"Little Infamies" was one of the great successes of 2002: a collection of extraordinary stories that gained rapturous reviews and very strong sales. Now, Panos Karnezis brings us his first novel, "The Maze", a book that will propel him to the very first rank of young writers. Set in Anatolia in 1922, "The Maze" is the story of a retreating Greek brigade that has lost its way. It is pursued by a Turkish army that seeks to avenge three years of Greek occupation. No help is forthcoming. Commanded by a brigadier with a passion for Greek mythology and an addiction to morphia, the brigade's only chance of salvation is to reach the Mediterranean coast and sail home. As the army wanders through the Anatolian desert, their internal divisions become more pronounced and their dementias more florid. Eventually, they reach a small town, up until now untouched by the war, which is run by a simple-minded mayor and is peopled by a gallery of wonderfully strange characters. When the soldiers leave at last, a tragedy has taken place and the town has changed forever.
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Panos Karnezis' The Maze is a moving and engaging novel of warmth and humour. Set in Anatolia in 1922, a Greek expedition, lost in the desert, bickers among itself and blunders forwards toward the coast. Brigadier Nestor is as addicted to morphia as he is to Greek myths; Father Simeon is as disappointed in himself as he is passionately sincere in his religion; and the Bolshevik Major Porfirio, who has failed in his attempt to win any men to his cause, save for his colonel, are each wonderful creations.
Lying in the recent memory of all these men is a massacre of Turkish civilians carried out by the brigade, which weighs on them heavily. Coming across a town the brigade settles in for a few days. Here Nestor can investigate fully the recent thefts that have plagued him and try to work out who is behind the communist propaganda circulating the camp. As readers we are given the opportunity to meet, among others, Mr Othon, the schoolmaster, the foolish Mayor and his fiancé, the town's beautiful and exotic prostitute Madame Violetta, her maid Annina and her lover Yusuf the gardener.
Karnezis keeps the tone light throughout--one cannot help but be reminded of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Particularly at the beginning he overwrites: the sentences are too fussy and there are too many similes. But the book soon finds its true rhythm and while the story never offers quite enough substance, it is an enjoyable read and one that recommends Karnezis as a skilled writer. --Mark ThwaiteReview:
"Karnezis seems likely to take his place beside the masters of European storytelling" ( Independent on Sunday)
" The Maze confirms Karnezis as an original and important literary voice" ( The Times)
"Worthy of Graham Greene. [ The Maze is] an outlandish, ingeniously constructed novel as powerful and full of surprises as any ancient myth" ( Sunday Telegraph)
"Enchanting... the mad beauty of Karnezis's imagination is entirely his own" ( Guardian)
"Excellent... Assured and sophisticated" ( Sunday Times)
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