Sunday, October 12, 2008

Forever Ulysses...

A forgotten novel by one C.P. Rodocanachi, a Greek writer whose focus was on explication of the Greek Spirit through the ages. First published in the UK as No Innocent Abroad , Forever Ulysses was published by Viking Press in 1938. I read Forever Ulysses in just a few days, as it captured my interest in subtle ways. A very dated novel in some respects (published in 1938, it was a history of one Greek who captured the eternal Greek spirit, and at the same time illustrated the times in which he lived). Starting before the turn of the 20th century and ending a few years after the Great War, which of course we know as WWI, since it turned out NOT to be the war to end all wars. I fell over one of Rodocanachi's other books, Athens and the Greek Miracle when a friend found it at a used book store. When searching Worldcat, we turned up this novel, so I placed an interlibrary loan request. The riches that can be had from a simple ILL request know no bounds. Beginning with Ulysses' youngest years, we follow him from the age of six, as he leaves his village in Cephalonia to try his luck at making a living, using his slippery talents. First as a shoe shine boy in Argostoli, a Greek lustro, and then following along through Egypt, the Sudan, and on to America, we follow his adventures through wars and peace, and through many a scheme as he makes, loses and remakes his fortunes, encountering the likes of Kitchener, the Mahdi, and countless others. His final move is back to Greece, and back to his humble village, and his eternal rest. From this vantage point in time, I was lucky to find an archived book review at TIME Magazine. The review dates to January 10, 1938, a week after publication. Apparently there were real life models for Ulysses, including the author's own life! I was reminded of the stories of Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos as I read the Ulysses story over again. Using his life, and the lives of other adventurous Greeks, Rodocanachi created Ulysses as the behind the scenes mover and shaker of his era, an inveterate deal-maker, businessman, global nomad, and patriot. Ulysses was fascinating enough, imagine the lives of those he was modeled after.

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