Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nationalist History

The history of nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendezvous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny.

Mark Mazower, Salonica: City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews. (New York: Knopf, 2005), 349.

Mazower's wonderful book is an account of a Levantine city (compare Constantinople/Istanbul, Smyrna/Izmir, Beirut, Alexandria, Candia, Venice?), and perhaps more the work of a historian than the luxuriance of Philip Mansel's Constantinople: City of the World's Desire.

An interesting question here is whether the attraction of Levantine cities to modern writers really reflects the attractions of the actual cities to their inhabitants, or whether it is a function of the appreciation for diversity of modern world cities by modern elites. In other words, Viva Nueva Yorque, Baja Jacksonville!

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