Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Turkish Cypriot minority rights: a reply

An anonymous commenter wrote in response to my post ‘Turkey’s guardian angel’, the following:

‘Minority rights ... isn't that what it all comes down to, respect for and protection of the minority? Plans for "enosis" understandably threatened a Muslim minority in Cyprus which risked becoming a negligible part of a country committed to homogeneity and with a very poor record of minority rights protection. Are there any safeguards that can realistically ensure the protection, in a reunited Cyprus, of what would still be a minority population? Are the warring parents going to be able to sit on their hands and stay out of it? Is it ever likely that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots would be able sit at the same table and draw a line under past resentments? If there are no realistic safeguards then partition is a forward step away from the present stalemate and legal uncertainties. I would be interested in your views. You mention respect for human rights ... you need an effective enforcement mechanism too. The European Court of Human Rights is hopelessly overloaded with a back log of 90,000 cases, so practical international supervision is unlikely. You would need a strong independent judiciary before anything else. If that can be guaranteed, the rest should follow.’

Thanks, anonymous, for your comment and bringing up some issues, which I’d like to respond to.

1. Minority rights. No, minority rights is not what the Cyprus issue ‘comes down to’. What about the rights of Greek Cypriots – 80% of the population and who, for 800 years, endured foreign occupation and rule? Reducing Cyprus to the rights of the TCs is the equivalent of reducing South Africa to the rights of the white minority or Ireland to the rights of the Protestant minority. Both these post-colonial minorities tried to impose partition/apartheid on the majority and the injustice has been addressed or is being addressed with democracy; democracy being what the Cyprus issue should ‘come down to’. What do the TCs have to fear from democracy? Anyhow, the relationship between Greeks and Turks is not the main problem on the island; the main problem is Turkey, the invasion and occupation.

2. I do not accept that enosis would have ended the human rights of the TCs and that taksim/partition was a legitimate response to GC ambitions. Before the 1950s, there was no significant history of ethnic conflict on Cyprus – excepting, of course, the institutionalised repression of Cypriot Greeks as subjects of the Ottoman Empire and the massacres committed against Cypriot Greeks in 1821 – and it is entirely likely that had enosis been achieved, TCs would have remained on the island, unmolested, with their lives and rights in tact, able to play their part in the future of the island. Enosis was directed at British colonial rule, not at the Turkish Cypriots. Taksim, on the other hand, was aimed at Greek Cypriots, demanded violence against them, was predicated on ethnic cleansing. How else was partition to be achieved? Anyway, enosis is hardly the issue today, is it?

3. Nor do I accept with regards to the Turks/Muslims in Thrace and the Dodecanese, that Greece has a ‘poor record’. All things considered and compared to the rest of the Balkans (and Turkey), Greece has a reasonable record regarding its Turkish/Muslim minority. Discrimination was a result of Greece’s fears that its Turks/Muslim would follow the TC lead and demand partition/secession in Thrace. TC dread of Greece was unwarranted, an artifice designed to legitimise nationalist calls for partition.

4. Minority protection. GCs have never been interested in interfering with the identity/cultural/religious/educational rights of the TCs. GC hostility to the TCs in the 1960s was not a result of ethnic or religious intolerance, but a reaction to the militant and concerted TC campaign to partition the island. If all the TCs were after was protection of their minority rights, then there would be no Cyprus problem.

5. Warring parents. This question should be addressed to Turkey, not Greece, which has virtually abandoned interest in Cyprus since 1974. Besides, a united, independent Cyprus in the EU should reduce dependence on the ‘mother countries’. GCs have largely outgrown their dependence on Greece whereas the TCs still cannot envision a future for themselves or the island free of Turkey’s overweening influence.

6. Past resentments. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. I don’t believe ethnic hatred on the island is dangerously deep – the peaceful Green Line crossings would suggest this – and is certainly not on the Yugoslavian scale – but I would have no problem with a truth and reconcilliation commission to address bitterness. The best antidote to bitterness is justice.

7. On human rights and an independent judiciary, I agree, and would add that human rights for GCs means the right of return for the refugees and the right to move and live freely anywhere on the island. A united Cyprus, in the EU, without the appalling Annan derogations, would ensure this.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for replying to my comment. I was very interested in what you had to say ...

