Although some critics consider The Mask of Dimitrios to be the least worthy of Ambler’s five pre-war novels, it is notable for its description, in the chapter “1922”, of the destruction of Smyrna (today’s Izmir, Turkey) in September 1922.
Denys Leighton, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of Languages and Literature, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
The Mask of Dimitrios (1939) is an espionage novel by Eric Ambler (1909-1998), a recognised master of the genre, and is set in interwar Europe and the western part of West Asia. The novel depicts a world of displaced persons, Nansen passports (named for Norwegian explorer and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen), vulnerable exile communities, shady armaments dealers, conmen and corrupt policemen.
Although some critics consider The Mask of Dimitrios to be the least worthy of Ambler’s five pre-war novels, it is notable for its description, in the chapter “1922”, of the destruction of Smyrna (today’s Izmir, Turkey) in September 1922. Greek armies entered the collapsing Ottoman empire in 1919.
Having joined the winning side in the world war, the Greeks were recognised by the Allies as a legitimate occupation force in Asia Minor and Anatolia. By the summer of 1922 they had been defeated and they retreated in poor order from central Anatolia, ahead of the armies of Mustafa Kemal (subsequently honoured as “Father of Turks”). The Greek forces’ escape through Smyrna and their failure to protect Greek civilians of Asia Minor was the last gasp of a project to reclaim a Great Greece, or the “Greek Idea”, that had animated Hellenic patriots for more than a century.
The Smyrna tragedy has been a defining feature of modern nation-building in Greece and Turkey, both in its remembrance and its silencing. For successive generations of Greeks, the burning of most of Smyrna, the slaughter of masses of unprotected civilians and the scattering of thousands was the defining experience of the “Asia Minor Catastrophe”.
Published in: Scroll.in
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