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Minotaur [Paperback]

Benjamin Tammuz , Kim Parfitt , Mildred Budny

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2005

"I was totally enchanted by Minotaur, a book that transcends time. If Chekhov were to enter the room and ask where he should begin with contemporary literature, I would put Minotaur on his reading list, with the conviction that I would be introducing him to a kindred spirit."-Financial Times

"A novel about the expectations and compromises that humans create for themselves . . . very much in the manner of William Faulkner and Lawrence Durrell."-The New York Times

"After reading the last line, you feel like holding the book in your hands for a while, with love and anger, before putting it back on the shelf of timeless novels."-Corriere della Sera

"An uncommon and suggestive spy story, love story and much more, that charms the reader. Not to be missed."-L'Unit

An Israeli secret agent falls hopelessly in love with a young English girl. Utilizing his network of shady contacts and his professional expertise, he takes control of her life without ever revealing his identity. Minotaur, named Book of the Year in England in 1981, is a complex and utterly original story about a solitary man driven from one side of Europe to the other by his obsession.

Benjamin Tammuz was born in Russia in 1919 and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of five. Tammuz was a sculptor as well as a diplomat, writer, and for many years, literary editor of the Ha'aretz newspaper. His numerous novels and short stories have received many literary prizes. Benjamin Tammuz died in 1989.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (Oct. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372028
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372020
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,209,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A major Cold War hit in the U.K. (a blurb from Graham Greene!), this 1981 novel gets much of its bite from the reputation of the Israeli spy network, of which its protagonist is a major, covert player. A melancholic 41, he's married and on a mission in London when, on a bus, he sees a girl of 17 or so with a ribbon tied just so in her hair. When she turns in profile and he sees her features, he is instantly smitten. Using his expertise, he gets Thea's name and address, and begins writing to her and gives her a way of getting letters to him. They correspond for seven years, both revealing extremely high levels of cultivation, until her engagement to a man her age, G.R., threatens the relationship. The protagonist deals with him, or so it seems, accordingly. Her next lover, a few years later, meets a similar fate. As it comes time for our man to finally reveal himself to Thea, his job may prove a final impediment. After the denouement, his identity is traced in flashbacks that recapitulate the history of Israel and a particular sort of early immigrant's experience there. Tammuz has real insight into obsessive, star-crossed love, but the prose throughout is stiff and dated. This suspenseful love story really requires pre-Oslo Israeli and bipolar geopolitics as its background noise. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Tammuz was born in Russia in 1919 and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of five. He studied law and economics at Tel Aviv and later attended the Sorbonne in Paris, where he studied art history. His numerous novels and short stories have been widely translated from the Hebrew and have received several literary prizes.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books I've ever read June 19 2006
By the horse with no name - Published on Amazon.com
This book starts a little slow but is definitely worth summoning the patience. It is written in a somewhat unconventional fashion. A handfull of characthers are first introduced then each chapter tells that charachter's story. The plots are intrelated and slowly revealed as you make your way through the book. This isn't just used as a clever device but as a way of showing the complexity of each character and makes the book something like both a collection of short stories and a novel. The writing is beautiful even in translation and the depth and complexity of the characters is amazing. It has a sort of classical feel to it but I think more than anything it is the timelessness of the story/stories it tells that gives it this feeling.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Minotaur:" A slow paced story of obsession and intrigue. May 24 2009
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is London, 1963. Today is Alexander Abramov's forty-first birthday. He is an Israeli secret agent. Abramov parks his rented car in a rain-drenched square and takes a bus into town. He is a strange and mysterious man, quite withdrawn. Most important, Alexander has never loved anyone, although he has a wife and children back in Israel, and his parents were kind and caring people.

