The Minotaur at Calle Lanza

Belt Apr. 2024. 144p. ISBN 9781953368669. pap. $19.95. LIT
Nigerian-born writer Madu was seven when his family moved to Detroit in 1998. Life there was tenuous and hard. His parents eventually became teachers but always lived on the edge of failure. Teaching in an age of COVID-19 made it worse. The second child of six and the only underachiever, Madu grew to hate his father; he says that he knew his father hated him. Then in the fall of 2020, Madu earns a writing residency in Venice, Italy. A Black immigrant, speaking no Italian, he savors his aloneness in Venice during lockdown because it gives him time and motive to think through his past. The Argentinian miniaturist Borges wrote of a minotaur in a labyrinth: it only takes two mirrors to create the labyrinth. Like the minotaur, Madu looks in the mirror and stares back at his ancestors. He never forgets his foreignness. Without warning, he transforms into a minotaur, frightening those around him, pursued and attacked. He re-emerges human but something has changed: he now sees his father fresh, forgives and loves him. He leaves Venice understanding better why he’s like he is.
VERDICT Madu’s book is difficult to categorize but hauntingly effective. It has no fail-safe audience but will reward whoever picks it up.
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