Couple of points in reply.

First, democracies are not necessarily terribly good at protecting the interests of minorities. They tend to reflect majority concerns. Where minorities are not adequately protected, there is a tendency for outside forces sympathetic to the minority to intervene to protect the vulnerable minority, leaving academic lawyers to argue over the legality or illegality for years afterwards.

Wasn't it the threat of enosis that prompted the Turkish invasion? Yes, granted, the desire for enosis may have been a reaction to British colonisation, and the invasion was illegal, but wasn't it Turkey's desire to protect the threatened TC minority that led to the intervention? What guarantee of protection did the TCs have at the time of the Greek-sponsored coup?

And isn't it also true that any settlement must adequately protect that same TC minority against a GC majority? To this extent, I maintain it is about protection for the minority population ... and probably an unpalatable truth that if the minority population had not been threatened (by enosis), Cyprus would be the "sky high" country now that it presently only has the potential to be.

The article you referred to does not seem to advocate partition - at least not how I read it. It is a polemical piece intended to provoke discussion which canvasses the unmentionable. The author does say in his concluding paragrapah that Cyprus is too small to be divided.

I'd also be very interested to know the context in which any article in the Guardian referred to the Republic of Cyprus in the term you suggest ... As a daily and avid Guardian reader, I hadn't got even a whiff of a campaign to see partition happen.

A unified Cyprus would be wonderful, but is it a crime to discuss "What ifs"? Sometimes discussing the unmentionable makes people realise how much they'd like the alternative they'd previously discarded.

john akritas said...


No doubt it is true that even in democracies minorities can find themselves in invidious positions; but then what can you do? The logic of your argument seems to be that where two or more ethnic groups find themselves together in one country, the only solution to the complications that arise is separation/apartheid, with all the violence and human misery this implies.

I realised after my post to your original comment that I’d missed what is perhaps a more sophisticated argument than simply putting the case for post-colonial majorities – for blacks in South Africa, Catholics in Ireland or Greeks in Cyprus. What I could have said is that when you refer to ‘minorities’, you seem stuck on the idea that this can only refer to ‘ethnic’ minorities. But in Cyprus, there are many minorities, and the one most deprived of its rights is the minority of the population – about 33% – made up of refugees. What about finding a solution aimed at satisfying the rights of this oppressed minority?

You are utterly wrong in supposing that the overriding factor behind the Turkish invasion was Ankara’s fears for the safety of the TCs. Admittedly, after the Sampson coup, an invasion was inevitable and in fact legal – under Turkey’s rights/obligations to uphold the 1960 Treaty of Establishment and prevent enosis or taksim – but you seem to be unaware that the Turkish invasion was in two parts.

The first part – the 20 July invasion – could be regarded as a response to the coup, the prospect of enosis and fear for the TCs under the rule of the gangsters Sampson in Nicosia and Ioannidis in Athens; but the fact is that three days after the first invasion both Sampson and the junta fell and constitutional order was restored in Greece and Cyprus.

Yet, three weeks later, on 14 August, when the prospect of enosis and the safety of the TCs were no longer issues, the Turkish army – and this is the illegal part – moved out of the bridgehead it had created around Kyrenia and occupied 37% of the island, and in the process caused ten times the mayhem and carnage it had caused on 20 July.

Christopher Hitchens (in Cyprus: Hostage to History) describes this second phase of the invasion as the fulfillment of a Turkish ‘policy of conquest and annexation’, drawing attention to the real motives behind the Turkish invasion – nothing to do with protecting the forlorn TCs.

Indeed, you seem intent on portraying the TCs as a passive minority preyed upon by their overbearing Greek neighbours out to crush them. This fails to ascribe independent political motives and actions to the TCs, ignores their violent – and unprovoked and unjustifiable – campaign for partition. Also, the TCs do not seem such a minority when you include Turkey in the equation – then it becomes the GCs who are in a minority – of a thousand to one – fearful of being swallowed up by a larger neighbour – this fear, by the way, being one of the reasons GCs rejected the Annan plan, which enhanced Ankara’s role on the island.

