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  Monica Spiridon(University of Bucharest)HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF SPACE:   The Capital-City of Byzantium Even a cursory glance at the critical literature will reveal the utmost frequencyand importance of the category of “palimpsest” for interpreting (the) city-texts. I willchallenge one of the most recent contributions in this area:  Present Pasts. Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory  by   Andreas Huyssen. From the author’s pointof view, the palimpsest emerges as the major trope that ties together divergent artisticand media practices, constituting complex forms that generate public memory.It is obvious that Andreas Huyssen’s approach ends up as an inventory of thehorizontally and simultaneous erratic faces of an urban space - changing according tothe instruments of its representation - be they verbal, pictorial, architectural and so on.In my turn I myself would    prefer    a switch to the vertical dimension of an urban space,conceived as a multiple layer structure of historically different – and rather conflicting- memories.According to M.Halbwachs, memories hinting at collective identities implychoices on various levels. If choice is understood as a fundamental property of consciousness, a cognitive necessity and a cultural one too, we have to choose a perspective every time we speak and it becomes possible to argue that we constituteourselves as we speak. The content of memory and the messages it evokes are alsoineluctably social, insofar as they are acquired in the social world and can be coded in Symbol systems that are culturally familiar.We currently assign to our familiar spaces clusters of heteroclite symbolicrecollections. Consequently, what I will call a “palimpsest city” should rather be theresult of using urban spaces as instruments of the mutual interaction identity-memory.And even more as the development of collective identities based more on memorythan on history. Manipulating the relationship between present times and historical past to help refine and legitimise cultural identities is one of the main functions of the palimpsest-type representation of a city. Trough the processes of collective spatial   2representation, memory helps rescue irreversibly lost stretches of the past connectingit to the present.“Palimpsest” is the major trope of my attempt to single out the eclectic layersof memory piled up by the literary representations of the capital city of Byzantium.The concept calls attention to the different points of view and to the diverse strategiesof representation involved in naming, renaming and symbolic identifyingByzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul/Tsargrad as the centre of a centennial struggle for national independence and cultural legitimacy.The texts selected as relevant to our analysis belong to the Romanian fiction of the twentieth century. They help capture the changing attitudes and the heterogeneouslayers of sense assigned to the same urban space through the process of shifting itsnames. The capital-city of the Byzantine Empire has been identified as Byzantium,Constantinople, Istanbul or Tsargrad in particular circumstances by various groups of characters in works by the same author, or even by the same character in the same textrevolving around religious, political, social, economic or emotional variables.For the Romanians the Byzantine Empire has been a cradle of their nationaland cultural Origins, a space of the foundational memory. Alongside the WesternRoman heritage (the primary source of the Romanian language) the Eastern touch of Romanian Byzantine Christianity represented a worshiped pillar of national self-consciousness. The “  First Rome ” as a well as the allegedly “ Second  Rome ”(Byzantium/Constantinople) have embodied the twin roots of “Romanianness.”Romanian interwar historians have even diffused the hypothesis of acontinuous Byzantine spirituality between the Danube and the Carpathians after thefall of Constantinople, owing to the Greek cultural network active in the RomanianPrincipalities. This theory of a post-byzantine Byzantium is still an open chapter of the Romanian historiography and culture.However, memory has operated differently and in this respect literature is amore accurate account of the symbolic recollection of the Byzantine legacy byresorting to the present in various ways The relationship between past and present plays the main part in this processes and in the following text analyses I intend tounderline this point. Naming urban places is in itself a form of selective remembrance of things past at the same time a symbolic action. It can be a short-term process but mostfrequently it is a kind of long-term knowledge , intermingling past and present events   3in a way specific to all mnemonic processes. Both long-term knowledge and currentimpressions reflect attempts on the part of the perceiver to comprehend and to explainaspects of history. Some of these efforts of grasping meanings take the shape of explicit symbolic form with reference to category labels .  * * *In order to lay emphasis on my line of argument I have selected two parallelsets of texts from the twentieth century Romanian fiction. The first series consist of roughly speaking historical novels and they are to be stylistically considered serioustexts, within the framing polarity  grave - comic. In order to help refine myconclusions two of the three novels belong to the same author. Creanga de aur  ( The Golden Bough),  by Mihail Sadoveanu, one of the most prominent novelists of the Romanian literature, takes the form of a typical parableand was published between the two world wars. The second text, also by Sadoveanuis  Zodia Cancerului sau Vremea Ducai Voda ( The Sign of the Cancer or the Reign of     Prince Duca ) an allegedly realist historical evocation that juggles in its backgroundwith the theme of the Good Savage turned upside down. (This means that the figureof the foreign traveller is a commissioner of the seventeenth century Paris facing aradically different if not a barbarian civilization). The third novel  Adio,    Europa (  A Farewell to Europe ) was produced during Ceausescu’s rule, but