A new Troy?

pagoda Jan Morris Hav:
comprising Last Letters from Hav;
Hav of the Myrmidons

Faber & Faber 2006

Despite irritating minor typos (not even corrected in the paperback edition) this is a wonderful fiction obsessing on dualities: ancient and modern, East and West, Light and Dark, land and sea, transparency and the occluded. The addition of Hav of the Myrmidons in 2006 to the 1985 Last Letters from Hav (presumably written as if to Morris’ partner Elizabeth) adds to that sense of duality: as the earlier Letters ended a half year of somnolent unreality with the brutal suddenness of the Intervention, so does the mirroring second half of Hav end a six day tour of puzzling contradictions with a brusque departure. Hav appears to be an independent state on a peninsula of Asia Minor, close enough to the known site of Troy to have been considered, Morris suggests, a contender; like Troy it has been coveted by other nation states, squabbled over by invading armies and temporarily ruled by transient empires.

Hav itself is like an amalgam of all those liminal territories such as Hong Kong or Trieste that Morris herself has visited for her travelogues, and resonant with echoes of a few other polities such as Istanbul or Malta which have been at the crossroads of cultures. The Hav of the 1980s is a little quaint, a relic of its past histories but decaying in its inertia. While no less Kafkaesque post-9/11 Hav no longer retains its picture postcard attraction: all that has mostly been swept away by the sinister but shadowy forces behind the Intervention, leaving tourists in a modernist enclave and a population that is even more reticent to disclose what, if anything, is controlling Hav. Continue reading “A new Troy?”

From Atlantis to Troy

Athanasius Kircher's 1669 map of Atlantis (Wikipedia Commons)
Athanasius Kircher’s 1669 map of Atlantis (Wikipedia Commons) — north is to the bottom

Eberhard Zangger The Flood From Heaven:
Deciphering the Atlantis legend

Pan Books 1993 (1992)

Two nightmares haunt the field archaeologist. The first is the finds tray without a label. The second is the label minus its artefact. The former is the source, one suspects, of many an ‘unstratified’ reference in dig reports. The latter represents what one might call the empty treasure chest syndrome. Great therefore is the joy when, like the return of the prodigal son, the two are brought together again!

That is, unless the wrong suspect has been identified. For some time now a particular finds label has been kicking around the store. Many attempts have been made to match it up correctly, but since the original author of the report is long gone all such efforts have been speculative, many controversial and some, indeed, spectacularly misattributed. As with Utopia and Camelot this other famous site has been firmly located many times, and a book from a score of years ago claimed to have found a detour round the usual impasse and so solved the puzzle. This particular finds label reads “Atlantis”, the mythical landmass that perished beneath the waves, according to Plato, and which various historians and pseudohistorians have located in the Mediterranean, off Scandinavia, in Britain and the Americas, for example, as well as in the ocean named after it. Continue reading “From Atlantis to Troy”