As for the Guardian piece, it is not an innocent polemic. Partition does not express some neutral, fair’s fair position on Cyprus, but rather, as I have repeatedly stated, indulges Turkey’s long-term position on the island, promotes it hook, line and sinker in fact.

It is entirely disingenuous of Ker-Lindsay to suggest that partition is now gaining currency among GCs – privately or otherwise. Of course, GCs will say all sorts of things ‘in private’ when discussing the Cyprus issue – ranging from ‘let’s go over and boot the Turkish army out’ to ‘let’s have done with it, us over here and them over there’ – but to take this as a trend or a legitimate expression of GC public opinion, favouring war or partition or anything else is absurd and malicious.

Indeed, if Ker-Lindsay was just flying kites, then why not a fly a Greek one, arguing for enosis, or what about a human rights and democracy kite – arguing for the removal of Turkish troops and settlers and the return of the refugees? Why does he choose to fly the Turkish ‘partition’ kite?

As for the Guardian campaign against Cyprus, if you go here

you will find one objectionable piece after another arguing that Cyprus should be sacrificed to ensure Turkey has an untrammelled path into the EU, adopting Turkish positions on Cyprus – references to ‘Greek Cyprus’, arguing for the lifting of ‘trade restrictions’ on the occupied areas (which amounts to recognition of the north and legitimises partition) – and it is in Martin Kettle’s pieces –,,1962344,00.html

where you will find references to the ‘Greek Cypriot pseudo-state in southern Cyprus’ and the ‘Greek Cypriot regime in the south’.

I’m sorry if you can’t see a pattern of hostility to Cyprus in the Guardian and don’t recognise that the paper has developed strong sympathy for Turkey’s Cyprus policies. Not that what the Guardian says is important. It’s only a newspaper, and journalists – and academics – are generally silly, ill-informed people who like to pontificate on matters of which they have little understanding.

Anonymous said...


Lovely final sentence to your last comment. Good job I'm not an academic, or I'd be smarting...

I see that Martin Kettle (whoever he is) did indeed use the term pseudo-state. Very disappointing. Even being in an on-line Comment section does not excuse that.

I've read the Annan plan now, so have a pretty good idea what was proposed and subsequently rejected.

I am neither Greek nor Turkish, so have no axe to grind either way (truly), but will be able to follow the debate in a more informed way after this.

I can see that this is a passionate interest of yours.

How about devoting a post to each of the separate sticking points - reinstatement of property or compensation, return of refugees, trade, security and continued military presence of Greek and Turkish troops, political representation, the make-up of the Supreme Court, foreign involvement, truth and reconciliation and admissions of guilt, and so on?

I'd be really interested to read more on each issue.

Anonymous said...

I've never met anyone else who had read anything by John Fante, btw. He is one of my favourite authors. Along with Knut Hamsun. Your film list looks fascinating - we'll definitely try some of those.

Hermes said...

good blog. keep it up

john akritas said...

Thanks Hermes, I’ll try.

Anonymous – can’t you pick a pseudonym? Regarding academics I was thinking of Ker-Lindsay and more particularly

this stupid piece by Dr Fred Halliday, so-called IR expert.

Martin Kettle is assistant editor of the Guardian, one of the paper’s most senior hacks, imbued with the Guardian ethos, and a personal pal of Tony Blair’s.

On Annan, it’s such trash that I’d be reluctant to give it undue credence by deconstructing its every fault, suffice it to say that its main vices relate to the denial of the right of return for Greek Cypriot refugees; the permission to stay it grants to the Turkish army – in perpetuity – and the vast majority of the 140,000 Turkish settlers; the expanded role it gives Turkey in the internal and external affairs of the island; and the enshrined overrepresentation at every level of the Turkish minority – the masters in the north, partners in the south scenario – making the entire settlement unworkable, prone to Turkish vetoes, Greek resentment, and renewed conflict. I could go on but, hopefully, Annan is now defunct and not worth the effort.

On Fante, he is a writer I like very much. I chose Dreams of Bunker Hill to represent him – rather than the more famous Ask the Dust – because it is less febrile – febrility being a proclivity Fante picked up from Hamsun, particularly Hunger – and because the later works of Fante are less known and deserve wider readership. They are wonderfully humane pieces, I feel.

