Red Thread - On Mazes And Labyrinths [book Of The Week]

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0120180730

Author Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

Author and journalist Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths, and reflects on their significance - in art and in mythology, in literature and in life.

Her own interest was inspired by a childhood visit to the palace of Knossos on the island of Crete - where, according to legend, King Minos ordered the construction of a labyrinth to house the half-bull, half-man Minotaur. The monstrous creature was slain by the hero Theseus, who famously managed to escape from the labyrinth with the help of a ball of red thread supplied by Minos's daughter, Ariadne.

"This is where it began," writes Higgins, "my longing for the labyrinth..."

It was also the beginning of her career as a classicist: "I tried to learn my way back there," she says, going on to study Greek and Latin at school and then at Oxford.

As for her own sense of direction: "I have never been able to find my way. Turn me loose in a city without a map and panic rises, as if I were a child who had lost the grip of a parent's hand in a crowd."

And in life? "What frightens me more than the wrong turns I have taken... are the right turns, the ones I so nearly didn't take...."

Charlotte Higgins is the chief culture writer of the Guardian and the author of three previous books on the ancient world, including Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, short-listed for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction. She is also the author of This New Noise: the Extraordinary Birth and Troubled Life of the BBC.

Red Thread is written and read by Charlotte Higgins.

The book is abridged and produced by David Jackson Young.

0220180731

Author Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

Author and journalist Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths, and reflects on their significance - in art and in mythology, in literature and in life.

In this second reading from her new book, Higgins discusses some literary labyrinths, including the mysterious, forbidden library in Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose. And she describes the extraordinary mappa mundi at Hereford Cathedral, a medieval "cloth of the world" (with the island of Crete and its "eleven course labyrinth" - the lair of the Minotaur - particularly prominent). But as Higgins observes, Hereford's mappa mundi is "not just a diagram of space, it is a map of time and destiny..."

Red Thread is written and read by Charlotte Higgins.

The book is abridged and produced by David Jackson Young.

0320180801

Author Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

Author and journalist Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths, and reflects on their significance - in art and in mythology, in literature and in life.

In this third reading from her new book Higgins investigates some mental mazes, and Sigmund Freud's view that psychoanalysis "supplies the thread that leads a man out of the labyrinth of his own unconscious."

She also describes the neuroscience behind the human being's sense of direction, the enlarged hippocampi of London cabbies, and how, on some level, "finding our way through life, building up stories about ourselves and making meaningful memories out of our experiences, may be twined together with our ability to navigate..."

Red Thread is written and read by Charlotte Higgins.

The book is abridged and produced by David Jackson Young.

0420180802

Author Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

Author and journalist Charlotte Higgins explores our ancient fascination with mazes and labyrinths, and reflects on their significance - in art and in mythology, in literature and in life.

In this fourth reading from her new book Higgins describes a meeting with maze-maker Adrian Fisher, who over a thirty-year career has designed forty-two hedge mazes and fifty-one mirror mazes - where glass is "set into the walls of tunnels to cast infinite reflections and to bewilder the eye completely." Solving mazes is a shared experience that binds families together, says Fisher - although Higgins notes that his wife Marie "is not a great one for mazes; or rather, she just likes to know she can get out of them..."

Charlotte Higgins also tells how artist Mark Wallinger chose to mark the 150th birthday of one of Britain's greatest and most famous subterranean mazes - the London Underground.

Red Thread is written and read by Charlotte Higgins.

The book is abridged and produced by David Jackson Young.