Maps to the Imaginary: Susan Daitch’s The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir

lostcivilizationAdding a fourth novel to her highly-acclaimed bibliography, Susan Daitch takes us on an adventure story like no other in The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir. Named one of Book Riot’s “100 Must-Read Works of Jewish Fiction,” the novel offers a post-colonial perspective on an obsessive archaeological dig for the lost city of “Suolucidir”—located in a region thought to have existed near present-day Iran. As a series of characters hunt after this hidden terrain, a seemingly simple adventure novel quickly gives way to complex, folding temporal narratives and flux identities.

Publishers Weekly chose the novel as one of the “Best Summer Books of 2016”:

“Daitch’s fantastically fun novel has shades of Umberto Eco and Paul Auster and is brainy, escapist fiction at its best . . . an intricate, absorbing narrative. . . . What exactly is Suolucidir? Lost city of the Hebrew tribes? A stand-in for colonialism’s heart of darkness? As one character says, ‘Invisible cities sometimes leave no trace of themselves. Who knows what cities lay under our feet?'”

Motivated by self-interest, the hidden city pulls treasure-hunters into its siren-like grasp. As the hunt to uncover Suolucidir haunts the characters, so, too, is the reader pulled towards the mythological city-state and the need to establish its physicality. As Daitch explains in a recent essay on Lit Hub, “An Incomplete Atlas of Fantastic Maps: Literature’s Attempt to Map the Countries Yet to Come”:

“It’s impossible to actually step onto the Phantom Islands or DMZ’s New York, but there is something tantalizing and uncanny about these maps to the imaginary. They offer a way of reading, providing some kind of working gravitational pull to the magical film that runs in your head as you read.”

At its heart, Daitch’s novel encapsulates a world ravaged by imperialism, marrying Indiana Jones and Italo Calvino in a swirling narrative about discovery, fantasies, and the boundaries between the past and future. And, as author Mark Doten writes, “The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is a beguiling and virtuoso companion to our inevitable end.”

newssusandaitchAlso check out this interview Susan did with Evan Lavender-Smith for BOMB. The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is available now at citylights.com at a 30% discount and wherever quality books are sold.

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