Enfilade

New Books | Mazes and Labyrinths

Posted in books by Editor on July 6, 2019

A fair number of examples are drawn from the eighteenth century:

Charlotte Higgins, Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-1910702390, £25.

The tale of how the hero Theseus killed the Minotaur, finding his way out of the labyrinth using Ariadne’s ball of red thread, is one of the most intriguing, suggestive and persistent of all myths, and the labyrinth—the beautiful, confounding and terrifying building created for the half-man, half-bull monster—is one of the foundational symbols of human ingenuity and artistry.

Charlotte Higgins tracks the origins of the story of the labyrinth in the poems of Homer, Catullus, Virgil and Ovid, and with them builds an ingenious edifice of her own. She follows the idea of the labyrinth through the Cretan excavations of Sir Arthur Evans, the mysterious turf labyrinths of northern Europe, the church labyrinths of medieval French cathedrals and the hedge mazes of Renaissance gardens. Along the way, she traces the labyrinthine ideas of writers from Dante and Borges to George Eliot and Conan Doyle, and of artists from Titian and Velázquez to Picasso and Eva Hesse.

Her intricately constructed narrative asks what it is to be lost, what it is to find one’s way, and what it is to travel the confusing and circuitous path of a lived life. Red Thread is, above all, a winding and unpredictable route through the byways of the author’s imagination—one that leads the reader on a strange and intriguing journey, full of unexpected connections and surprising pleasures.

Charlotte Higgins’s previous books include the acclaimed Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, which was shortlisted for awards including the Samuel Johnson (now Baillie Gifford) Prize for non-fiction. She is chief culture writer of The Guardian, a past winner of the Classical Association prize, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. She lives in London.

From Laurence King:

Angus Hyland and Kendra Wilson, with illustrations by Thibaud Herem, The Maze: A Labyrinthine Compendium (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2018), 144 pages, $30.

Mazes have been a part of civilization for at least 4,000 years, and there are more being built now than ever before. What is it about these magical life-size puzzles that continues to intrigue us? The idea of the maze taps into so many subconscious notions: the game, the quest, the spiritual journey. Perhaps this is the key to their enduring appeal. This beautifully illustrated book will delight lovers of mazes, acting as a guide, directory, and puzzle book combined. Specially commissioned illustrations by Thibaud Hérem represent 60 real and imagined mazes from around the world, with a bird’s eye view of each maze so that readers can make their own journey. Each maze is also accompanied by a fascinating and witty short history.

Thibaud Hérem is a French illustrator based in London. His published work includes Know Your Rodent (with Ziggy Hanaor, 2010), Draw me a House (2012) and London Deco (2013).
Angus Hyland is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and a partner at Pentagram Design London. His work for Laurence King includes (with Roanne Bell) Hand to Eye (2003), The Picture Book (2010), (with Steve Bateman) Symbol (2011), The Purple Book (2013) and The Book of the Dog (2015).
Kendra Wilson is a journalist, and author of My Garden is a Car Park and Other Design Dilemmas (2017), published by Laurence King. Collaborations with Angus Hyland include The Book of the Dog (2015) and The Book of the Bird (Laurence King, 2016).

From Penguin Random House:

Henry Eliot, Follow This Thread: A Maze Book to Get Lost In (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2019), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1984824448, $18.

Beautifully designed and gorgeously illustrated, this immersive, puzzle-like exploration of the history and psychology of mazes and labyrinths evokes the spirit of Choose Your Own Adventure, the textual inventiveness of Tom Stoppard, and the philosophical spirit of Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths are as old as humanity, the proving grounds of heroes, the paths of pilgrims, symbols of spiritual rebirth and pleasure gardens for pure entertainment. Henry Eliot leads us on a twisting journey through the world of mazes, real and imagined, unraveling our ancient, abiding relationship with them and exploring why they continue to fascinate us, from Kafka to Kubrick to the myth of the Minotaur and a quest to solve the disappearance of the legendary Maze King.

Henry Eliot is the creative editor of Penguin Classics. Having studied English Literature at Cambridge University, he has spent the past decade immersed in literature, creating a mass public pilgrimage for the National Trust inspired by William Morris, recreating Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to raise money for the National Literacy Trust and leading a number of literary tours, including a Lake Poets tour of Cumbria and a quest for the Holy Grail based on Malory’s Morte Darthur. He was a Trustee of the William Blake literary society for three years. He is the author of Follow This Thread, a maze-like book about the history and psychology of mazes, and Curiocity, written with Matt Lloyd-Rose, an illustrated book of unexpected London journeys and experiences.

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