never publishedduring its author lifetime, due to censorship. After the fall of communism it was published posthumously and it holds the rare reputation” in Romania of genuine“drawer literature.”The author of The Golden Bough uses the well-too known convention of theframed story. The narrator, a geologist travelling across the Carpathians with hisdisciples, practices a symbolic profession, as he is also addicted to hermeneutics. Inhis frequent evening talks by the fire with his students the logic of empirichistoriography is frequently at the forefront on the discussion. Professor Stamatinopenly doubts historical reason and its utility: “I have never thought they might getanything out of such wreckage of the time-ocean” - maintains the devotee to thealternative of imaginary projections based on memory and credited with a paramountforce of revelation. In the aftermath of his accidental death, the disciples come acrosshis manuscript called The Golden Bough, the fictitious journey of a future local leader from the peaks of the Carpathians down to the imperial Byzantium. It is obviously a   4voyage through the strata of the collective memory towards one of the hallow sourcesof Romanian identity - The Eastern Roman Empire and its capital-city.Surprisingly enough this city is never identified as Constantinople – its nameat the time – but is called Byzantium, by its oldest name. From the point of view of the protagonist - a pilgrim coming down from the Danube to the Mediterranean - andespecially for that of his homeland’s self consciousness, only the mould of the empirereally matters.Insignificant in itself, Constantinople – the city of the savage emperor Constantine, the Isaurian - stands for the very idea of Byzantium. The traveller deciphers the layers of a manifold reality – the eternal, significant and noteworthylevel and the secular, worldly and ephemeral one. In Sadoveanu’s novel space isvalued by an ethnic group (the ancestors of the Romanians) by means of thecontrasting pairs  secular-millennial  or  eternal- ephemeral  : “These are foreigners, barbarians from northern and southern regions, and they are after the phantasms and passions of the transient moment; what is alive in their hearts is not the eternalByzantium, it is a Byzantium that lives for one day.”As the main character sharply notices, in early May of the year 787 Byzantium,the capital-city was “an abyss of delights where all peoples mixed and mingled.” Nonetheless, his commitments push him to become familiar with all the details of the“seat of the greatest empire”, apparently “a paradise on earth and the hub of theworld.”Cesarion Breb has been commissioned to explore the backbone of the empireand the true order of Christ, which had arrived by the Danube banks and around theCarpathians from the imperial city. He is looking for the hidden marks of a veryspecial city – best called Celestial Byzantium - an equivalent of the Celestial  Jerusalem, secured by the collective memory and by its products: perennial songs, oldsayings and out-of-date manuscripts. On the contrary, what he runs into is the city of corrupt and decayed emperors - a Constantine-city (“Constantine polis”).The book strongly stresses one of the emotional obsessions of the Romanian identity: theimperial syndrome, the overrated interest in the memory of the empires engraved inthe national past.This syndrome is the source of a two-sided evaluation. First of all a positiveone, since the Romanian culture descends from two impressive empires -linguistically from the imperial Rome (the  First Rome ) and religiously from the   5Byzantine empire and from its capital-city, the Second Rome . There is also a negativeeven demonised dimension assigned to empires by the same syndrome: their capacity to generate the downgrade of civilisation and of humanity, which results incorruption, decay and death.Both sides are present and in contrast in the Golden Bough. However, onlythe second one is striking in The Sign of the Cancer, by the same author. The narrativefocuses more closely on the events and on the point of view of the “westernforeigner”, on his way across Moldavia towards Istanbul, and leaves more room for arich variety of subtle nuances. The narrative shift that occurs in the second novel isobviously strategic and keeps the doors open to constantly playing with the names of the former Byzantine capital. In this novel Sadoveanu’s characters use three names of the same city in parallel – Constantinople/ Stambul (the Romanian name of Istanbul atthat time) and also Tsargrad. The process of naming/renaming has evidently beendribbled through numerous strata of personal and group recollections.   The good will ambassador of Louis the fourteenth – the abbot de Marenne – is the only one to occasionally refer to Istanbul as Constantinople. The memory of Constantinople, the former capital city of a deceased empire, accidentally haunts thelonely reflections of the French traveller between the Western and the Eastern Europe.His journey across the Romanian Principalities stirs this kind of bittersweet reflectionsand he mentions the old name of the city only when thinking at the hazardous destinyof his friend prince Alecu, the fierce enemy of Duca. Apart from this, seizing theopportunity of a brief outlook of the city, an impersonal narrative voice reminds thereaders of the twilight of Constantinople, now sleeping beneath the dwellings of anewborn empire, mingling with the walls of the sparkling Istanbul. This auctorialvoice is rather absent and vaguely melancholic, like an echo of the well known adage:” Sic transit gloria mundi.”  Both Istanbul (Stambul) and Tsargrad are names that imply a negative imageof the empire and of its capital-city. Stambul is the name of a non European, Orientalcity. It emblematically refers to a hostile and barbarian conqueror, different inlanguage, values and customs from his victims – heirs of the first and of the secondRome, being keen on the Byzantine type outfits, on civility codes, on cooking recipesand on royal etiquette. Except from the French traveller, all native characters also usethe third parallel name: Tsargrad. This is the Slavic translation for the formula: “ the
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