Mirrors in 19th-century Greek prose fiction: The King of Hades (Constantinople, 1882)

Title: Mirrors in 19th-century Greek prose fiction: The King of Hades (Constantinople, 1882)
Source document: Neograeca Bohemica. 2019, vol. 19, iss. [1], pp. [25]-46
  • ISSN
    1803-6414 (Print)
    2694-913X (Online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
In 19th-century Modern Greek life, the most common written word that means 'mirror' was 'katoptron'. It is well-known that during this period katoptron as a material object still indicated luxury and welfare. Many 19th-century Modern Greek writers, just like their colleagues in Europe, used 'katoptron' as a means of mirroring in metaphorical and symbolic ways: it mirrors the body but reflects the soul, it tells truths or lies, it reveals the future or the past, it provokes feelings and emotions, joy or despair, self-complacency or remorse. A widespread use of katoptron during the same period made the mirror equivalent to a means that provides a wide periscopic or panoramic point of view, a full inspection of an issue discussed by the writer. But it appears that there was a wider spread of the use of katoptron/mirror as a synonym of profound (and meant to be scientific) research on social and individual morality. Some of these meanings of katoptron can be found in the three-volume Modern Greek novel The King of Hades published in Constantinople in 1882, written by Konstantinos Megarefs and obviously inspired by the famous The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) by Alexandre Dumas. The present paper examines the role of the mirror in this novel in the context of the aforementioned meanings. Subsequently it focuses on a very special use of a mirror as a secret key-mechanism and invisible door/passage leading to an underground space used for escape, hiding, and punishment, and it discusses this particular use of the mirror as a constructive element in the mystery novel.
  • An oral, abbreviated version of this paper has been presented in the International Workshop Mirrors and Mirroring. From Antiquity to the Early Modern Period, organized by Lilia Diamantopoulou (University of Vienna) and Maria Gerolemou (University of Cyprus), University of Vienna, Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Vienna, 6–7/10/2017.