East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Ruritanias of today

As assiduous readers of Karavansara know, I have always liked The Prisoner of Zenda – I first saw the movies (first the Stewart Granger film then the Ronald Colman) as a kid, and only later read the novels, and the whole concept of a pocket-sized state tucked away in some nook of the European map is a classic of belle epoque adventure fiction: operetta-style places, with Old Europe pomp and circumstance, the odd Strauss waltz, dashing men in uniforms and women with daring necklines and corsets…

The whole “there is this small state in the Balkans” thing of course also worked in the early years of the Cold War – Eric Ambler wrote such sorts of novels, off the top of my head. Uniforms took a more Soviet-style, old German scientists lingered in the shadows, and women wore berets and tight skirts. Music became less Strauss and more Bernard Herrman.

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