The Ghost That Haunted Trabzon: Rose Macaulay and the Towers of Trebizond
Rose Macaulay’s 1956 novel The Towers of Trebizond tells the story of the journey across Turkey of narrator Laurie (based on Macaulay herself) and her Aunt Dot, who wishes to emancipate Turkish women, and The Rev Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg, who is exploring the possibility of setting up an Anglican mission in Turkey. The missionary projects of Aunt Dot and the Rev Chantry-Pigg are treated satirically. Laurie’s quest is handled with greater seriousness, as she seeks to reconcile her desire to re-join the Anglican Communion, from which she believes her adulterous relationship with her lover Vere, excludes her. Laurie’s religious dilemma leads her to search for answers to the spiritual questions that haunt her in the ruins of the Byzantine city of Trebizond; modern day Trabzon.
The proposed paper is concerned with the imaginative mapping of the past of Byzantine history onto present day Turkey, in which Laurie and her companions travel. This imaginative mapping will be read in relation to problems of Orientalism, religious quest and pilgrimage, and the questions of love, sin and grace by which Laurie is haunted.
Laurie’s quest finds fleeting resolution at Trabzon, and again at Jerusalem, where she goes later in the novel. However, it is not until she returns to England, and Vere is killed in a road accident, that she accepts the partiality of her religious experience and her exclusion from the church which sets an ideal of moral conduct that she concludes is beyond her.
The lost Trebizond becomes a symbol for a spiritual quest that reaches its end not in the apprehension of the completeness she sought, but in the acceptance of the fragmented and incomplete nature of her modern religious experience, which ‘like a ghost that roves whispering about its old haunts, (is) looking always for something that is not there.’
Keywords: Pilgrimage, Religion, Faith, Quest, Orientalism
Dr. Anthony Lake
Assistant Professor, English Language and Literature, Fatih University