Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Nick the Greek and The Mask of Dimitrios

I’ve been reading Harry Petrakis’ novel Nick the Greek, an interesting and entertaining piece of Greek-Americana which is about the greatest gambler of all time, Nick Dandolos, who originated from Rethymnon. Dandolos, apparently, won and lost millions, although Petrakis suggests that an authentic gambler isn’t motivated by money, but by an extreme form of philotimo, a fearless gesture informed by self-abnegation and, ultimately, self-destruction. There’s a good chapter in Nick the Greek in which Dandolos spends time in Paris gambling and womanising with a fellow Greek high-roller, a sympathetic portrait of the arms dealer, the original ‘merchant of death’, Basil Zaharoff (Vasileios Zacharias). Zaharoff is supposed to have provided the inspiration for the character of Dimitrios Makropoulos in Eric Ambler’s brilliant noir novel The Mask of Dimitrios (1939), which relates the obsessive quest by an English writer to trace the career of the Smyrniot Makropoulos, who is a thief, killer, spy, assassin, drug dealer, drug addict, white slave trader and all the rest, a quest that takes him on a journey through inter-war Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and France. The book was made into a classic film noir in 1945, a clip from which is above.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Greek Cypriots urged to commit suicide

After Jack Straw’s intervention aimed at trying to scare the Greek Cypriots into submission by threatening partition; we have had this week all sorts of other Britons and Americans coming out of the woodwork demanding Greek Cypriots sacrifice themselves for the sake of Turkey’s EU accession process and the alleged wider interests of the Western world.

It started with this ignorant op-ed in the Financial Times again threatening Greek Cypriots with partition, which led to this letter from former US ambassador to Greece, Thomas Niles, and this one from former UK high commissioner to Cyprus, Edward Clay, both blaming Greek Cypriots for not gladly handing over their island to Turkey; letters that prompted this response from Cyprus’ high commissioner in London, Alexandros Zenon; which, in turn, awoke from his slumber Lord David Hannay, the UK’s special representative to Cyprus from 1996-2003 and the architect of the disastrous and shameful Annan plan, who wrote in his letter to the FT that Cyprus has no right to resist what Turkey, Britain and all the rest have in store for it. Hannay even appeared this week on Al Jazeera TV (see video above) to assert the merits of the Annan plan and berate Greek Cypriots for not committing suicide.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Muslims flex their muscles in Athens

I’ve translated into English the piece below by Stavros Lygeros, which originally appeared in Kathimerini, regarding Tuesday’s takeover by Muslims of squares and other landmarks in central Athens ostensibly to pray but in reality, as Lygeros points out, to demonstrate in as public and provocative a way as possible their intention to assert Islam in Greece.

Another form of ‘occupation’
It was only a matter of time before we were witness to this outcome of mass illegal immigration to Greece. Muslims publicly praying at the gateway to Athens University and other landmarks in central Athens was not just a protest at the failure to build a mosque in the capital. It was also a peaceful yet powerful show of strength. The Muslims declared that not only are they here, but that they are determined to dynamically project their cultural and religious identity in the Greek public space.

The ruling elite were happy so long as the Muslims scraped by ghettoised in the basement of society, the underpaid manpower of the black economy; but they didn’t appreciate that the collective expression of Muslims as a community was only a matter of time. And, of course, the Muslims exploited for their own purposes the post-1974 state of affairs in Greece that sanctions the occupation/abuse of the public space for any kind of protest.

The outcome was the public prayer at the gateway to the University of Athens, the place that symbolises the neo-Hellenic enlightenment; a place that, personally, it would annoy me to see the holding of a Christian liturgy.

Yesterday, the Muslims crossed the Rubicon. State and society cannot bury its head in the sand. It must establish boundaries, just like in the rest of Europe. The demand to build a mosque in Athens might be legitimate, but it is not legitimate to see such events that alter the cultural character of the city, and give an opportunity for the reactions of extreme elements. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

Jack Straw says Cyprus should be partitioned

Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul is in London this week to pick up the Chatham House Prize for – wait for it – ‘his contribution to improving international relations’. The prize is going to be given to him by the Queen. This is all part of Britain’s policy of bowing and scraping to the Turks. One of the chief exponents of this kow-towing is Jack Straw, foreign secretary from 2001-2006 in Tony Blair’s Labour government. To coincide with Gul’s visit, Straw has been making Turkey’s case on Cyprus in the press (see report in Greek here) and on the airwaves, explaining that in order for Turkey’s EU accession process to go ahead, the obstacle of Cyprus must be removed and this should be done by formally partitioning the island and recognising – Kosovo-style – an independent Turkish state in the north. Above is what the ignorant liar Straw said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. Prepare to be violently ill.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Achilles and the Tortoise

I’ve been watching Takeshi Kitano’s recent film, Achilles and the Tortoise, which uses Zeno’s paradox of the same name as a metaphor for artistic and human failure. The film is an extraordinary combination of comedy, tragedy, pathos and so on, which in its depiction of frustrated desire and thwarted endeavour reminded me very much of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Kitano has been a truly great artist for a long time, and Achilles and the Tortoise confirms that he is a man that remains at the height of his creative powers. My admiration for this genius knows no bounds.

The above clip is from the start of the film, which explains Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise while, just in case you thought the film is an animation or set in ancient Greece, the clip below is more illustrative of the film and one of its themes, which is the insane and self-destructive lengths people will go to for the sake of art and self-expression.