; I do no know whether your going over to my side will prove as fruitful: this becasue you, by dissenting [on] what [in] your mind are details, may cause me to fight not only against the conventional school but also against your divergencies. I do not see how Amenhotep III instead of Amenhotep IV could be the prototype of Oedipus. Where are the swollen legs or feet? Where are children begotten with his mother? Where are two yourthful kings in their teens that reigned only for a short period each, and of which the younger was entrombed by an old relative, who stood behind the throne and the intrigue, and who lastly became the king himself, whereas the young brother pretendent, though of royal blood, was entombed in a clandestine hide-out and without the riches of Tutenkhamun’s grave? How do you thnk to fit all this into a generation earlier?
Also concerning “Ages” your attempt, not explained in your letters, to remove it from the final hours of the Middle Kingdom—a timepoint so early that in over two thousand years nobody dared to place it there (only Isaac Newton, as I found, dare like me—in an age when it was no daring at all—to ascribe the expulsion of the Hyksos to the time of Saul),—to an even earlier timepoint—does not make me happy. But you are in error: as it is said before in this letter, the catastrophe of the Middle Kingdom’s end was that of the days of the Exodus.
Where is found the “official” record about a pharaoh that was drowned in the Red Sea? And how is it that it was not known before, if it was published long ago, as I presume?
With “Earth in Upheaval” it is a pity that you could not take over the preparation of a new translation, against payment from the German publisher, about which Doubleday would have to negotiate. I will today write to Doubleday what you think of the translation; but lease look once more into the trnaslation and tell me whether your opinion is not changed, and is it not (the criticism) too severe? It would be good would you mail me several pages with pencil inscribed corrections of the meaning and style, so that I could prove to Doubleday that the offered translation is worthless.
It is possible that for this weekend Elisheva and I shall go away for a few days to VErmont to see the fall foliage—a thing we have promised to ourselves since our last visit there, I believe three years ago. Write me in the meantime to Princeton, since it is also uncertain that we shal go away this weekend. If it is not heated enough in your place, you may open the burning gas jet for an hour couple times a day in the kitchen, and your place will warm up.
Notwithstanding my remarks here, I am happy that you are enthusiastic about both my works, and with restrain imposed, you may and will find many details that would enrich my work: if I am right in my reconstruction, then more proofs, and without end, must show themselves; for that purpose a thorough reading of reports of excavations is necessary, since so many archaeologists would pay more attention to stratigraphical evidence than to textual testimonies; Schaeffer is one of them.
With kind regards from Elisheva
PS You mention a paper that you have prepared for JNES. It is clear that nothing based on my unpublished work (like Oedipus) should be printed without my consent. The idea of Oedipus legend having been originated in events that took place in Egypt should be first given in my book on the subject. I am interested to see your paper.