On the Quay at Smyrna (Working Title 3.2)
On the Quay at Smyrna narrates in awful detail the violence and suffering wrought by the Turks during the Greco-Turkish War, seen primarily through the eyes of a teenage girl. It conveys the vibrant sights and smells, the sounds and tastes, the daily routines—with all their tedium and richness—that characterized the lives of its inhabitants from the days before the city's sacking. Margot Demopoulos tells the story of Penelope, the adolescent daughter of a Greek Smyrniot banker and a mother renowned within the city and beyond as a healer. The family is cosmopolitan, and planning a move to Paris in the autumn, where Penelope will study art. Their lives are comfortable and privileged, surrounded by the songs of the birds kept by Penelope's sister, Nikki, as well as the kilims, coffee, dates, and flowers for which Turkey and Smyrna were (and remain) famous. Penelope's best friend is the daughter of a French consular official. Her new boyfriend is a Turkish Smyrniot who works for an American licorice company. Her concerns are those of a well-off young woman with a talent for watercolor and a blossoming illicit love. Through Penelope, Demopoulos limns the thinness of the line between war at a “safe” distance, and war as it closes in and finally breaks upon the city. With rich foreshadowing, imagery, and dialogue, she develops an increasing atmosphere of threat, building like the heat the narrator describes, discomfiting the reader as it inevitably disrupts the routines of the characters. Read an excerpt here, and purchase on Kobo, Amazon, or Weightless Books.
Margot Demopoulos has published work in the Sewanee Review, Kenyon Review, Harvard Review Online, Fiction International, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Patrick Leigh Fermor: We May Just Forget to Die,” and her novel excerpt, “The Invasion,” were published in the Massachusetts Review.
Michael Thurston is the Helen Means Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College. He is the author of Reading Postwar British and Irish Poetry (with Nigel Alderman); The Underworld in Twentieth-Century Poetry: From Pound and Eliot to Heaney and Walcott, and Making Something Happen: American Political Poetry between the World Wars. He co-edited Modernism, Inc.: Body, Capital, Memory, with Jani Scandura.