As for the film list, I’m glad it interests you. It’s far from comprehensive. I tried to choose one film each from of my favourite filmmakers – The Pleasure Party from Chabrol, Vivre Sa Vie from Godard – though in truth I could have put down 10 Godard films and all of Chabrol. I’ll add to the list as I go along – most are just there at the moment because they came first to mind. I’m open to suggestions too.

Margaret said...

I don't know what "febrile" means in your context, but will read the book anyway. Perhaps I like febrility.

Probably impertinent to suggest what you should write on your blog. In which case, I apologise. I didn't intend my suggestion to be read with reference particularly to the Annan Plan, but more generally. I I would find it interesting to read an informed piece about each of those issues in the event of the North and South being reunited. What should happen in relation to property? What should happen to to the Turkish settlors? Is it OK for Turkish troops to remain if identical, or more generous provisions, provide for Greek troops to be stationed on the island? If you don't have equal representation in the Senate, how do you ensure that the minority is protected (yes, sorry, minorities again), and what would you propose instead of equality and would that ever be acceptable to the TCs.

But, no matter, I'll research all those things, and make up my own mind :).

john akritas said...

Hello, Margaret

By ‘febrile’ in this context, I just meant overwrought, emotional, heated.

I’m not really qualified to delineate what a detailed Cyprus solution should look like, though of course I can suggest general principles – such as the repatriation of all Turkish settlers, the withdrawal of all troops – Greek and Turkish – the demilitarisation of the island and, most importantly, the right of return for all refugees. You euphemistically refer to the refugees issue as an issue of ‘property and compensation’, but it is much more complex and deeper than this and in fact it is insulting to reduce the issue of the refugees to a question of ‘property and compensation’.

As for minority rights, there are plenty of successful models in Europe – Belgium and Switzerland – to cope with this and the entire EU project is intended, on one level, to eradicate or defuse such conflicts, so the Turkish Cypriots – if all they were after was ‘protection’, as you put it – perhaps ought to put their faith in the EU. Not that ‘protection’ or minority rights is what the TCs are after – they are after sovereignty, their own state and partition of the island – which is predicated on ethnic cleansing of the Greek majority. I would remind you that prior to the invasion, in what is now the occupied area, 90% of the population was Greek and Greeks owned 90% of the land. Now, there are less than 1,000 Greeks living in the occupied areas and, since you are so worried about minorities, perhaps you’d like to go here

to find out how the occupation regime has dealt with this minority.

Indeed, your fixation on minority rights – while in some ways admirable – adopts a flawed, universalist approach which fails to take into account that each majority/minority scenario is different. The position of the white minority in South Africa is not the same as, say, the Coptic minority in Egypt, which is different to the Tutsis in Rwanda and the Tamils in Sri Lanka and so on. And, as I said previously, it may be worth, in these days of multiple identities and identifications, to get away from thinking about minorities and majorities simply in terms of ethnicity.

You also seem to be quite dogmatic in believing that minority status always equates with being threatened and oppressed by the majority, but sometimes – as in Cyprus – it is the minority, with, in this case, aid from outside, which oppresses and threatens.

Margaret said...

Oh dear. I obviously at not very good at conveying my meanings, since you seem to misunderstand me at every turn. For example, there is no way that I reduced the refugee problem to one of "property and compensation" - or at least that was not my intention ... and, in my presumptuous list of subjects for discussion on your blog, I was
careful to separate out "reinstatement of property or compensation" from the "return of refugees".

I recognise that minorities, such as the whites in South Africa, and the Tamils in Sri Lanka have had influence disproportionate to their numbers. But the examples you give are not Western democracies ruled by majorities. I suppose I presumed that post-solution, reunited Cyprus would be an advanced Western democracy where the outcome of elections would be decided by the number of votes cast. In that situation, it is the minority that needs protecting. I am not fixated, just stating the obvious. That's why the EU, the Council of Europe, the UN, every Western democracy you can think of has non-discrimination legislation. Because minorities need protecting.

