Saturday, June 4, 2011

Istrati and the White Slave Trade

Mediterranean (Sunrise) follows the young vagabond Adrien Zograffi as he sets sail from his native Romania. Aboard his steamer, he meets a fellow passenger from steerage, Moussa, a Romanian Jew who is traveling to Alexandria, Egypt, in an attempt to bring a wayward daughter, Sarah, now being pimped for little money by her boyfriend, back into the fold. 

Adrien and Moussa, both house painters, join forces, and together they travel the Eastern Mediterranean. In Cairo, penniless and hungry, they are bankrolled by the diabolical but persuasive Solomon Klein, who specializes in resupplying the brothels of Buenos Aires and the fleshpots of coastal Brazil. The two painters, working as itinerant decorators in the mountain villages above Beirut, are witnesses to and participants in the events that seal Sarah's fate.
Mediterranean (Sunrise), a short novel, was one of Istrati's last, and its evocations of friendship, of Alexandria and Cairo and the Eastern Mediterranean at the dawn of the twentieth century, of prostitution, make it very nearly the equal of such early Istrati novels as Kyra Kyralina.

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