Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space

  Bazzaz, Sahar, Yota Batsaki, and Dimiter Angelov, eds. 2013. Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space. Hellenic Studies Series 56. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

10. In “Third Space”: Between Crete and Egypt in Rhea Galanaki’s The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha

Yota Batsaki

Rhea Galanaki’s 1989 The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha* was the first Modern Greek novel to be listed in UNESCO’s Collection of Representative Works. [1] A description of the selection criteria explains that these works, whose translation into—mainly—English and French was funded by the organization, are “representative of the values of their cultures” while at the same time they strengthen “intercultural relations.” [2] The publisher’s website suggests that the novel’s appeal was augmented by the contemporary urgency surrounding “the clash of opposing civilizations, of Christianity and Ottoman Islam.” [3] The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha, as a national and international artifact, has thus been enmeshed from the beginning in local and global identity politics. It has also become the focus of debate about the relationship of Modern Greek literature to postcolonialism and postmodernism. [4] Yet even while issues of cultural identity have been thoroughly analyzed, little attention has been paid to the work’s geographical complexity. The narrative’s protagonist moves across Crete, Cairo, Istanbul, and Europe, while the two poles that especially define his belonging, Crete and Egypt, are particularly fluid and contested, “third spaces” suspended {225|226} between empire and nation. Yet Egypt vanishes from the unidentified map that appears on the dust jacket of the English translation. This partial erasure of the novel’s intricate spatiality suggests the need for thorough analysis of its “geographical inquiry into historical experience.” [5] This chapter will focus on Galanaki’s use of “third space” as a key vehicle for her critique of imperial—and national—geographies.

My use of “third space” here is related but not identical to Edward Soja’s seminal contribution to the “Spatial Turn.” In Thirdspace, Soja distinguishes between material “Firstspace,” amenable to a quantitative “formal science of space,” and “Secondspace,” the sphere of subjective and aesthetic experience mediated by representation. [6] The elusive “Thirdspace” is a third term, an example of Soja’s “thirding-as-othering,” whose aim is the “sympathetic deconstruction and heuristic reconstitution of the Firstspace-Secondspace duality” (ibid., 81). Soja’s heavily theoretical language proposes space as a corrective to what he views as the long-dominant dialectic of “historicality” and “sociality,” the chief explanatory categories favoured by modernity. He advocates instead a “trialectics of spatiality-historicality-sociality” (ibid., 10) that would combine the intricacies of material geography, social production of space, and subjective experience. Soja’s “Thirdspace” has much in common with the postcolonial and poststructuralist emphasis on difference. Both the spatial and the ontological approaches to hybridity, marginality, and indeterminacy actively seek out the third term to undermine a polar opposition that is perceived as ideologically suspect. Their common aim: “The disordering of difference from its persistent binary structuring and the reconstituting of difference as the basis for a new cultural politics of multiplicity” (ibid., 93). Galanaki’s protagonist, caught in a dual and oppositional belonging to Crete and Egypt, similarly calls not for “pity, but the acceptance of difference.” [7] The novelist’s strategy resembles Soja’s thirding-as-othering, repeatedly introducing third spaces and hybrid identities to destabilize the oppositions of Greek/Turk, Christian/Muslim, center/periphery, even nation/empire. Nevertheless, my use of “third space” is discursively simpler than Soja’s: I employ the term to denote those spaces in Galanaki’s novel that are portrayed as resistant to clear-cut political, ethnic, or cultural definition. “Third spaces” of this kind persistently defy their emplotment into a linear historical narrative, suggesting instead a model of both geography and identity determined by layered, overlapping, and often contradictory influences. {226|227}

Postcolonial theory has contributed significantly to the current attention to space, both as the site for tracing past relationships of power, and as a formative influence on subjectivity. It has also often drawn on literary texts for its inquiry into the diverse experiences of colonization. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said drew attention to the “geographical notation, the theoretical mapping and charting of territory that underlies Western fiction” [8] and suggested that this notation reflects “the protracted, complex, and striated work of empire” (ibid., 60). Underpinning this link between the representation of space and the forging of identity is a strong sense of geography’s past complicity with imperialism. Geography is here understood both as material practice and as academic discipline. From the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, the projections of the cartographic imagination—surveys, descriptions, maps—accompanied and accommodated colonial conquest, while “its idiom” of “exploration and comparison” was “suffused and structured by Eurocentrism.” [9] “Imperial geography” therefore implies that spatial representations are a disciplinary formation in the Foucauldian sense: systems of order that also circumscribe and exclude, thus enacting relationships of power. This is the argument of Timothy Mitchell’s Colonising Egypt, a study that preceded Said’s Culture and Imperialism and resembles it in bringing a colonial angle to the politics of representation. Whereas Said is mainly interested in imaginary geographies (gleaned from scholarship, literature, opera), Mitchell tracks the combined effect of modernization and colonization on nineteenth-century Egypt through the reorganization of its material space (urban planning, agricultural restructuring, the construction of barracks and military academies). In this chapter, I draw on their complementary accounts of how nineteenth-century geographies, real and imaginary, reflect imperial dynamics of power. But Said also writes that if “there is anything that radically distinguishes the imagination of anti-imperialism, it is the primacy of the geographical element,” [10] signaling a possibility of resistance that is usually muted in early postcolonial theory. The pioneering work of Mitchell and Said connected geographical representations to imperial knowledge-power, but achieved this on the basis of oppositions that have come to seem somewhat rigid and stultifying. In literary writing that is attuned to the imaginative richness of “third spaces,” space emerges from its geographical cooptation as both amenable and resistant to the project of empire—and, in Galanaki’s novel, also of nationalism. {227|228}