I am not partisan in wanting to protect minorities, nor do I under-estimate the enormous pain that the Greek Cypriots have suffered.

You suggested three starting points. One was in the Annan Plan (the de-militarization of the island); one ought to be possible - I agree - given that Cyprus is in the EU (withdrawal of all troops, though not overnight); the other is not going to happen (return of Turkish settlors), though a prohibition on further settlors would be difficult to argue against.

There are many in the UK who regret the number of immigrants who have come to this country in recent years, and wish they, too, would be repatriated. That is not going to happen either, and I cannot see any point crying about it. I think you have to work with what you've got, not what you wish you had ...

john akritas said...

No, Annan did not foresee the full demilitarisation of the island. It provided – over 20 years – for the gradual reduction of the Turkish occupation army and then allowed 3500 troops to stay on in perpetuity. More importantly, Annan enhanced the rights of Turkey to intervene militarily on the island. The withdrawal of Turkish troops and the removal of the Turkish military ‘guarantee’ to the Turkish Cypriots is a red line for Greek Cypriots.

Surely, you know the difference between ‘settlers’ and ‘immigrants’? The Turkish settlers were brought to Cyprus to change the demographic character of the island. This is colonisation and a war crime under the Geneva Convention. There are some 140,000 settlers and it is they, not Greek Cypriot refugees, who should be offered compensation – to leave. This has happened with Jewish settlers in Israel and if it can happen there it can happen in Cyprus. I don’t think the TCs would be that unhappy to see them go either. Maybe the Turkish settlers could be allowed into the UK since you are so worried about them, prioritising their rights – whatever they are – over the rights of the Greek refugees, whose homes and land they have seized.

Generally, I can’t keep repeating that your reduction of the Cyprus issue to the rights of Turkish Cypriot minority is a totally inadequate way of understanding the Turkish occupation of the island; it misses about 90 percent of the other aspects of the Cyprus problem. Turkish minority rights are also one of the easiest issues to resolve, providing the fewest headaches to Greek Cypriots – if the TCs want non-discrimination legislation, they can have it. Greeks on the island are far more interested in issues relating to right of return for refugees, the settlers, the Turkish occupation army and so on. I suggest, if you are genuinely interested in Cyprus’s recent history and politics, that you overcome your fixation with Turkish Cypriot minority rights and think about these and other issues. Perhaps, for starters, you could read up on Turkish nationalism and Kemalo-fascism.

Margaret said...


My information came from the UN webpage on the Annan Plan which has the full text of all the documents. If these are not correct, please tell me where else I should look.

The Foundation Agreement at Article 8(b) provides for troops to stay, but not indefinitely:

"b. Greek and Turkish contingents shall be permitted to be stationed under the Treaty of Alliance in the Greek Cypriot State and the Turkish Cypriot State respectively as follows:
i) each contingent not to exceed 6,000 all ranks, until 2011;
ii) each contingent not to exceed 3,000 all ranks thereafter until 2018 or the European Union accession of Turkey, whichever is sooner ; and
iii) the Greek contingent not to exceed 950 all ranks and the Turkish contingent not to exceed 650 all ranks thereafter, subject to three-yearly review , ith the objective of total withdrawal;"

Further, Article 6 of the Constitution sets out the intended final position:

"Article 6 of the Constitution

Demilitarisation of the United Cyprus Republic

1. The United Cyprus Republic and its constituent states shall be demilitarised. There shall be no paramilitary or reserve forces or military or paramilitary training of citizens.

2. Cyprus shall not put its territory at the disposal of international military operations other than with the consent of the governments of both constituent states.

3. All weapons, except licensed sporting guns, shall be prohibited and the supply of weapons other than in accordance with licensing law shall be an offence carrying a mandatory sentence of a minimum of three years in prison.

4. The constituent states shall prohibit by law violence and the incitement to violence against the United Cyprus Republic, the federal government, the constituent states, or the guarantor powers and shall not tolerate such acts by persons, groups or organisations operating within their boundaries.

5. The provisions of this Article are without prejudice to the provisions of the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee, the Treaty of Alliance, the mandate of a UN peacekeeping operation in Cyprus and the provisions of this Constitution on federal and constituent state police and the Joint Investigation Agency."