Two young women board the bus. They sit in front of him and he notices that the girl seated on the left is lovely, with her sleek copper-colored hair, "gathered at the nape of her neck with a black velvet ribbon, tied in a cross-shaped bow." Her eyes are deep brown and her coloring and complexion remind him of his mother's - fair with a pink bloom. As a Mossad agent, Alexander knows how to find the details of her life...and he does so. Her name is Thea and she is seventeen, twenty-four years younger than he. Alexander has devoted his entire life to "tough, disagreeable work, because he needed to love." His work, which is a "series of surmises, assumptions and risks," provides him with the means to distract himself from the emptiness he feels - the sense of otherness he finds within. Perhaps he is the Minotaur within the maze of his long repressed emotions. (Too symbolic for me!). Now he knows, he loves Thea. For the first time in forty-one years, he feels love and need.

Abramov writes to Thea from his hotel room. He tells her that he loves her...that he has loved her all of his life. She doesn't know him but she "will always belong to him." He writes that he has acted as he has throughout his life because he was unaware he had choices. He didn't know he would ever meet her. And now that he has seen her, it is too late. His path is chosen and he cannot deviate from it. "There has been an accident, some sort of discrepancy in birth dates," he sadly explains. Along with his letter, he sends Thea a parcel containing a record, music he knows she likes, and asks her to play it the following Sunday at precisely 1700 hours. He will do the same in his hotel room. The two will be listening to the same music at the same time and this will be their first meeting. He cannot reveal his identity to her, else he blow his cover.

Initially, Alexander does not give Thea an opportunity to write back, nor does he know if she would even consider doing so. But eventually, he gives her a "drop off" place where she can leave her letters should she choose to respond. She does. And oddly, she complies with all Alexander's convoluted instructions without question. Thus begins a correspondence which will last for decades. Thousands of letters are accumulated. Their romance becomes stronger and more obsessive than any real flesh and blood relationship.

The narrative is related from the points of view of three different men, all connected by their love for Thea, who also narrates part of the storyline. Abramov, the spy, plays a central role, with his clandestine relationship with her. His love of music and the Mediterranean culture, flesh out his character. The book's final segment is an account of Abramov's childhood in Palestine - his life in a pre-WWII Jewish settlement.

I was somewhat disappointed by "The Minotaur." The novel does not remind me at all of Graham Greene's or Lawrence Durrell's brilliant writing, as some English critics have suggested. Perhaps it is the translation which makes the prose awkward at times. I also found the initial chapters to be slow, and fairly ridiculous...overly sentimental. I have a good imagination and enjoy fantasy, but just cannot conceive of a girl or woman who would respond with so much enthusiasm to an obvious stalker, and feel no fear or menace. I would be at the police station within minutes of receiving the first letter.

The two other men who become involved with Thea over the years are somewhat interesting, but their characters are not strong enough to sustain the narrative. I wouldn't classify "The Minotaur" as a spy novel. It is too quiet and contemplative. There are no twists and turns, no suspense, and frankly, there is little love in this supposed love story. It is more a novel about obsession. I give it a 3 Star rating because reading this book wasn't a total waste of time and I did enjoy parts of it. Honestly, however, I will not go out of my way to recommend it. There are just too many really good books out there to read....so why waste time on this one?

Author Benjamin Tammuz was born in Soviet Russia. When he was five years old, he immigrated with his parents to Israel, where he contributed to Israeli culture as a novelist, journalist, critic, painter, and sculptor. He was on the editorial board of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Five of his books have been translated into English, including this one.
Jana Perskie
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Nov. 28 2006
By SM - Published on Amazon.com
This was a book that I found by random selection and fell in love with. It begins with an intriguing concept- that we are each meant to be with one certain person, somewhere in the world- and continues to reveal more and more about the characters and their actions. There is intense character development, but the plot remains focused and clear. It's the kind of story that transcends all cultural boundaries.
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading! Dec 29 2013
By Knigochei - Published on Amazon.com
It's one of the best books I read in the last two years. Don't expect fast-paced action--this is not your average 21-century thriller. This book is in the best traditions of great 20th century novels--enjoy it as it is. It's quite great.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is amazing Sept. 23 2011
By Online fan girl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a page turner. Bought it a while ago, so don't remember what it was about... but I'm pretty sure it's short stories that are deep and meaningful and just so interesting. I love this writer.

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