The Displaced Orphan: Filiation versus Affiliation

The novel’s main setting is Crete during the half-century that follows the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832), an arena for competing historical forces in the eastern Mediterranean. The location suggests, at the outset, a familiar narrative of Greek revolution against Ottoman rule. This is immediately complicated, however, by the novel’s subtitle, spina nel cuore [di Venezia], which alludes to the island’s past as a Venetian colony. Now an Ottoman territory, the island scrambles the line between east and west. Empires are by definition diverse conglomerates where hybridity flourishes. But this is also an era of revolution and modernization, of the forging and hardening of new political identities, of Ottoman reform and the “cult of nationality in the European nineteenth century.” [11] Crete, divided between its Christian Orthodox and Muslim populations (while also containing Jewish and Catholic groups), is the stage of frequent insurrections to join the nascent Greek state. While the Ottoman Empire is increasingly dependent on European intervention, it also embarks on its own modernization (Tanzimat). Two reform edicts (1839, 1856) promised equal judicial and fiscal treatment of all creeds (millets), while the constitution of 1876 attempted to introduce a notion of common citizenship, Osmanlí. [12] To this fluid and combustible mix of waning empire and dynamic nation-state formation Galanaki adds Tanzimat Egypt, which exists in uneasy relation both to the Ottoman Empire and to the rising European hegemony. The Egypt where Galanaki’s protagonist finds himself forcibly displaced, then integrated, is not the oriental periphery, but the space of rapid and radical transformation: it aspires to nationalist self-definition, indulges in its own dreams of empire against the Ottoman Porte, while also emerging as an attractive candidate for European colonization.

Galanaki weaves her narrative around scant historical information, supplemented by oral traditions and legends. Her protagonist is a Cretan-Greek orphan captured and reborn as an Ottoman-Egyptian general—multilingual, bicultural, a traveler between East and West. Ismail Ferik Pasha, born Emmanuel Papadakis, is separated from his family and taken to Egypt, where he rises to the post of Minister of War. He follows Crown Prince Ibrahim, the son of Muhammad Ali, on various military campaigns, and accompanies him in his extensive travels throughout Europe. Many years later, Ismail is ordered to suppress another Cretan uprising, stoked by mainland Greeks and European philhellenes. Obliged {228|229} to return to his native soil as an enemy and conqueror, he dies there during the Cretan revolution of 1866–1868. The novel’s titular reference to the traditional genre of the βίος or “saint’s life” (to recount the life of an Ottoman Pasha) is an ironic, even blasphemous, statement of difference. [13] Ismail’s difference is further accentuated by the contrast with his brother Antonis, a fellow captive who prospers as a merchant in the Black Sea and becomes a leading figure and benefactor of the nascent Greek state. What Ismail perceives as his brother’s straightforward and “authorized” life narrative serves as a foil to his own mixed identity. If nationalist ideology seeks to forge a natural connection between a population, its sovereign body, and the land they both occupy, then Galanaki’s protagonist is an unwieldy specimen out of place everywhere.

For all its poetry, Galanaki’s work also seems finely attuned to postcolonial and postmodern sensibilities. She shares with Said a deep interest in the potential of hybrid, contested spaces to produce similarly complex and multiple subjectivities. [14] In an earlier work that presented texts as “worldly” entities enmeshed in the various political and ideological networks of culture, Said offered a dual model of identity informed by the productive potential of exile. [15] Exile in this reading is not merely geographical displacement, but an eviction from “home” whose negative effect is alienation, but whose positive valence is distance from all-too-familiar structures of thought and feeling. Said calls these two models of identity “filiation” and “affiliation.” The first refers to the ties and continuities that are perceived as natural (family, ethnicity, nationality), while the second may encompass the adopted identities of travel and immigration, the new institutional frameworks experienced in academic and professional apprenticeships, even religious conversion. Said does not privilege one model over another: his point is that both are ideologically inflected, their value lying in their oppositionality. The theme emerges again in Culture and Imperialism, where Said emphasizes the “contrapuntal” identities [16] that arise from cultural and geographical syncretism. This tug between filiative and affiliative foundations of subjectivity is, I would argue, exemplified in the figure of the orphan, who is provisionally severed from natural ties; once the origin is under erasure, the orphan is free—or constrained—to adopt alternative identities. The orphan therefore exemplifies both the tenacity of inherent or inherited properties, and the possibilities of self-construction. This potential is accentuated by Ismail’s captivity and forced displacement, and realized in his ambitious ascent of the meritocratic Egyptian military hierarchy. It is also thrown into stark relief by {229|230} the parallel trajectory of his brother, Antonis, whose own captivity takes him to the diasporic communities of the Black Sea, and from there to Athens as a main supporter of the Cretan war of independence. Structurally, therefore, Ismail is his brother’s foil and enemy.