As for the rest, I'll think about what you say about settlers returning ... I don't know enough about who the settlers are (why they came and so on) to have a view yet about whether large numbers returning is a realistic proposition.

I was struck by something I read last week that characterised the entrenched position of the GCs and Turkey as wanting a return to the situation prior to the invasion on the one hand, and wanting recognition of the status quo on the other hand. Which reminds me of the Quaker postcard I used to have on my wall at work. Here's a link to it :

Don't you have to leave something in it for the other man, however much you think the other man was in the wrong?

I can see that I irritate you, so I'll back off and leave more room for those who agree with you :).

john akritas said...

Margaret, if I appear irritated it is not because you disagree with me – but because we have now got through a dozen comments and two posts and you are still banging on about Turkish Cypriot minority rights – which I have repeatedly stressed only sheds a small amount of light on the Cyprus issue. You have now got to the point where you are dressing up the ‘issue’ in quasi-religious terms – about ‘leaving something for the other man’, and Quaker postcards of donkeys. Excuse me, but this is fatuous.

Not only do you not know about – through your own admission – the Turkish settlers – one of the most important and contentious aspects of the Cyprus problem, much more important and contentious than TC minority rights – on which GCs are prepared to be generous – but you do not seem to be aware that the Greek Cypriot position does not ask for a return to the 1960 constitution – the status quo ante. Rather, it has been the GC negotiating position since 1977 to accept that a post-occupation Cyprus will be a bizonal, bicommunal federation. For GCs, this is a painful compromise – but is regarded as preferable to partition.

As for your interpretation of the Annan plan and the articles referring to demilitarisation and guarantees, it is faulty and you should read it again.

This article

‘ii) each contingent not to exceed 3,000 all ranks thereafter until 2018 or the European Union accession of Turkey, whichever is sooner’

does not mean, as you seem to imply, that by 2018 Turkish troops will have to leave the island; rather it means that by 2018 – before if Turkey joins the EU – Turkish troop numbers will be reduced to 3,000 – after which – in a clause you did not quote or read,

‘iii) Cyprus, Greece and Turkey shall review troop levels every five years with the objective of total withdrawal’.

What this means is that if Turkey decides – in these five-yearly reviews – that it doesn’t want to withdraw its contingent, then it does not have to. For me, this means it can maintain, if it wants, its troops on the island in perpetuity.

But, as I said, Turkish troops on the island is as much a symbolic issue – of occupation and circumscribed independence – than an issue of military threat, since even if there were no Turkish troops on the island, Turkey is only a half hour flying time from Cyprus and the Turks could intervene with or without the 3000 troops on the island.

More important is that Annan rewrites the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee – which allowed Turkey to intervene to ‘uphold the territorial integrity, security and constitutional order’ on the island – a right which it has been exercising, laughably, since the invasion – to make it even more favourable to Turkey, so that, in the new United Republic of Cyprus, Turkey is given the right to intervene to ‘uphold the territorial integrity, security and constitutional order’ not only in relation to the Turkish Cypriot constituent state and at the level of the federal state, but also at the level of the Greek Cypriot constituent state; meaning that if Turkey didn’t like how things were going in the Greek Cypriot constituent state – and decided this amounted to a threat to the ‘security, territorial integrity and constitutional order’ of the Greek Cypriot constituent state – then Turkey would have the legal right to send in its troops.

Nor do you mention – or perhaps you did not know this either – that the Annan plan provides for an improved regime for the British Sovereign Bases.

Now, how all this amounts to demilitarisation, I do not know. Obviously, your definition of demilitarisation is different to mine. To me, it seems the only side asked to demilitarise is the Greek Cypriot side, in preparation for turning Cyprus into a Turkish-British protectorate no doubt, which would have been the outcome of Annan.

Margaret said...

Boy, do you twist my words. I am upset by your personal slurs, because they are unfair. I am not prone to knowingly misrepresenting things, or, in particular, missing out lines from official texts of documents for any reason. Rather pathetically, it actually matters to me quite a lot, because I'm a lawyer, and if I am not honest, what is left?

