BEYOND THE AEGEAN by Elia Kazan

BEYOND THE AEGEAN

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Think of it as ``War and Commerce.'' In this sprawling third installment in film director Kazan's story of Stavros Topouzoglou, following America America (1962) and The Anatolian (1982), rug merchant Stavros finds business opportunities in the 1919 Greek invasion of Anatolia and war with Turkey. Stavros, now middle-aged, returns to his Anatolian roots with his brother Michaelis as the Greek army is driving the Turks out of Smyrna, the first stage of a Greater Greece campaign. This ``creature of the bazaar'' knows now is the time to buy Turkish rugs cheap for export to New York. Traveling into the interior, buying nonstop, Stavros is also looking for a wife for his new home in Smyrna, and quirky, fearless Thomna seems to fit the bill. She wants a ticket to America, Stavros wants a good breeder; it will be a pragmatic union. But now Stavros behaves quite unpragmatically; ignoring news of Greek military reversals and his New York boss's order to shut down their operation, he continues dangerous purchasing missions behind enemy lines and a stormy on/off relationship with Thomna. As the patriot supersedes the businessman, so the war replaces Stavros's ambitions as the engine driving the novel. Increasingly Stavros becomes Kazan's cat's-paw, eavesdropping on King Constantine, running errands for the archbishop, as the Greek army collapses and the Turks, burning Smyrna, drive the Anatolians into the sea. The lonely figure at the end seems less a casualty of his own conflicts than a servant who has performed one too many narrative chores. Kazan's treatment of Greeks and Turks is evenhanded. He uses a broad canvas, including generals and hamals (Turkey's untouchables), while keeping the bourgeoisie in the foreground. Yet the faltering storyline and Stavros's loss of authority result in a work that, despite powerful set pieces, generates more heat than light.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42565-9
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994