The novel’s opening stages the passage into orphanhood at a moment of communal crisis and in a liminal space. As the Turkish-Egyptian troops retaliate against yet another Cretan rebellion, the boy Emmanuel seeks shelter, along with the rest of the women and children, in a cave. Described as a womb that enables his second birth, the cave also reverberates with the legends that Greek rural communities reserved for their boundaries, the supernatural places that defined inclusion and exclusion. [17] Its shelter engenders guilt by removing Emmanuel from his “natural place” [18] next to the dead bodies of his father and the other men at the village square. This primary displacement is terrifying, shameful, but also life-giving. Emmanuel’s orphanhood and rebirth in the cave enacts the transition from filiation to affiliation, from the “natural” ties of family and community to the—partly imposed, partly embraced—ties of his Egyptian military training, rise through the ranks, and intimate friendship with Crown Prince Ibrahim. The transition is marked by the discovery of a “rusty green blade” whose “shape evoked none of the Christian or Arab types of knife known to him.” Emmanuel/Ismail describes it proleptically as a sign that his life will “revolve within the orbit of knives” (ibid., 15), but its indeterminate shape also prefigures his own future ambiguity. In Modern Greek, the knife alludes to violence and harm, but also to the clear-cut, the unambiguous; κόψιμο με το μαχαίρι (“cutting with the knife”) signifies closure, σπαθί (“sword”) denotes someone who is straight, upfront, and can be trusted. In a Cretan account cited by Stewart, one protects oneself from the ξωτικά (“exoticá”), the demonic inhabitants of liminal spaces, by drawing a circle around oneself with a knife. [19] The rusty blade, however, is useless as a tool for making distinctions. [20] Galanaki makes an important linguistic choice in likening the blade to the sword of an ανεξίθρησκος angel. The word does not mean “creedless,” [21] as the English translation would have it. Rather, it is a compound of ανέχομαι (“tolerate”) and θρησκεία (“religion”), and it encapsulates Galanaki’s preoccupation with the toleration of difference in all its most difficult religious and ethnic manifestations. The adjective is also suggestive of the Ottoman practice of religious {230|231} toleration, ανεξιθρησκεία, extended to various semi-autonomous religious groups (millets) that were subject to imperial taxation. The effect of this unusual word is to link Ismail’s subsequent trajectory to specifically Ottoman practices for accommodating difference within the sprawling frame of empire.

The unusual longevity of the Ottoman Empire has been attributed to a flexible and ongoing management of difference, a dual policy of relative “toleration” punctuated by occasional forceful assimilation. [22] Unlike European colonizers, the Ottomans did not as a rule proselytize their subject populations, in particular those other “peoples of the book”—the Greeks, Jews, and Armenians. Gregory Jusdanis notes that as a rule “the Ottoman Empire did not isolate the private identities of the subject peoples for control or indoctrination.” [23] But there were significant advantages for the “orphan” who did convert. The European policy of limiting the careers of colonial subjects in the imperial bureaucracy has been posited by Benedict Anderson as a contributing factor to modern nationalism, generating “imagined communities” of resistance made up of dispossessed Creole functionaries. [24] The Ottomans, by contrast, encouraged assimilation of handpicked individuals into their military and administrative hierarchies. Karen Barkey identifies various practices “both marking difference and accommodating its existence,” [25] such as conversion and forceful recruitment of Christian boys into the janissary corps (devshirme). Although the devshirme had significantly declined by the seventeenth century, Galanaki mines its tenacity in national lore, evoking it through Ismail’s capture and forceful assimilation into the Ottoman military. But whereas the devshirme in national rhetoric is steeped in the language of cultural trauma, Galanaki’s fictional account features several displaced “orphans” who invariably prosper. (Ismail’s deadly enemy, Omer Pasha, converted as a young man and was quickly promoted in the Ottoman army, while the Egyptian ruler, Muhammad Ali, was an orphan from Macedonia adopted by a Turkish commander.) Historical evidence suggests that the attitudes of subject populations to conversion or the devshirme varied, because although these were acts of violence they could also be “a way for elites and their followers to enhance their status and ensure social advancement” (ibid.). Viewed against a background of relative toleration, and contrasted to nationalist myths of autochthony and ethnic purity, the Ottoman management of difference suggests the advantages and payoffs of affiliation.

At the same time, the processes of filiation and affiliation are rarely clear-cut, but rather overlap and interpenetrate. This is evident both in the historical {231|232} experience of Ottoman conversion and conscription, and in the fictional reimagining of Galanaki’s novel. Barkey gives the example of two Serbian brothers separated by the devshirme, who followed different but intertwined trajectories within the Ottoman hierarchy, “one becoming Grand Vizier (Mehmed Sokullu) and the other becoming the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Makarius), with his brother’s help. One brother, a converted Muslim, headed the Ottoman State; the other brother, a devout Christian, led the Serbian Church.” Like the fictionalized Ismail and his brother, Antonis, who wrote to each other in Greek, Sokollu and Makarius corresponded in Serbian (ibid., 124). But there the similarity ends, for Ismail and Antonis experience a deeper, historical separation. Their respective locations in the territories of empire and emerging nation-state seem to require a straightforward ascription of political and cultural identity that eludes the novel’s protagonist. The relationship between the two brothers is brought to an end by a hardening of the categories of difference that the Ottoman millet system had sought to integrate within the broader scheme of empire. Faced with conflicting allegiances to his Greek origins and Ottoman-Egyptian upbringing, and unable or unwilling to translate them into a single ethnic, cultural, and political identity, Ismail is orphaned anew.

