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Tuesday: July 22, 2008

Quantum Mutati ab Illis

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:47 PM UTC

“Where is he from?”

Bracoletti answered without hesitation, lowering his voice, and with a gesture indicating the most complete disenchantment:

“He is a Greek from Athens.”

My interest sank like water absorbed by sand. When one has traveled in the Orient and through the ports of the Levant, one readily acquires the habit, perhaps unjust, of viewing the Greeks with suspicion. The first time one meets any of them, especially those who have been to the university and have classical educations, one’s enthusiasm is somewhat aroused; one thinks of Alcibiades and Plato, of the glories of a free and artistic people, and in imagination one recalls the august proportions of the Parthenon. But after being with a number of them at the tables d’hôte and on the decks of the Messageries steamers, and especially after having heard the legends of rascality that they have left behind from Smyrna to Tunis, one’s reactions to the others one meets are likely to take the form of buttoning one’s coat quickly, of crossing one’s arms tightly over one’s watch chain, and of racking one’s brains to guard against some escroquerie. The cause of this unfortunate reputation is that the Greeks who emigrate to the Levantine ports are an infamous crowd, part lackey and part pirate, a clever and unscrupulous gang of robbers.

(Eça de Queiroz, “A Lyric Poet”, in The Mandarin and Other Stories, tr. R. F. Goldman, 1964, pp. 135-36)

1 Comment »

  1. This quote reminds me of the things Paul Theroux has to say about the Greeks in his book about traveling around the Mediterranean, The Pillars of Hercules. He does not like them very much, but considers the Turks to be among the most polite and considerate people he’s met in all his travels.

    Comment by Vance — Sunday: August 17, 2008 @ 5:17 PM UTC

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