[ilds] Why Istanbul?

Richard Pine durrelllibrarycorfu at gmail.com
Mon May 16 12:46:35 PDT 2016

When a Greek says 'Polis' he means 'THE City' - Konstantinoupolis is the
heartland of Hellenism, and the irredentist Megali Idea of the period
1840-1922, which culminated in and was destroyed by the Anatolian campaign
of 1920-22, was nearly the end of Greece itself (as a new-born state, that
is). Militarily, the attempt to regain 'Polis' was as daft and as
ill-conceived as the Irish 1916 Easter Rising, but it had the same
irresistible intention to 'restore us and regain the blissful seat', as
completely incapable of either physical or intellectual achievement as the
re-entry to Eden or any other hortus conclusus from which we have been

On Mon, May 16, 2016 at 10:32 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

> A very helpful clarification, the kind we need.  This also suggests to me
> a Greek (and Durrell) would be thinking of Istanbul as Konstantinoupolis
> and its other designation as Byzantium (with all its famous associations of
> intrigue, etc.).
> Bruce
> On May 16, 2016, at 11:48 AM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> The Greek name for Istanbul (Constantinople) is, to this day,
> 'Konstantinoupolis'
> - the city (polis) of Constantine (hence the genitive 'Konstantinou'). For
> brevity, it's called 'Polis'. Greeks would never call it 'Istanbul'. When a
> Greek says 'Polis' (unless he is travelling specifically, e.g. in a bus, to
> a city, when he might say 'polis' to the ticket-seller to indicate his
> destination, as I myself do when taking the bus from my village to Corfu
> Town) he is referring to what we conventionally call 'Istanbul'.
> RP
> On Mon, May 16, 2016 at 8:39 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> > wrote:
>> James,
>> Durrell’s “Polis” as a locale still bothers me, given his preference to
>> describe what he actually knows, the “Deus Loci.”  After all, why refer to
>> the modern Turkish city as a Greek *polis*?  This signals to me that
>> Durrell is deliberately indulging in fantasy or up to something else
>> entirely.  Conrad’s settings in his Eastern World are typically those he
>> knew first-hand.  His descriptions are quite real and detailed.  When
>> Durrell is out of his element (that of direct experience), however, he
>> tends to fall flat on his face, so Felix and Benedicta’s voyage around the
>> world is unconvincing, concocted, and unreal.  Durrell’s imaginary “Polis”
>> may have something to do with Greek Byzantium and the Byzantine
>> machinations of “the firm,” located in a city described as “the rotting
>> corpse of Byzantium” (p. 178; 3.2).
>> Bruce
>> On May 13, 2016, at 11:47 AM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> One thing about /Tunc/ bothers me.  Durrell is
>> the writer of “the spirit of place.”  He is most
>> famous for the landscapes he knew first hand.
>> The invented scenery around the Golden Horn is also a gesture back to
>> Conrad, but as you note, if he's choosing a place specifically and not
>> based on residence, then why Istanbul?  The joint between East and West
>> would make sense.  But we open in Poggio's, although even in that we really
>> open with Dostoevsky, and in French rather than Russian (and I think in
>> Boris de Schlözer's existentialist translation).
>> Best,
>> James
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