“The Riddle of the Sphinx” by Alexandre Montagu—A Dramatic Journey

Montagu, Alexandre. “The Riddle of the Sphinx”, Persepolis Press, 2019.

A Dramatic Journey

Amos Lassen

We cover a lot of ground in Alexandre Montagu’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx”. We begin with “a daring escape over revolutionary Iran’s Zagros Mountains, to the glittering night clubs of Paris; from the Caspian Sea to Wimbledon, from a forbidden passion between two young men in the halls of Princeton University to an exiled princess’s palatial New York apartment’. We are on a dramatic journey in an epic and psychological novel of self-discovery, sexual obsession, exile and destiny.

Reminiscent of Proustian characters trapped in a mental hologram,  Montagu examines the workings of the human mind and the question of identity, false selves and the transcendental and existential reality hidden behind the delusions that are a hallmark of the human condition. It sounds heavy but every word is a pleasure to read. We are on a rewarding journey to enlightenment trough beautifully lyrical prose that reflects eternal truths.(It seems like my entire life I have been on this journey so I can only surmise that the trip ,must be so much better than the destination.

Here is an example of when the plot plays second fiddle to the language. We are taken to places situations that many of us would never experience were it not for the written word. We have the story of a young boy’s coming of age and growing into manhood and we  also have the story of a love affair and engagement with great literature. Eric, escapes Iran after the Islamic revolution, attends Princeton, and becomes a partner in a major law firm. His real love comes in the works of the imagination–Proust, Baudelaire, Sophocles for it is with them that he finds true wisdom and fulfillment. I constantly see myself in him. He finds himself through the history of his homeland and his experiences in academia at Princeton. It is through Eric that we deal with issues of identity and culture.

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