A novel that looks deeply into the poetics of beloved Greek-Egyptian poet C.P. Cavafy, who lived through the turn of the 20th century.
Sotiropoulos (Landscape with Dog and Other Stories, 2009, etc.) tells the story of a young Cavafy traveling from Alexandria, where he was born, to Paris with his brother John in search of a mystical Ark, a place where all wrongdoings go unpunished, where all vices are celebrated, and where Cavafy’s concealed homoerotic desires will go unjudged. In the process, Cavafy walks through the streets of Paris in desperate search of a poem. “As he walked, the lines of a poem he was writing came to mind. Every so often he would pick it up, poke and prod, then let it be.” In fact, the poem Cavafy so amorously longs for seems to be embedded in Sotiropoulos’ tale. As Cavafy explores the depths of Paris, readers may feel like they're trapped inside a poem, experiencing the scenic walks Cavafy takes, empathizing with his expansive sexual desires, and hoping that he’ll one day reach the Ark—which, for all intents and purposes, embodies the geographical location of a poetic muse (“It’s not clear precisely what transpires there—it’s rumored to be a den of pleasure frequented by aristocrats and commoners alike”). Sotiropoulos has done an incredible job of painting a naturalistic scene of Paris as it was during the Dreyfus affair while giving a glimpse into what it was like to be a poet at that time. Cavafy’s original approach to poetry is what set him apart from his contemporaries. Readers may well leave this novel with a sincere desire to pick up a book of his poetry.
A beautiful portrait of an aspiring poet.