Farewell Anatolia

Dido Sotiriou

translated from the Greek by Fred A. Reed
Kedros 1991 [1962]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004 http://dannyreviews.com/
Manolis Axiotis is born into a farming family in a Greek village in the mountains above Ephesus, where life revolves around the fields and the olive and fig trees. But he gets on badly with his father and is sent to the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Smyrna and exposed to a much broader world.

The villagers speak Turkish themselves and are on good terms with their Turkish neighbours; their lives follow patterns that have evolved over millennia. And Smyrna is a multi-ethnic city, shared by Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Levantines, and others. But the wars that start in 1912 and then 1914 herald a decade of violence that will destroy this world completely.

Manolis is conscripted into the Ottoman army — or rather, as an untrusted Greek, into Labour Battalions which work in appalling conditions. He deserts and goes into hiding, leading a furtive underground life. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, he ends up as part of the Greek army and the disastrous campaign to take Ankara. And at the end he is caught up in the massacres involved in the ethnic cleansing of Smyrna.

None of the characters in Farewell Anatolia really come to life: Manolis himself is too much of a blank slate, absorbing information and experiencing events, while the other characters are little more than types. But it is a powerful, gripping tale, offering a panoramic view of the catastrophic end of the Greek communities of Asia Minor. It is an ordinary person's view of how war and nationalism, used by self-centred politicians and amoral Great Powers, can drive communalism and ethnic conflict and destroy communities.

September 2004

Related reviews:
- books about Greece + Greek history
- books about Turkey + the Ottoman Empire
- more historical fiction
- more war fiction
%T Farewell Anatolia
%A Sotiriou, Dido
%M Greek
%F Reed, Fred A.
%I Kedros
%D 1991 [1962]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 9600404798
%P 310pp