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The first people to leave lasting traces of their mark on Bulgarian history were the Thracians, who settled in the Balkans in the 8th century BCE. But Bulgaria's ancient history goes back much further. The Copper Age culture that developed in the Varna region (4,400-4,100 BCE), left sophisticated examples of ritual burials, pottery, and the first use of gold on earth. What happened to these ancient people, and why did such a long interval take place between their time and the arrival of the Thracians?

In The Parchment Maze, written by bestselling Bulgarian author Ludmila Filipova and just recently translated into English, archaeologist Vera Kandilova is researching the connection between the origins of Christianity and Orphism, the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Thracians, when she begins to encounter perplexing symbols tied to the prehistoric civilization that mysteriously disappeared from Bulgaria. Could these symbols be indications that proto-writing, the first attempts by mankind to convey information in a written form, actually developed in the Balkans?

Vera's research, which takes her from Switzerland to Moscow and Rome, and then home to Bulgaria, almost comes across as an academic scavenger hunt, as in each location she picks up additional clues and evidence to support her theories. The mysterious Orpheus amulet, suggesting that the legendary Greek musician-prophet was crucified centuries before the arrival of Jesus, gives her an impetus to complete her research, but she is inexplicably kidnapped by a handsome man with pale skin.

It's easy to compare The Parchment Maze with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, for it weaves facts and fiction in such a way that one emerges with the assumption that all of the legends are true. The author includes photographs and footnotes giving further proof to the theories explored and also offers a detailed website with a virtual museum of traces in the maze.

Not every reader will enjoy the writing style of this novel due to its extensive non-fiction nature. All readers, however, will be amazed at the book's originality and concepts, which bring to light unanswered questions as to the origins of mankind.

Ever since I lived in Sofia for two years I have been searching for opportunities to read Bulgarian fiction translated into English. Now, at last, one of Ludmila Filipova's seven highly acclaimed novels has been translated, giving it exposure far beyond the Balkans where the story takes place.

Interesting to watch is a National Geographic video which deals with the Orpheus amulet and which is based on Filipova's book. The video takes viewers to the Devil's Throat cave in southern Bulgaria, where The Parchment Maze begins, and where it mysteriously ends.

The blog of Ellis Shuman: http://ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il/2013/07/the-parchment-maze-review.html


„The Parchment Maze” is quite unique – an  archival thriller, a mystery fantasy, and an historical riddle gamebook.
Vera is a young archaeologist who discovers the existence of a secret society, that has been hidden from the rest of the world for six thousand years.
Fiction and science combine in an intriguing novel based on real archaeological discoveries and actual icons, a daring combination of Dan Brown and Umberto Eco. Could the legend of Orpheus and his descent into the Underworld be more than just mythology?
There is supernatural love, there are secrets; there is murder, there is history; from Berlin to Moscow, From Rome to Burma, Filipova’s novel is sure to intrigue."
Colin Falconer, author of 20 novels, translated into 17 languages over the last 25 years 


The The Parchment Maze ( Bulgaria, 2009) is a carefully crafted literary work that could be both entertaining and illuminating for English-speaking readers throughout the world, especially in the United States. The contribution of The Parchment Maze to the literature of the occult is quite significant. In my professional opinion, this novel surpasses those of both Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova in terms of complexity and theme.
Three specific features of the novel that are noteworthy are as follows: (1) the labyrinthine structure of the story; (2) the well-drawn relationships of Vera-Ariman, Vera-Futch, and Vera-her father; and (3) the sustained journey motif that stresses the quest for illumination/faith/paradise.
Finally, the mysterious ending of the novel leaves the reader hoping for more. Perhaps Vera is not dead. A sequel is certainly possible.

Joseph F. Ceccio, Ph.D., March 2011 Professor of English literature The University of Akron

Ancient myths from both Bulgaria and the world, historical sources along with a lot fictionalized past, quoted manuscripts with lost ends, roads that cross, and characters in whose destinies events from more than a century and a half ago come together: these are only some of the ideas behind The Parchment Maze. The intricate interplay of history, its interpretations and politics in the novel determines the characters’ personal stories, while the author takes us through a number of genres in her writing: thriller, philosophical and historical novel, non-fictional and matter-of-fact literature. And although this technique reminds us of the voices of some of the bestselling writers of the day such as Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova, and even the internationally acclaimed Umberto Eco, The Parchment Maze shows us that these voices are very well assimilated into the writing of its author, who, nevertheless, retains her own style, respects the readers and relies on their active interpretation of the text, while at the same time wanting her writing to be convertible. The Parchment Maze by Ludmila Filipova is maybe one of the author’s best books so far. Following one of the most successful literary models – especially in terms of sales and appeal to a versatile readership – the novel is perched on the borderline between fiction and non-fiction. Its full-blooded characters have their own personal stories and particular roles in the texture and plot of the novel, but they also come with specific ideas about the past. It is through them that Bulgarian and international myths are interpreted, the past is given a new meaning – layer over layer of interpretations get accumulated, unfinished stories are continued. The novel deals with politics, shaping of theories, demystifications and discoveries of new mysteries.

To recap in literary terms, The Parchment Maze is a typical post-modern novel, relying on quotability, the active role of the readers’ imagination in reading and interpreting the novel, and the readers’ readiness to experiment with genre-mixing (thriller, philosophical novel, journalistic narrative, etc). It is a novel that thinks of the separation between fiction and non-fiction, between literature and non-literature, as surmountable and which believes in quotability’s role as a fundamental principle on which our contemporary culture is based. As a result, the novel’s aspiration is to overcome the regional confinements in terms of both the problems treated and the way of thinking implied.

Professor of literature Amelia Licheva

A novel based on mysteries and riddles – where do we come from; where are we going? Where did knowledge originate from? And who are its guardians? The story of The Parchment Maze takes place in the familiar, unfamiliar Bulgarian scene and in some of the largest cultural centers such as Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Switzerland and Burma.

Putting on display some of the most controversial treasures of the Old World, the author takes us to the dusty backrooms of the museums where the ‘tricky’ artifacts are hidden.

The novel tells us the engaging story of a woman who has devoted her life to archaeology. Vera is a young scientist on the verge of a huge discovery that would completely alter our ideas about the past of our lands. At some point in the late prehistoric era there appeared a civilization that impacted greatly the development of Europe and the world. In her attempt to unravel the mysteries surrounding the history of that civilization, the heroine of the novel comes across a secret society, which has succeeded in keeping its secrets and knowledge hidden from the rest of the world since 4000 B.C. Who is Orpheus and who are the people who professed Orphism? When did they appear and why did they disappear? Who are their heirs and what are the secrets they are still keeping?


 
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