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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Maryam's Maze

Mansoura Ez Eldin

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To purchase Maryam's Maze

Title: Maryam's Maze
Author: Mansoura Ez Eldin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 106 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Maryam's Maze - US
Maryam's Maze - UK
Maryam's Maze - Canada
Maryam's Maze - India
  • Arabic title: متاهة مريم
  • Translated by Paul Starkey

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Our Assessment:

B- : loses itself a bit in its vagueness; can't fully compensate, in translation, in its poetry

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Banipal A Fall/Winter/2007 Zuzana Kratka

  From the Reviews:
  • "Maryam’s Maze is an intriguing, intellectually challenging and yet very enjoyable piece of writing. It can be read, re-read and read again from many different angles, bringing each time new views and opening new perspectives. Highly recommended." - Zuzana Kratka, Banipal

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Maryam's Maze follows a young woman, Maryam, on a journey of personal exploration -- in the present and the past -- that suggests not so much a physical maze but a metaphysical one. Maryam is unsure of the places she finds herself in, and there is no trace of people she expects to find at certain addresses. The reality of her memory and mind and the reality she encounters seem separate -- all the way up to such significant facts like whether or not she was married to a man name Yahya, as she finds a marriage certificate suggesting they had been married, even though: "She was certain, or she had been, that she had never been married to Yahya, and that there should never have been a certificate."
       The novel opens with Maryam waking -- or seeming to wake -- from a dream. It is, in fact, unclear whether she is even alive, as:

Maryam felt that she had been reduced to nothingness. She no longer had any physical existence to fill a space in the void.
       She considers both the world around her -- trying to find a hold among familiar places and people (which prove elusive) -- as well as in her past, memories of the person she was. She is confused by the situation she finds herself in -- at one point thinking: "she had either lost her memory or her reason".
       The most stable site is El Tagi, the family estate, and brief mentions of it precede each of the chapters of Maryam's story. These short pieces suggest a haunted sort of place imbued with death, fertile ground for fantasies, even if the memories of her time and the people there are generally fairly mundane.
       From domestic scenes, a childhood friend, her schooling (successful early on, until her mind drifted off the subjects ...), to the time when Nasser's shadow loomed large, the story flits across memories, as well as the present in which Maryam tries to find some hold. There are some scenes and descriptions that are firm and clear, but for the most part the novel floats (or, ultimately, is mired) in a fog of vagueness: even the strongest scenes are not connected enough to form a substantial picture of Maryam, her life, and her condition -- perhaps appropriate for someone who feels she has: "been reduced to nothingness", but not always easy for a reader to appreciate.
       There's the explanation:
     It's a life of glass, a brittle life that can be smashed at any moment, by any chance event. And her particular life, if she has a life, is glassy twice over.
       Maryam's Maze proceeds almost gingerly, as if Ez Eldin fears any firmer touch would splinter and break her protagonist all apart, but a stronger guiding hand -- or one willing to smash away, and then pick up the pieces -- might have been welcome for navigating this particular maze.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 April 2014

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Maryam's Maze: Reviews: Mansoura Ez Eldin: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian author Mansoura Ez Eldin (منصورة عزّ الدين) was born in 1976.

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© 2014 the complete review

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