Between Crete and Egypt: Modernization and Its Discontents

Emmanuel’s transformation into Ismail occurs in the “third space” of Egypt, itself undergoing radical transformation in the nineteenth century, marked by the recent collision of cultures and already in the grip of European influence. Galanaki refers explicitly to the Napoleonic occupation that preceded Muhammad Ali’s rise to power and the subsequent modernization of the country (“new order” or nizam jadid), emphasizing changes in infrastructure and the reorganization of the military. Said’s Orientalism offered the Napoleonic expedition as a seminal example of the imperialist power-knowledge nexus, while Mitchell described Egyptian modernization as the importation of European disciplinary technologies that were ostensibly advantageous to the sovereign, but ultimately catered to external interests. The new order dictated the organization of agriculture, urban planning, and the military according to the rational model of the grid, where mastery of space and control of its inhabitants came together. After 1815, the defeated officers and engineers of the Napoleonic “new order” made their way to Egypt and placed their expertise at the service of Muhammad Ali. According to Mitchell, “the object at the heart of this plan [was] a new infantry corps, to be trained and organised according to the new techniques developed by the Prussians and the French … Egypt was the first province of the Ottoman {232|233} Empire to introduce successfully the new kind of army.” In 1822, around the time that Ismail would have begun his army training, new training camps had been built, including one military school in Cairo for 1500 students, organized like a barrack. In April 1822, “regulations were issued bringing all the barracks, military schools, and training camps under a common code of discipline and instruction. The confinement to barracks, the discipline, and the instruction were all innovations.” [26]

Ismail is deeply conscious of his interpellation, and when he finds himself caught in the struggle between geography and power, he tries to turn it to his advantage. When he returns to the island as enemy and conqueror, he is forced to confront his sympathy for the insurgents. The trope of nostos or homecoming is, in the literary tradition from the Homeric nekyia to modern Greek folk song, colored by gloom and death. Ismail’s stealthy return to the old family home is figured as incongruous regression; he feels himself “shrunk to the size of a child” (ibid., 145), sucking at the air like an infant at the breast. Because the pull of the origin threatens to annul his Egyptian accomplishments and mutilate his rich indeterminacy, Ismail tries instead to fit his conflicting emotions into a Western narrative of modernity and progress: “Astounded, I dragged up from {233|234} the depths of my being a liberal European citizen … who refused to subscribe to the recurrent pattern of the Orient’s destiny … I was amazed at the extent to which the European way of thinking had won over my sun-bred soul, as if such things had more to do with nations than with individual souls…. I thus found myself on the side of the revolutionaries” (ibid., 112–113). Ismail adopts here a narrative of nationalism as a progressive force pitted against an ossified oriental empire. Jusdanis summarizes this position when he records nationalist resistance both to imperialist violence and to the more insidious forms of Enlightenment universalism, and describes it as a motor of modernization: “contrary to the claims of postcolonial theory, nationalism has resisted political and cultural universal systems from the beginning and has sought in national culture the resources for modernization. The nation-state itself has always been seen both in Europe and in its colonies as a vehicle to modernity.” [30] Modernity for Jusdanis has a positive valence, but remains premised on notions of political self-definition and economic progress that are themselves distinctly European. In Galanaki’s narrative, suspicious as it appears to be of any ideological solution to the vagaries of identity, this recourse to European ideas is experienced instead as a different kind of gloomy interpellation.

Ismail’s attempt to circumvent the lethal trap of nostos by recasting it as membership in modernity is short-lived: “I derided the pliancy of my own thought: in my desire to … return to my former life—while knowing full well that no myth had ever shown something of the kind coming to pass without bloodshed—I had had recourse to the most progressive political ideas.” [31] It is not only that the novel’s persistent representation of the eastern Mediterranean as the epicenter of rapid transformations undermines Ismail’s orientalist stereotypes. His appeal to the “European spirit” is also troubled by his own experiences westward. In the course of their European travels, Ibrahim and Ismail admire the scientific supremacy of the West but also reflect on the poverty lurking in the dark corners of the metropolis. Although undermining the center-periphery binary through the experience of travel has become commonplace in postcolonial studies, [32] our understanding has been enriched by ever more varied perspectives that reveal the center to be uneven, disappointing, even “provincial” in its turn. [33] Here, too, Galanaki appears theoretically savvy, positing travel not as a two-way trajectory across a single axis, but as a crisscrossing pattern that involves multiple nodes (Istanbul, Paris, Cairo, Athens). These “centers,” invested with different degrees and kinds of authority, are all {234|235} nevertheless ironically cut down to size. In a letter to Antonis, Ismail advertises both his cosmopolitanism and his city’s urban planning by telling his brother to picture one of Cairo’s most magnificent squares as being three times the size of the Place de la Concorde.

