Monday, March 19, 2012

Akko, or When days were long and knights were short

Fletcher Flora didn't just have one of the more unlikely names in noir; he could also write the stuff.

His story "As I Lie Dead" (1953) reminded me of why the American movies later called films noirs were once known as melodramas. It is overheated with sex and doom from the beginning and, as a bonus, I did not see its end coming.
*
I read "As I Lie Dead" on the train to Akko (Acre), one of the oldest in a land of ancient cities. Akko/Acre was the final stronghold of the Crusader states in the Holy Land, a place where all but the shortest Knights Templar must have taken the lord's name in vain as they smacked their medieval heads against the low roof of what some people today think was an escape tunnel.

The city's real big knights were the Hospitallers, whose "subterranean" Crusader fortress was spectacularly well preserved because subsequent occupiers simply filled its halls with rubble and buried them.

Anyone who was anyone knew about Akko, wrote about it, or invaded it: The pharaohs.  The folks who wrote the Bible. Newcomers like the ancient Greeks, the Romans,  the Crusaders, and Napoleon. I suggest that you follow them.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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16 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I have heard of Acre, but the variation Akko is new to me.

March 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The city is called "Akko" in Hebrew (and something similar in Arabic), and the name is transcribed as "Akko" here. "Acre" sounds French, and it could well be French. This would be no surprise, considering the French association with the city, both during the Crusades and during Napoleon's time. The old city's ramparts add French to the usual Hebrew, Arabic, and English on their historic signs.

March 20, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

From the "Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names® Online":

ʻAkko
Akko
Acca
Acre
Accho (Old Testament name)
Acco
Ace
Saint-Jean-d'Acre (after First Crusade, 1174)
St. Jean-d'Acre
Ptolemais (New Testament name)
Palastina
Aca Ptolemais
Colonia Ptolemais
Palastina
Aca Ptolemais
Colonia Ptolemais

A useful Wikipedia entry states: "The Crusaders called the city 'Acre' or 'Saint-Jean d'Acre' since they mistakenly identified it with the Philistine city of Ekron, in northern Philistia, now southern Israel."

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My advice to travelers is to arm one's self with the necessary nomenclatural knowledge before setting out, just as one would when traveling to Mons/Bergen in Belgium.

March 20, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I somehow see myself standing at some crossroads, staring down at a torn and near illegible piece of paper and reading these aloud to some resident one by one, while watching them growing increasingly perplexed.

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

For some reason, Monty Python came to mind when I read this post.

The Knights who say Ni...

Beautiful photo, BTW.

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you're a romantic at heart, albeit one who may not have a good sense of direction.

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

For some reason, Monty Python came to mind when I read this post.

The Knights who say Ni...


Of course it did.

Thanks for the compliment on the photo. That hall must be the most photographed site in Acre/Akko. One sees it all over tourist brochures and so on.

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Janet Rudolph said...

Loving your 'travelogue'.. wish I were there!

March 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

L'shana Ha-ba-ah Birushalayim!

March 20, 2012  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I'm just thinking aloud here, but what if Fletcher Flora had been christened Flora Fletcher, somewhat along the lines of 'A Boy Named Sue', and he had gotten his revenge on his father by changing his name, albeit by deed poll, to Fletcher Flora
(even if Fletcher Christian was now known to be somewhat foppish, rather than the more masculine imagining, a la the casting of Clark Gable)

March 23, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Fletch would make a better dimunitive than Florrie, so you could be right.

I am glad you're treating this matter with the high seriousness it deserves.

March 24, 2012  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Don't mind me, Peter; like I said, just thinking aloud.

I think Florrie was the first name of a character in 'The Irish R.M.'
(that's just by the by)

March 24, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And Florence was both Lillian Hellman's middle name and the name of Raymond Chandler's mother.

March 24, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I had an Aunt Florence!

And Chandler's middle name was his mother's maiden name!

Of such stuff is trivia made...

From Charles Kelly's brief bio of "Fletcher Flora" in the Stark House Noir Classics reprint of Park Avenue Tramp: "[Flora] was very amused by one British reviewer's remark that the name Fletcher Floyd Flora [!] 'had to be pen name.' In fact, its origins were English. The writer was descended from a Flora exiled to the New World from England for stealing a handkerchief."

March 28, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As if Fletcher Flora were not enough, he was also Floyd? What a blessing.

"The writer was descended from a Flora exiled to the New World from England for stealing a handkerchief."

That's the favorite sentence of my day so far.

March 29, 2012  

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