Beyond the Aegean

BEYOND THE AEGEAN is the last in a series of novels about Kazan’s semiautobiographical character Stavros Topouzoglou. The others are AMERICA, AMERICA (1962), THE ARRANGEMENT (1967), and THE ANATOLIAN (1982). AMERICA, AMERICA and THE ARRANGEMENT were made into successful motion pictures, and Kazan’s new novel seems designed for future film adaptation. It has the same cinematic ingredients as Ernest Hemingway’s novel FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1940), including a love story set in a war-torn land where the protagonist is involved a lost cause.

Taking up where THE ANATOLIAN left off, BEYOND THE AEGEAN chronicles the Greek campaign to reclaim Anatolia (Asia Minor) from Turkey shortly after World War I. Stavros has become disillusioned with American materialism and materialistic American women; he welcomes the opportunity to live and prosper in a liberated Anatolia with an unliberated Anatolian wife. He feels he can help his countrymen best by using his American know-how and American connections to export Oriental rugs from the ancient port city of Smyrna.

The Greek incursion into Anatolia goes well as long as it is supported by Britain, France, and Italy; however, the dream of reconquest turns to ashes when the Greeks are abandoned by their powerful allies and overwhelmed by the Turkish army under the famous revolutionary soldier-statesman Mustafa Kemal. Stavros’s own dream of creating “another America in Anatolia” also ends in disillusionment. He returns to America but brings back an Anatolian bride, the passionate Thomna, hoping to salvage a tiny portion of his dream by creating a bit of Anatolia in America instead.

Elia Kazan, now eighty-five years old, is one of America’s most distinguished artists. He has achieved fame as a theatrical director, as an Academy Award-winning film director, and as a novelist. With his extensive cinematic experience, Kazan is able to create many colorful characters and striking dramatic scenes in his new novel.

The mixture of fact and fiction, however, is uneven; the burden of explaining history, geography, politics, commerce, and the complex ethnic relations in this ancient land threatens to capsize the story. Stavros is a merchant, an outsider, and an “American”; his entanglement in political and military matters often seems implausible.