Nowhere at Home: Self and Representation

Nowhere is the novel’s ironic attitude to the center more evident than in the treatment of Athens as the capital-under-construction of the new Greek state. The choice of Athens (over Nafplio) reflects the need to “establish continuity with a suitable historical past,” to bolster the national narrative of autochthony and uniqueness. [34] Yet, as Constanze Güthenke shows in this volume, Athenian space is inherently unstable because its ownership is uncertain and contested. Güthenke’s analysis underlines the provisionality of the capital’s geography, as well as its artificiality and derivativeness. Antonis writes to Ismail about the rebuilding of the city as it had been dreamed up by the Europeans, spun around the two symbolic poles of the Acropolis and the new palace of the Bavarian sovereign. [35] With the wealth obtained by buying cheap Russian grain and selling it at a profit to the war-ravaged Greeks, Antonis buys lands that are themselves transformed into treasure when they are included in the urban plan and become “the heart” of the new city. He subsequently describes himself to his brother as putting out roots in the “Westernized society of the capital” (ibid.). Antonis builds a neoclassical house decorated by German artists, furnished with European plate and crystal, and encircled by a veranda supported by Doric columns, to house the ghosts of their parents and the wounded and displaced of the Greek War of Independence. He lives like a European, traversing the new boulevards on foot or in his carriage, and joining the other “apprentices” (ibid., 67) of the Athenian urban middle class.

Different as their geographical locations are, the brothers are both exposed to European modes of representation that mediate their experience of “home.” To Antonis’s Athenian frescoes, painted by German artists, Ismail responds with a narrative of his own encounter, during his European travels, with “the blossoming of oriental fashion” that followed the rediscovery of ancient Egypt and the decoding of the hieroglyphic script. This “breakthrough … had occurred when the two boys were spending their last summer on the plateau,” setting lime-twigs for birds. From these lime-twigs Ismail’s description moves beautifully to {235|236} the “great arboreal branches” of the European paintings, “resting … upon imaginary supports, unfolding their coils as far as they could reach,” encompassing both the Pharaonic and the Ottoman Orient. Thinly supported but far-reaching, these aesthetic representations are a different kind of snare, and they baffle Ismail with their archetypal splendor. “The works of art Ismail Ferik Pasha had admired in Europe depicted battles, odalisques, bazaars of such beauty that he concluded they were deliberately presented so; and he admired them for this very reason, for he had never come upon anything as beautiful and as real in Egypt itself” (ibid., 66). Back in Egypt, the splendid interiors of Egyptian officials are lavishly decorated with European furniture, French porcelain, Venetian mirrors, and Western paintings of “home.” Ismail’s house in Cairo is no exception: “In the frames, Egyptian landscapes, painted in the manner of the most classicizing French school, endowed the stuffy room with imaginary outlets.” [36] While Galanaki’s narrative strives to convey the intricacies of hybrid identities, their encasement in these mirrored and painted interiors is also suggestive of inauthentic colonial bricolage. The importation of European luxury goods is conflated with the invasion of European modes of representation. Both brothers record—with different degrees of ambivalence—Europe’s material and ideological penetration of their environments. Antonis seems to view this as an opportunity for the newly forged Greek nation to take its rightful place as the origin and reincarnation of “the legendary image which had exerted such a lasting influence on the European spirit.” [37] Ismail, on the other hand, finds that the material geography of Egypt falls short of its depiction in the paintings that surround him, just as Ibrahim’s “golden victories” had been “exchanged for a handful of copper coins on the international market” and the cities that he had helped him conquer vanished again from their grasp like “foam-crested waves” (ibid., 37–38). “Nothing pure,” he concluded, “even in its purity.” [38] If European mediation is an inevitable effect of modernization, its respective effects on Greek and Egyptian national aspirations are distinctly opposite.

Fundamental to the analyses of Said and Mitchell is the argument that the problem of representation needs to be situated within an imperialist context. Mitchell uses the term “enframing” to describe what he regards as a particularly European order of representation that he explicitly associates with imperialism, the age of high capitalism, and the era of the world exhibition. Mitchell {236|237} uses the example of the nineteenth-century staging of Egypt in the world exhibitions to argue that “enframing” works by rendering the world “out there” as a picture, organized with the individual viewer in mind. This spatial organization implies that a vantage point is always available, and that it coincides with the central, sovereign position of the western subject as viewer. The will to mastery inherent in this position is satisfied through the provision of predictable forms of otherness, summarized in Ismail’s description of orientalist painting as uniting the “forbidden” with the “desirable.” Said’s Orientalism enumerated some of the attributes that relegate the oriental “Other” to a subservient position, as feminine or effeminate, sensual, irrational, perverse, etc. At the same time, aesthetic pleasure licenses other, more material forms of exploitation. For Mitchell, the claim that the “real” lies just outside the frame of representation doubles as a technique for “rendering history, progress, culture and empire in ‘objective’ form,” [39] encouraging the assumption that everything can be “made picture-like and legible … available to political and economic calculation” (ibid., 33). The argument put forward by Said and Mitchell is that western strategies of representation are both imbued by and complicit in the construction of imperial geographies as spaces amenable to aesthetic consumption and economic exploitation.

