Book Release for City of Man's Desire, 
A Novel of Constantinople
by Cornelia Golna

Title: City of Man’s Desire, A Novel of Constantinople
Author: Cornelia Golna
Publisher: Go-Bos Press / BookSurge LLC
Place and Date of Publication: South Carolina, December 2005
ISBN: 1-4196-1247-6
Price: $15.00
Description: Soft cover, 427 pgs.
Availability: /

Book Description

Constantinople 1908. Even as the Ottoman Empire’s cosmopolitan capital teeters on the brink of upheaval, the Greek girl Theodora’s concerns center around her family and thwarted infatuations. Then the flamboyant Russian exile Natalya Petrovna and her brother Vlad enter her life. Their disturbing presence, coinciding with the rebellion of the Young Turks, draws Theodora into an unfamiliar, volatile world. Revolutions take people by surprise; they raise hopes by promising change. City of Man’s Desire recounts how the lives of several individuals intertwine as they struggle to adapt to a new reality that, despite the designs of men, follows its own unpredictable course.

City caught between reason and mystique--A Review by Journalist Olaf Tempelman

Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul – the city’s name was changed time and again, churches were converted into mosques and later still into museums. But something of its essence remained unchanged. The city was and is the end of Europe and the beginning of the Orient, the object of desire of Eastern Christendom and Islam, lying on the fault line between reason and mysticism. It has enthralled Westerners to the point of ecstasy but filled them too with fear. The debate about Turkey’s entrance into the European Union once more spotlights the fact that Western Europe’s relationship with the city has remained one of tension, doubt, and fear.

Western Europe has never been able to ignore the city. It has weighed heavily on the scales of European history, and will continue to be crucial for a future Europe. Knowledge of the world that exists behind its modern facade is vital. Sometimes an impressive historical novel says more than non-fiction. This is the case with City of Man’s Desire – A novel of Constantinople, the literary debut of Cornelia Golna, a classicist of Greek-Romanian origin who grew up in the United States and resides in the Netherlands. Golna takes the reader to a world that no longer exists, but which is crucial for an understanding of Turkey and the Balkans of today. The book leaves the mystery of the city completely intact, but is highly illuminating.

Golna places her novel in the most important period in Constantinople’s recent history, the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. The Ottoman Empire is in serious decay. In 1908, the Young Turks – one of whom was Atatürk – seize power with the aim of transforming the sultan’s immense, multi-cultural empire into a modern European state. Of all the fault lines treated in City of Man’s Desire, the one separating tradition from modernity and nationalism is the most significant.

The book succeeds on all fronts. It is rich in imagery, evokes the atmosphere beautifully, and it is also an exciting story about doomed love in a turbulent time. But perhaps its greatest strength lies in its characters, almost all of whom symbolize an attitude, a tradition, or a culture. The young Turkish revolutionary Murad is a relentless Ottoman Robespierre. The Western intellectuals Nils Petterson and John Townsend represent the contradictory ways in which the West has always looked upon the city; the first stands for cool reason, the second for naive-lyrical awe. When from the modernist corner it is put to Townsend that a Socrates could never have existed in the top-heavy, buzzing Byzantine climate of Constantinople, he replies: “Starkness is no substitute for a garden grown wild and profuse.”

About the Author

Cornelia Golna grew up and studied in the United States, where she received a Master’s degree in classics. The child of a Greek father and a Romanian mother, she left America in the mid 1970s to search for her roots, a journey that took her to Greece and Turkey, ultimately to communist Romania. She was inspired by her odyssey to delve deeper into the past of her parents’ Balkan world, to its fascinating predecessor, the dying Ottoman Empire, which became the backdrop of her novel, City of Man’s Desire. She now lives in the Netherlands with her husband and daughter.

HCS readers may wish to read releases or announcements of other books in our Books section or in our extensive, permanent archives at the URL

2000 © Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.