But this “room with a view” is also metaphorical. The Mediterranean, as imagined by the North, is where you expect to “open a window” to erotic, tactile or – most crudely – alcoholic liberation. For several generations, the Mediterranean was rather like what Polynesia was to Gauguin: a place where people walked about unclothed and uninhibited, where all you needed to be happy was the sun and a handful of figs, a place where physical liberation met philosophy, ancient wisdom and civilization. This is the Mediterranean of Salvatore’s film Mediterraneo, a Greek island that resists even the war being waged around it. It is the Mediterranean of Renato Baretic’s novel Osmi povjerenik (“The eighth commissioner”) – an isolated island where a strange dialect is spoken, where the locals refuse to recognise any external authority, and where the protagonist finds refuge from the rebarbative reality of a corrupt and cynical Croatia in transition. It is the Mediterranean of Alexander Sacher Masoch’s Die Ölgärten brennen (“The olive groves are burning”): the beautiful island of Korcula (another island!), where the longevity of the olive grove and the wisdom of the ordinary man defeats Nazi evil. This is the Mediterranean sought, though frequently not found, by the heroes of great European literature and film.
more from Jurica Pavicic at Eurozine here.