When the viewer is transported from the representation to its referent, the result may be disappointment at the chaotic actuality of what had hitherto been only an imaginary landscape, or distaste at its unpicturesque modernity. But it can also lead to another strategy for managing the disruption of the viewer’s expectations: the claim that the material geography fails to match up to its ideal representation. In a letter to Théophile Gautier that is exemplary of this confrontation between material and imaginary geographies, Gerard de Nérval laments that while his friend was “deploying all the splendours of the Opera” to construct the Cairo of his imagination, Nérval himself could only find “in the real Cairo … the baroque rudiments of some pantomime show.” [40] Asked by Gautier to describe the Cairo dances, he proclaims himself stumped by the cafés “with no trefoils, no delicate columns, no porcelain panelling, no suspended ostrich eggs. It is only in Paris that one comes across cafés this Oriental” (ibid.). Egypt is driven from his imagination by his travels, replaced by “this stockroom of the India trade, this thriving showcase of Egypt’s new business class, this warehouse of its new manufacturers!” (ibid., 196). Nérval’s eloquent disappointment is of course redolent of the Romantic imagination’s privileging of metaphor over its literal referent. But his negative assessment of {237|238} Cairo’s economic modernity—as though European models of progress had no place in the “oriental” “periphery”—invites a more troubling political reading. Regretting the many lands that vanished under his footsteps, “torn down like stage sets,” he looks forward to his return home: “It’s at the Opera that I will rediscover the true Cairo, the immaculate Egypt, the Orient that escapes me” (ibid.). For Mitchell, “enframing” is premised on the assumption that reality is separate from its representation; the effect of the frame is “to order things, but also to circumscribe and exclude … To ‘determine the plan’ is to build-in an effect of order and an effect of truth.” [41] Paradoxically, Nérval’s longing to recover the real Cairo at the Paris Opera suggests that truth is located not in the material geography of his travels, but in the power of the metropolitan center to generate imaginary geographies. Orientalist fashion is both an export industry (as in the exotic landscapes by the German and French schools that decorate the interiors of Antonis and Ismail) and a lure to bring the wayward traveller back home.

By contrast, for Galanaki’s protagonist it is the experience of return that feels inauthentic. Having left the “third space” of Egypt, Ismail’s first reunion with the Cretan landscape is suffused by a strong sense of artificiality; he likens the Cretan harbor, scene of his captivity and separation from his brother, to an opera set. Ismail would have been familiar with opera both through his European travels, and through the contemporary construction of the Cairo opera, as part of the Viceroy’s celebrations of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Verdi’s Aida was commissioned by Khedive Ismail, the son of Ibrahim, for the occasion, although Rigoletto was the first work to be performed. For Said, the orientalist influences on Verdi’s opera (the librettist, Auguste Mariette, was the principal designer of antiquities at the Egyptian pavilion in the Paris International Exhibition of 1867) make it a “hybrid, radically impure work.” [42] But whereas for Said the impurity of Aida derives, in part, from its colonialist and orientalist contexts, thrown into relief by its first performance in Cairo, Galanaki stages the nationalist trope of return as an equally inauthentic and artificial experience. Ismail’s allusion to the opera reflects both his status as a doubly colonial subject (of the sultan, and of the European powers that influence Ottoman and Egyptian politics), and his impatience with nationalist narratives. His Egyptian life is, he insists, a reality, not a representation; what comes closest to mimesis for him is the felt cultural burden to enact a nostos, the cultural fantasy of belonging structured as a return to the origin. Since this is a return that he is forced to realize in the oxymoronic guise of a foreign conqueror, his experience is one of depletion, nostalgia as bodily illness. “I cannot keep them alive,” complained a French {238|239} doctor of Muhammad Ali’s peasant army conscripts, “when they begin to think of home.” [43] If longing for the “true Egypt” propelled Nérval back to the imperial center, for Ismail his departure from Egypt and return to Crete operates in the manner of a death wish. Reducing the hybrid to one of his constituent elements amounts to his erasure.

Conclusion: The Grid Revisited

Galanaki’s crags seem designed to filter out foreign elements. Yet, at the same time, the novel’s geography is always already furrowed by some “foreign” power. Unlike Mitchell, who sees the grid as a nineteenth-century imposition on the Egyptian landscape, Galanaki repeatedly refers to the perpendicular lines of the Venetian drainage canals that have crisscrossed Ismail’s native Lasithi plateau for centuries. Their imprint structures his recollections of home: “The canals of the Venetian irrigation system, dividing the land into large brown squares, invested the orderliness of peaceful autumnal husbandry with an unworldly {239|240} harmony reminiscent of the angel of death.” [45] The Venetian grid on the Lasithi plateau is a good example of how geography in Galanaki’s novel incites inquiry into historical experience. A primary source of grain for the Venetians, Lasithi was also a refuge for insurgents, and settlement of the plain was harshly banned in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The ban continued until 1463, when the Venetian Senate required Lasithi grain for its military campaigns against the Turks. To improve grain yield, the Senate colonized the plateau with Venetian settlers and sent engineers to construct a drainage grid, probably in 1631–1633. [46] A Roman artificial drainage system may have antedated the Venetian engineering project (ibid., 24). Ismail’s landscape of memory thus bears the impression of past occupations and disciplinary formations. Galanaki’s subtle but repeated references to the Venetian grid deliberately prevent it from fading into a natural feature of the landscape. Once colonial undertakings and their traces are shown to be overlaid like palimpsests, they undermine those competing imaginary geographies of nationalism that are predicated on fantasies of autochthony and ethnic purity.

