Friday, August 19, 2011

Minotaur by Benjamin Tammuz

Minotaur, by Benjamin Tammuz (translated from the Hebrew by Kim Parfitt and Mildred Budny), copyright 1989, published 2005.

Wow. I loved this book. Minotaur is the story of an older man in love with a younger woman, though they never have met. After seeing Thea on a bus, the man starts writing her beautiful letters and professing his love. He sends her records asking that she listen to them at a particular time so that they both know they are listening together. But, he says they can never meet. On occasion, he provides instructions for how she can write him back; other times, Thea can only write responses to keep in her "Mr. Anonymous" box.

Or, Minotaur is a story of a man manipulating and seducing a younger woman, holding her emotionally captive for over a decade and interfering with her attempts at traditional relationships from afar. She has no control over their communication and sometimes has to wait several months to hear from him again, all the time wondering if he has disappeared forever. She spends her life questioning if every man she meets might be her mystery lover; she is skeptical of all who express interest in her. She tries to move on, to forget him, to love others, but even when her fiance dies one week before their wedding, she's barely upset.

Tammuz tells this story in four sections so that the reader learns the background of all the men who have loved Thea. It is notable that no section provides us with Thea's perspective. Other than in a few letters she writes to the mysterious man, we only see Thea through others' eyes. The chronology starts fresh with each character so that we are treated to reading the same scenes multiple times but from different perspectives. Minotaur is a perfectly-told mystery, and Tammuz expertly withholds enough details so that each "ah-ha moment" is in fact a revelation.

This review, along with my favorite quotes, can be found on Sensory Sweetness. Minotaur is the 3rd of 7 books that I have completed for my Europa Challenge.

- Aleta
Sensory Sweetness