ALEXANDRE MONTAGU is a lawyer living in New York City. Fluent in English, French, Farsi and German he studied at the University of Cambridge, Harvard Law School and Princeton University where he teaches a course in the comparative literature department as a visiting lecturer.
The Riddle of the Sphinx 2018
Biggest literary influencer:
Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund White
Last book read:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The book that changed your life:
No one book changed my life but if there is one that influenced my life it would be A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The book taught me to look inside rather than search for happiness in the external world and really brought home to me Carl Jung’s maxim “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes.”
Your favorite literary character:
I think it would be Oedipus in Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex (from which incidentally the title of my novel derives). Oedipus is a powerful warrior King who appears to have it all—intelligence (he’s the only one capable of solving the Sphinx’s riddle), physical strength and beauty, title and riches, but in fact these things bring him a great deal of suffering and he doesn’t understand why. He doesn’t even know who he is and where he comes from (he literally doesn’t know who his parents are). He only discovers the truth, including the truth about his own identity when he is physically blinded, which forces him to look inside rather than search for happiness and his identity in the external world.
Currently working on:
Words to live by:
“Know thyself” inscription on the temple of Delphi attributed to Socrates.
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Wouldn’t dream of giving advice!
“The Riddle of The Sphinx is a gripping, beautifully written work of fiction. It is not only a finely wrought story of a young boy’s coming of age and growing into manhood, but also a story of a love affair and engagement with great literature. The protagonist, Eric, escapes Iran after the Islamic revolution, attends Princeton and becomes a partner in a major law firm; but it is in the works of the imagination—Proust, Baudelaire, Sophocles—that he finds true wisdom and fulfillment. If you love a good read and the classics of Western literature, you will love this novel.”
– Haleh Esfandiari, author of My Prison My Home: One Woman’s Captivity in Iran
“A fascinating account of a young man’s discovery of himself through the troubled history of his homeland and the hothouse of an Ivy League education, The Riddle of the Sphinx raises delicate issues of identity and culture among elite but no less fragile lives.”
–David Bellos, Meredith Howland Pyne Professor of French and Comparative Literature. Director, Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University
“Montagu is a fiercely intelligent writer and The Riddle of the Sphinx, (in particular, the story of the protagonist’s escape from revolutionary Iran) is written with great passion and daring.”
– Joseph Olshan, author of Clara’s Heart and Black Diamond Fall