Continuity and repetition on the diachronic level are matched by contiguity and overlap on the synchronic level: this is one important way in which spatiality modifies the putative linearity of historical narrative. Galanaki encapsulates both these insights in her frequent allusions to the flag as a condensed expression of politics and geography. Upon entering the Cretan harbor, Ismail notices the Venetian standard inscribed in marble yet ravaged by time, next to the silk flag of the Porte. Both are imbued with impermanence: “The marble standard of the lion of St. Mark endured through the centuries, though mutilated by time and almost unrecognizable, while the silk flag of the Sublime Porte still fluttered in the breeze of the present day.” [47] The proximity of marble standard and silk flag, representative of successive colonial powers, is matched by their fragile provisionality (“mutilated,” “still”). Another flag, that of the Cretan revolutionary committee, doubles as a map of regional politics, “displaying in its four corners representations of the flags of England, France, Russia, and Greece, and a cross surmounting a crescent in the middle” (ibid., 139). Not quite a national flag, the product of a moment of violent historical flux, the revolutionary banner expresses the political modernity of the moment: emerging nation-states closing in on older imperial forms of community, denoted by the religious symbols in the center. The three Great Powers lurking in the corners are major colonial forces in the new “age of empire,” and give their names to the three major political parties of the Modern Greek state. The flag is a stark {240|241} example of the overlapping and conflicting claims that inscribe Galanaki’s “third spaces,” and a reminder of the messiness of nation-state formation.

Galanaki’s exploration of the “fatal intersection of time with space” [48] crystallizes in the novel’s concluding image of the site of Ismail’s cenotaph. An essay that provided a major source of inspiration for Soja’s “Thirdspace” can also illuminate Galanaki’s description here. In “Other Spaces,” Michel Foucault gives an early description of his version of “third space,” which he terms “heterotopia.” Heterotopias, for Foucault, have the “curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert” them (ibid., 24). This makes them both representative and subversive of the culture that surrounds and produces them. Foucault’s heterotopias are both isolated and penetrable: entrance into them can be mandatory or restricted, and hides “curious exclusions” (ibid., 26). They have a “precise and determined function within a society,” but this function can change along with the “synchrony of the culture in which it occurs.” Heterotopias are therefore uniquely “capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible” (ibid., 25). Moreover, they are “most often linked to slices in time … they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies” (ibid., 26). Foucault’s examples of heterotopias include the cemetery, the library, and the museum, but he wonders “if certain colonies have not functioned somewhat in this manner” (ibid., 27). Their characteristics match Galanaki’s description of the cenotaph site as the novel’s most condensed and striking figure for the spatialization of history:

Ismail Ferik Pasha’s cenotaph was … erected in the precincts of the Vizir mosque, which was about to be completed at the time. It had been destroyed by a great earthquake eleven years earlier, and was now being rebuilt on the old foundations, on the same site where many years ago there stood a Christian church, alternately Orthodox or Catholic, according to the sovereign’s creed…. The Byzantines used to bury governors, archbishops and generals … while the Venetians used the space for the burial of dukes, Commanders-in-Chief and Latin archbishops, and the Ottomans, at a later date, for their Pashas and other notables.

Galanaki 1996:164-165

Even posthumously, Ismail Ferik Pasha is the subject of conflicting interpretations, with his bust displayed in the War Museum in Cairo and legends of his crypto-Christianity circulating in Crete. His cenotaph, next to a rising mosque, {241|242} took its place on a stratum that was previously occupied by eminent Byzantines and Venetians. The imperial nomenclature changes but is eminently translatable from one layer to the next, supporting Anderson’s connection of nationalism to the “large cultural systems that preceded it … the religious community and the dynastic realm.” [
49] Like a museum or a library, spaces designed to compress and render historical time available to representation, the “third space” of the cenotaph becomes in Galanaki’s description an imaginary geography of the island’s colonial past. Its material location has always had an important social function, half-political, half-sacred, yet its uses have changed “according to the synchrony of the culture in which it occurs” and its description thus doubles as “a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms.” [50] Now occupied by a Greek public school, where unified and linear national narratives are consecrated and disseminated, the site appears to follow a trajectory of historical progress culminating in the nation-state. Novels, after all, are verbal artifacts unfolding in time, and their very mode therefore seems closer to the discursive historicality that Soja decries, than the intricate spatiality this chapter has been trying to untangle. Yet Galanaki’s description of the site restores the layers figuratively erased by the physical building of the school, and possibly also discursively muted within it. Throughout, she restores to the landscape the contiguity and contingency of historical forms, traces their relentless overlap. Her fiction is certainly of its historical and cultural moment, for according to Said: “we have never been as aware as we now are of how oddly hybrid historical and cultural experiences are, of how they partake of many often contradictory experiences and domains, cross national boundaries, defy the police action of simple dogma and loud patriotism.” [51] Perhaps her novel’s most original and imaginative contribution lies in giving these contradictory experiences and domains a powerful geographical form. {242|}

Works Cited

Aleksiç, T. 2009. “The Sacrificed Subject in Rhea Galanaki’s Ismail Ferik Pasha,” Modern Greek Studies 27:31–54.

Anderson, B. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London.

Barkey, K. 2008. Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge.

Bhabha, H., ed. 1990. Nation and Narration. London.

Bonnett, A. 2003. “Geography as the World Discipline: Connecting Popular and Academic Geographical Imaginations,” Area 35:55–63.

Brennan, T. 1990. “The National Longing for Form.” In Bhabha 1990:44–70.