Here's a link to my source for the text of Article 8a. The source looks pretty official and purports to be the final version presented to the parties, and is from a Hellenic source:

Article 8 - as I read it - provides for complete withdrawal of troops immediately upon Turkey joining the EU, or a phased reduction to no more than 950 Greek Troops and 650 Turkish troops after 2018 (if Turkey has not joined the EU by then) with the declared object of achieving complete withdrawal.

I understand that there are currently 35,000 Turkish troops in Northern Cyprus.

If that was not the final text put to the parties, please do let me have a link to the final text. I've tried to find other sources, but a lot of the links don't work, or are links to earlier versions of the Plan.

Nor did I say that I knew nothing about the settlers, only that I did not know enough to make up my mind. There seems to be a huge amount of uncertainty about how many settlers there are, and I still haven't got to the bottom of that. Figures range from about 25,000 having "citizenship" and rights to vote

[source: International Peace Research Institutue, Oslo - probably written by a Turk ...],

to about 150,000 (according to GC sources).

I don't favour either side, whatever you may say.

Margaret said...

Dreams from Bunker Hill arrived yesterday, and I devoured it this morning, not quite being able to restrain myself from reading the end before the middle.

I’d forgotten how much I liked Arturo Bandini, how this ass-obsessed idiot bent on self-destruction makes me laugh out loud, and how he leaves me happily infused with a tinge of his own narcissistic grandiosity. I loved the incident with the mayonnaise in the beach house…

How wonderful it would be sometimes to be as authentic as Bandini, to do exactly what you want to do, say what you want to say, and then vamoose. I’m glad he is only a paper character, though, since loving him would be – to quote a real life Bandini I once knew – “emotional suicide”. For all that he falls in love on every page and sinks to his knees in adoration, he has no staying power. He returns home in prodigal fashion to his devoted mother only to leave her again with no warning and no explanation when the going gets tough, as the going always gets: he declares his undying love in mawkish fashion quoting Yeats (“When you are old and grey and full of sleep”) to the absent and much older Mrs Brownell yet gets over his short-lived grief at her untimely death in a way that would have made Camus’s Meursault proud.

I wondered if his grief – such as it was - was not so much that she had died, but that her death means that he cannot live out the next chapter in his soap-opera-of-a-life. Which brings me to Fante.

I gather he was in his early seventies when Dreams from Bunker Hill was published, and blind from diabetes. He dictated the work to his wife. I smiled when I imagined these dreams of a dying man, often sentimental and often erotic, enlivening the days of the elderly couple and Bandini’s dream-like life being sharp, pithy images of a life that the writer was never brave enough, or selfish enough, or poor enough to live. And how many ways are there to describe a woman’s derriere?

I was, naturally, amused to see Bandini’s story ending with a prayer to Knut Hamsun …

I read a whole heap of dark literature in a hurry a few years ago – Hamsun, Fante, Bukowski, Algren, de Beauvoir, even de Sade. I was quite glad to put them to bed though I don’t regret reading them. I’ve had to hide most of them from my daughters, but enjoyed dusting down Fante again to see if there was much difference between the early and late man. Whilst in the earlier books he is reverential, scared even, of women, in a very Mary, Mother of God way, his later descriptions of women are more earthy and more cynical (and more butt-obsessed). More real though not noticeably less febrile, I thought.

john akritas said...

I’ve never thought of Fante as a particularly dark writer – there is a lot of American optimism and humanity in his work. Americans don’t do despair, or at least for them despair is never terminal. I’ve certainly never regarded Fante as capable of corrupting teenage girls – I assume your daughters are still teens given that you’re still regulating the books they have access to. The two novellas which make up West of Rome are also late Fante and worth reading.

Margaret said...

Fante is dark - in my opinion - because I would never be Bandini, but always the woman on the opposite side. I can easily imagine just how dark that life would be, sufficient to lead me to terminal despair. Not many women read Fante, but I shall encourage my daughters to. Not only for its literary merit, but more as a detailed description of the sort of man they should at all costs strive to avoid trying to rescue, for all that he might appear interesting. Can you imagine Bandini ever changing, ever growing up, ever staying put?