12 September 2013

Posted by Anna Notaras | File under : , , ,
With her name as my writing pseudonym, I pay a tribute to a most stunning female character in literature. Decidedly unique through her struggle, Anna is a Greek woman born as nobility, profoundly attracted by the values of the Orthodox Christian faith and thus having a conflicting self. In the attempt to stay true to these original values, one cannot easily and wisely reconcile such spirituality (a doctrine of humbleness) with the demands of upper class life. Moreover, when passionate love comes into the picture, the drama is deepened and choices become more tragic.

When one is used to the finer things in life, to society's ways, to the worldly logic, as it is called, to modern life actually, letting go of its safe harbour can be a terrifying experience. When people around you are used to doing things in the 'modern way', it is hard to break away and swim against the stream.

Anna ventures into a world that the noble, rich and powerful don't fully understand. Their earthly safety replaces the divine truths, the never-changing laws of the universe (and the spirit). Her family is focused on wealth and politics. Other nobles around are being corrupt and focused on earthly pleasures.

The first visible side of Anna - caprice, doubt, fear and submission

At first, Anna Notaras appears in Mika Waltari's novel as a capricious, spoiled, fearful, hesitant
noblewoman who doesn't really know what to do about all the attention she's getting from a seductive stranger she is clearly attracted to. It is her status that matters, her reputation, her family and her possibilities to survive the siege of Constantinople. Anna loves life. Ioannis Anghelos, her secret lover and a "dark angel of death", comes to challenge all that. He struggles to convince her that there is no future, no chance (or reason) for survival, and that all the rules and hopes she hangs on to are of no worth. Here is where the author begins to shine through his splendid understanding of the feminine nature...

Anna the woman - a worrier, a problem solver, a peace agent

Anna is, first of all, a Woman. She strives to accomplish more than one thing at once, to reconcile the conflicting parts, to solve all existing problems... and to keep on living. She wants her father's honour unharmed, and she also aims to stay next to her man. She uses feminine wisdom and slyness to escape her well-guarded home, to arrange secret rendezvous, to make influential friends and keep them close for they may be needed later (such as in the scene of her meeting and seducing Giustiniani, the Genoese captain, who will later protect the two). Anna Notaras shows great skill and cleverness as she joins the nuns, the new status granting her efficient cover and freedom to be in a city she wasn't supposed to be in. She dreams of a life when she can live next to her husband, preferring a humble existence to a glorious sacrifice. Anna does her best to change her lover's decisions and convince him to save himself from the deadly siege. She chooses life at first.

Another great example of her struggle to make things right and the adaptable (or manipulative?) feminine way to make a situation better is to be found in the following: at a certain point Anna has a burst and she argues with Ioannis about how he is never pleased with her behaviour. When she acts in conformity with her status, bears herself with pride and adorns her body with rich garments and jewellery, he treats her as a temptation, with great indignation. When she gives into the spiritual values and wears the modest garments of a nun, she is again regarded as inappropriate.

Bravery and a sense of justice

The turning point of the book - regarding Anna's character especially - is when she finds out about the treason planned by her father: to open a gate and let the Ottomans inside the fortress city, thus buying their right to be spared and live as a noble family. By this time the Byzantine lady has solidified her values. She is well aware of the unfairness of such situation. Taking her brother's armour, she goes out by herself during the siege and tries to prevent the opening of that gate, thus going against her father's cunning plan. Unfortunately, this is where she meets her death.

Anna chooses death eventually

For a while, we keep on seeing the moody Anna. After many pages about Ioannis and his struggles during the siege, we meet her again, this time changed in a totally spectacular way. She has decided to join her beloved, her husband, thus reconciling both her sense of justice and her faith in God. Anna Notaras, the woman who would do anything possible to turn her man away from the deadly battle and make him choose life, now chooses to fight next to him and die together. Not only did she mentally commit to that option, but she actually did a lot by herself: stole her brother's armour, reached the commander, went past the lustful and rude soldiers and finally met her husband to communicate him the decision and stay with him. She had all the chances to live, but she realises that a life without her love is useless. Ioannis himself is shocked by her decision. He can't understand why a life lover like her, why the most beautiful woman in Constantinople, who would surely survive, now chooses to die defending the already doomed city.

Quicker than Ioannis

The twist is surely surprising: although Anna has been the weak and hesitating one, she is very firm when the time comes to stand against treason and defend the city - or, better said, the principles. While Ioannis travelled to Constantinople to die with it, awaiting death day by day, dreaming of the supreme sacrifice in the name of all that he believes in - and it's been a long, well-thought plan for him - Anna accomplishes this briefly. She sees the danger, confronts the situation with her own values and goes to have her say. The soldiers then kill her without hesitation. The one who was supposed to survive, the one who had all the chances to do so, dies before Ioannis.

Anna Notaras
An interpretation of Anna Notaras

1 comment:

  1. Bună seara,
    Am descoperit acum câteva zile blogul D-stră si-l apreciez.Doresc să vă contactez. Numele de la adresa mea email (citit de la dreapta la stânga !) vă poate da o indicaţie.
    Pe curând
    Cu stimă