Calotychos, V. 2003. Modern Greece: A Cultural Poetics. New York.

Çelik, Z. 1992. Displaying the Orient. California.

Davison, R. 1963. Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856–1876. Oxford.

Foucault, M. 1986. “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16:22–27.

Galanaki, R. 1996. The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha. Spina nel cuore (trans. K. Cicellis). London and Chester Springs.

———. 1997. Βασιλεύς ή Στρατιώτης: Σημειώσεις, σκέψεις, σχόλια για τη λογοτεχνία [King or Soldier: Notes, Thoughts, Comments on Literature]. Athens.

———. 1989. Ο Βίος του Ισμαήλ Φερίκ Πασά. Athens.

Hobsbawm, E and Ranger, T., eds. 1992. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge.

Johnson, B. 2003. Mother Tongues: Sexuality, Trials, Motherhood, Translation. Cambridge, Mass.

Jusdanis, G. 2001. The Necessary Nation. Princeton.

Maunick, E. 1986. “A Library of World Classics,” UNESCO Courier (Jan):5–8.

McKee, S. 2000. Uncommon Dominion: Venetian Crete and the Myth of Ethnic Purity. Pennsylvania.

Mitchell, T. 1988. Colonising Egypt. Cambridge.

Nérval, G. de. 1999. Selected Writings (trans. R. Sieburth). Harmondsworth.

Pratt, M.L. 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London.

Said, E. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. New York.

———. 2000. Out of Place: A Memoir. New York.

———. 1983. The World, the Text and the Critic. Cambridge, Mass.

Soja, E. 1996. Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford.

Stewart, C. 1991. Demons and the Devil: Moral Imagination in Modern Greek Culture. Princeton.

Watrous, L V. 1882. Lasithi: A History of Settlement On a Highland Plain in Crete. Princeton.


[ back ] 1. After this chapter was submitted for publication, the following article came to my attention which I was unable to consult: Ipek A. Çelik, “New Directions for Studying the Mediterranean: Eventfulness in Rhea Galanaki’s Novel The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha: Spina nel Cuore,” Clio 41.1 (2011):75-101.The UNESCO Collection began in 1948, but direct translation subsidies have recently been suspended. Accessed August 20, 2010.

[ back ] 2. Maunick 1986:5.

[ back ] 3. Quotation from the publisher’s website, Accessed August 20, 2010.

[ back ] 4. Calotychos 2003; Aleksiç 2009; Jusdanis 2001.

[ back ] 5. Said 1994:7.

[ back ] 6. Soja 1996:75;78–79.

[ back ] 7. Galanaki 1996:84.

[ back ] 8. Said 1994:58.

[ back ] 9. Bonnett 2003:57.

[ back ] 10. Said 1994:225.

[ back ] 11. Francesco de Sanctis quoted in Brennan 1990:48.

[ back ] 12. Davison 1963.

[ back ] 13. Calotychos 2003:272.

[ back ] 14. Said 2000.

[ back ] 15. Said 1983.

[ back ] 16. Said 1994:52.

[ back ] 17. Stewart 1991.

[ back ] 18. Galanaki 1996:16.

[ back ] 19. Stewart 1991:168.

[ back ] 20. In a later commentary on the novel, Galanaki identifies the knife as Minoan, adding yet another layer to the island’s imperial history (Galanaki 1997:31).

[ back ] 21. Galanaki 1996:15.

[ back ] 22. Barkey 2008.

[ back ] 23. Jusdanis 2001:110.

[ back ] 24. Anderson 1991:114.

[ back ] 25. Barkey 2008:127.

[ back ] 26. Mitchell 1988:36.

[ back ] 27. Galanaki 1996:121.

[ back ] 28. Mitchell 1988:38.

[ back ] 29. Galanaki 1996:119.

[ back ] 30. Jusdanis 2001:9.

[ back ] 31. Galanaki 1996:113.

[ back ] 32. For a seminal contribution, see Pratt 1992.

[ back ] 33. Khuri-Makdisi in this volume.

[ back ] 34. Hobsbawm 1992:1.

[ back ] 35. Galanaki 1996:57–58.

[ back ] 36. My translation. Cicellis renders the passage: “The medallions pictured Egyptian landscapes, painted in the manner of the purest classicizing French school, opening up illusory vents of escape in the cloistered room” (Cicellis 1996:49). Her translation loses the notion of “enframing” and inauthenticity that are important to my discussion.

[ back ] 37. Galanaki 1996:57.

[ back ] 38. Galanaki 1989:58, my translation.

[ back ] 39. Mitchell 1988:7.

[ back ] 40. Nérval 1999:192.

[ back ] 41. Mitchell 1988:33.

[ back ] 42. Said 1994:115.

[ back ] 43. Mitchell 1988:42.

[ back ] 44. My translation. Cicellis renders this passage: “One of Garibaldi’s Italian partisans, unaccustomed to leaping about on the rocky mountain-slopes, was captured and executed on the spot” (Galanaki 1996:107).

[ back ] 45. Galanaki 1996:17.

[ back ] 46. Watrous 1882:25–29.

[ back ] 47. Galanaki 1996:126.

[ back ] 48. Foucault 1986:22.

[ back ] 49. Anderson 1991:12.

[ back ] 50. Foucault 1986:26.

[ back ] 51. Said 1994:15.