The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code

4.4 15
by Margalit Fox
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative.
 
When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a

See more details below

Overview

In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative.
 
When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Greece’s Classical Age, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe’s earliest written records. For half a century, the meaning of the inscriptions, and even the language in which they were written, would remain a mystery.
                                              
Award-winning New York Times journalist Margalit Fox's riveting real-life intellectual detective story travels from the Bronze Age Aegean—the era of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Helen—to the turn of the 20th century and the work of charismatic English archeologist Arthur Evans, to the colorful personal stories of the decipherers. These include Michael Ventris, the brilliant amateur who deciphered the script but met with a sudden, mysterious death that may have been a direct consequence of the deipherment; and Alice Kober, the unsung heroine of the story whose painstaking work allowed Ventris to crack the code.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Matti Friedman
…by retrieving a woman who might otherwise have vanished, [Ms. Fox] ends up performing an act of historical redemption akin to the one her subject accomplished. The Riddle of the Labyrinth, a gripping and tightly focused scholarly mystery informed by the author's own knowledge of linguistics, recounts the story of Linear B through three people who fell under its spell…In explaining the problem and eventual solution, Ms. Fox makes the complexities of linguistic scholarship accessible, weaving observations about language into the stories of her primary characters…
The New York Times Book Review - Donovan Hohn
In Margalit Fox's…The Riddle of the Labyrinth, Sherlock Holmes makes several cameo appearances, and for good reason. In Fox, the story has found a worthy Conan Doyle. In the best detective stories, the mysteries of human character are as compelling as the enigmatic clues, and as central to the plot, which explains why Fox structures her book as a triptych of biographies…But it's the figure in the middle panel, an unknown chain-smoking classicist from Brooklyn named Alice Kober, who is the hero of the story as Fox tells it, and it's Fox's portrait of Kober that is her book's greatest contribution.
Publishers Weekly
Linguist and New York Times senior writer Fox spins a fascinating yarn centered around an unlikely heroine: a devoted academic spinster who died before accomplishing her life’s mission of cracking an ancient script. In 1900, aristocratic archaeologist Arthur J. Evans put his “tirelessness, fearlessness, boundless curiosity, wealth, and myopia” to work in excavating Knossos, where Linear B—the script in question—was discovered on clay tablets in the ruins of a Cretan palace. Architect Michael Ventris eventually completed the decipherment of the language, having built off the work of Alice Kober, the languages professor at the heart of the tale. Working at her kitchen table in the 1940s, hand-cutting over 150,000 cards to systematically catalogue Linear B, Kober and her “passion... for the life of the mind” historically have been overshadowed by the two more famous men who bookended her endeavors. Fox’s deft explanations of the script-solving process—complete with supplemental photos and illustrations of the text—allow readers to share in the mental detective work of cracking the lost language. Ultimately, the revelation here is the enduring nature of writing as an expression of humanity, a message passed not through content, but through the act of interpretation and the passionate endeavor to understand. Photos & illus. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman, Inc. (May 14)
Booklist (starred review)
“Fox is a talented storyteller, and she creates an atmosphere of almost nail-biting suspense. . . . This one deserves shelf space along such classics of the genre as Simon Singh’s The Code Book.”
Washington Post
“Fox’s achievement here is to make this fascinating tale accessible to a broader audience.”
From the Publisher
"Fox is a talented storyteller, and she creates an atmosphere of almost nail-biting suspense. . . . This one deserves shelf space along such classics of the genre as Simon Singh's The Code Book." —Booklist Starred Review
The Times UK
“… a nail-biting intellectual and cultural adventure.”
The Guardian UK
“Deft, sharply written … Fox’s account runs with the pace and tension of a detective story - and has much to say about language and writing systems along the way.”
Sunday Times UK
“[Fox] … has cracked it, fashioning an intellectual puzzle into an engrossing detective story of driven personalities, hidden clues, perseverance and intuition. In the process, she has uncovered a remarkable woman who had been buried by history.”
The Guardian US
“As with any good detective story, there’s a driving narrative behind the puzzle, peopled by solitary sleuths.”
Stephen Mitchell
“Margalit Fox describes the decipherment of Linear B in such lucid detail that any reader can follow the steps and participate in the thrill of discovery.”
Toby Lester
“Fox recreates the emergence of one of history’s most vexing puzzles—and then puts readers alongside the remarkable figures who, brilliantly, obsessively, and even tragically, devoted their lives to solving it. Forget the Da Vinci Code. This is the real thing.”
Booklist
"Fox is a talented storyteller, and she creates an atmosphere of almost nail-biting suspense. . . . This one deserves shelf space along such classics of the genre as Simon Singh’s The Code Book."
Library Journal
Linear B is a script first found on clay tablets excavated on the island of Crete and later at Pylos on the Greek mainland and dating to the Mycenaean period, circa 1400 BCE. The story of its decipherment by Michael Ventris (1922–56) has already been told, e.g., in John Chadwick's The Decipherment of Linear B (1958), and in Andrew Robinson's The Man Who Deciphered Linear B (2002). Now Fox (senior writer, New York Times; Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind), a trained linguist, brings to the fore the groundbreaking work of American classical scholar Alice Kober (1906–50) whose syllabic grids made Ventris's breakthrough possible. Fox starts with the story of "The Digger," Sir Arthur Evans (1851–1941), the British archaeologist who excavated the first tablets on Crete and made the first attempts to decode them. The reader then meets Kober, whom Fox dubs "The Detective" for her discovery of the syllabic nature of the script. Kober's work enabled "The Architect" Ventris to identify the texts as archaic Greek. Fox totally engages the reader in the decipherment process and summarizes the content of the tablets: primarily inventory records of people and produce. VERDICT This exciting linguistic adventure, intended for the nonspecialist, is recommended to anyone interested in archaeological mysteries—and even to crossword puzzle enthusiasts!—Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062228888
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/14/2013
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
17,957
File size:
4 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >