Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Plagiarism between Orientalism and Balkanism: Anthony Rhodes and Bosnia

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Plagiarism between Orientalism and Balkanism: Anthony Rhodes and Bosnia

Article excerpt

Anthony Rhodes's travelogue Where the Turk Trod: A Journey to Sarajevo with a Slavonic Mussulman (1956) and his novel The Prophet's Carpet (1961), both based on his visit to Bosnia, exemplify the fairly conventional Western European view of the Balkans as a separate, different part of Europe--quaint, romantic, and Oriental. This perspective can be illustrated with a few examples from British travel- and other writing, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth, as well as with examples from outside of literature. Writing in 1898, William Miller locates the Balkans in the "Near East" and emphasizes the difference between it and Europe. (1) In 1931, Geoffrey Rhodes also uses the term "Near East" to describe Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, (2) while Lawrence Durrell, making a trip to Bosnia from Belgrade in 1949, sees Sarajevo as an 18th-century Turkish town. (3) In The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, under the entry of "Orientalism," author J. A. Cuddon situates the beginning of the East, from the British perspective, in Bosnia and in Sarajevo in particular. The Bosnian capital, he says, is the northernmost point that camel trains could safely travel to; beyond that--he claims in a memorable if doubtful description--camels "developed sore throats, bronchitis and other pulmonary afflictions." (4) As late as 1990, Richard Bassett's travelogue Balkan Hours carries the telling subtitle "Travels in the Other Europe"; its author feels that he is crossing a civilizational divide when he turns inland from the Adriatic coast into Bosnia and "the Balkan fastness." (5) Let us add that many British journalists reporting from Sarajevo during the recent war wondered at their surprising cultural "find": the Bosnian Muslims didn't look Middle-Eastern, as they had expected, and were leading ordinary European lives.

But the books by Anthony Ewart Rhodes (1916-2004), journalist, travel writer, and novelist, (6) seem to go a step further in this view of Bosnia, developing and deepening, as it were, the Orientalist and Balkanist gaze of other Western European observers. (7) In both works, Bosnia, part of the new, modernizing post-Second World War Yugoslavia, is also seen as a still living East and a land locked into its peculiar past, separated if not severed from Europe. In his first "Bosnian" book, Where the Turk Trod, a late traditional-style travel account, Rhodes describes Bosnia's contemporary scene, its social and political realities in the early 1950s, yet at the same time he takes pains to deal with his subject anachronistically, creating a historicized and stylized image of the land he is observing. These two ways of seeing clash, producing a textual tension between the largely imagined past Bosnia and the Bosnia actually experienced. Often, this contrast between the two representations creates confusion.

The anachronistic elements in Rhodes's undertaking in Where the Turk Trod, both in journeying and in writing, are exemplified by his mode of traveling (on horseback and on foot), his reliance on older travel books, and, last but not least, by his motive for going to Bosnia. He wanted to travel to this Balkan land, which he had visited once as a child, in order to "examine Turkish remains" there (9), (8) see "a slice of feudal Europe preserved" (10), and find the answer to the question if the West, historically speaking, "had [...] not painted the Turk blacker than he deserved" (10-11). Rhodes also wanted to establish whether the adage "Where the Turk trod no grass grows" was still valid. In addition to this, especially when answering officials' questions, he offers other reasons for visiting Bosnia, as when he tells a policeman in Herzegovina that he is "travelling for pleasure, hoping to shoot a bear" (62). Rhodes visited Bosnia in the summer and fall of 1954. He took a ship from Rijeka down the Adriatic coast to Makarska, where he bought two horses and hired a guide for the trip to Sarajevo; in the Bosnian capital, his final destination, he sold the horses and sent the guide back. …

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