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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Lost Civilization
of Suolucidir

Susan Daitch

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To purchase The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir

Title: The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir
Author: Susan Daitch
Genre: Novel
Written: 2016
Length: 310 pages
Availability: The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir - US
The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir - UK
The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining archaeological dig, into lost worlds and identities

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 25/4/2016 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Daitch has constructed an intricate, absorbing narrative. The novel is like a Scheherazade tale, never quite giving the reader time or reason to pause." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       A brief introductory section of a mere two pages sets the scene for The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, describing the (local) end of times -- arbitrary and sudden --, whose after-echoes reverberate throughout the rest of the novel, in both the search for the lost city, and more recent counterparts of destruction, there and far beyond.
       The rest of the novel is divided into three roughly equal parts, the first basically the account of Ariel Bokser, a young archaeologist who becomes obsessed with finding the lost city of Suoludicir. There's a family connection here: his father, a consulting mineralogist, had brought back the field notes of a Sidonie Nieumacher from one of his trips, to Iran, and translated them, and after his death Ariel finally learns of them -- and is hooked by the story.
       Ariel gets some grant money to go to Iran and explore, but his timing is unfortunate: while he is working deep in the countryside the country is in turmoil, with the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shah; though he speaks fluent Farsi and can pass for a local, eventually it becomes high time for him to flee.
       The second section of the novel consists largely of the Nieumacher-papers, and is set almost half a century earlier. Sidonie and her husband have traveled far already in a Europe increasingly in turmoil, and by the mid 1930s have come to Marseilles. They too come under the spell of the perhaps mythical city of Suolucidir, and decide to take a gamble, traveling not to safety but to Iran, to try to find the site. An increasing Soviet presence -- and the already great interest in the local oil -- make for considerable complications, ultimately also bringing their explorations to a premature end.
       The final section goes back even further, to even earlier modern-day Western seekers of the site, connecting also to the object that set the Nieumacher's expedition into motion. In addition, there's also Ariel's continuing modern-day quest for answers, as well as pieces of the puzzle, including the people behind it.
       The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is, among other things, about finding and creating identities: 'Nieumacher' is an assumed name, and its obvious meaning -- 'new-maker' -- a fitting choice. The Nieumachers have repeatedly reinvented themselves, and represent themselves differently, depending on their situations: their fluent Russian -- since that's where they originally came from --, for example, not something they necessarily want to reveal. The man they come to work for in Marseilles similarly reinvented himself, while as part of their ruse to get permission to travel to Iran they invent a pair of Russian counterparts who will supposedly be joining them on the dig, and they repeatedly have to present these fictional characters as real. Ariel, too, can pass as another -- his Farsi good enough for him to pass as local, if need be -- while he then allows someone else to assume his identity; eventually, a third Ariel surfaces (or rather: meets an untimely end).
       In their various identities, characters also repeatedly disappear -- like Suolucidir itself, occasionally (apparently) resurfacing, but with actual identity (including: is it the 'real' Suolucidir) unclear. Typically, too, the only family connection in contact with Ariel at one point is his former grandmother-in-law, as he keeps the telephone number from his married days and she keeps calling for her granddaughter, her mind far enough gone that she doesn't remember Ariel or the wedding.
       The question of the reliability of narratives is also prominent throughout -- both as consequence of the (false) identities so many of the characters assume -- meaning they constantly have to dissemble -- as well as in the intentional confusing of history (for a variety of reasons). The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is full of false documents and accounts, and a great deal of misrepresentation. In adding big chunks from earlier in time as the novel progresses, Daitch also repeatedly leaves the reader reassessing the already available information, suggesting new possible readings and interpretations.
       Suolucidir is also a significant presence here. A site is repeatedly found, and it appears to be Suolucidir -- even as history and circumstances don't permit it to rise from the ashes, as it were. For that reason, too, it also makes for a powerful symbolic site.
       Much of The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is also a solid adventure tale, with Daitch using her tension-filled locales and times particularly well -- 1930s Europe, as the Nazi shadow looms ever darker and more ominously; Iran, at various times, but especially during the revolution; even early 1980s New York City.
       It makes for a consistently entertaining and quite varied read, with accounts, documents, and transcripts in a variety of voices (and variously (un)reliable). But it only adds up to so much, and maybe not enough, the sum not nearly as satisfying as the episodes and pieces.

- M.A.Orthofer, 31 August 2016

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The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir: Reviews: Susan Daitch: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       American author Susan Daitch was born in 1954.

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© 2016-2021 the complete review

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