the short story project

In Broad Daylight

Amir Tzukerman On:

In Broad Daylight by C. P. Cavafy

It’s well known that Cavafy, a firm believer in poetry, didn’t hold his prose in high regard. As Michalis Pieris, editor of Cavafy’s complete prose edition, the Alexandrian Greek poet “abjured three activities: giving lectures, granting interviews, and writing prose.” Nevertheless, albeit the obvious gap between Cavafy’s poems and his works of prose (for the most part articles, short essays and critical reviews,) some of his prose writings are not without elegance, perhaps also including the posthumously published “In Broad Daylight,” which was the only short story written by the poet. This is a tale of mystery in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, whose influence on the French poet Charles Baudelaire arose Cavafy interest in the genre of fantastic prose. The story was probably written during the winter of 1895-6, in the mid of the ten-year period that Cavafologists tend to associate with the poet’s spiritual and aesthetic attraction to symbolism and adjacent cultural and artistic trends, including Aestheticism, Esotericism and Decadence. The main plot is narrated by the poet’s friend, who tells of how he missed an opportunity to win a hidden treasure just by failing to show up for a meeting that was agreed upon in a dream. As is proper for fantastic prose, the tale skirts the thin border between reality and dream, between the actual and the supernatural, and thus leaves both the tale’s hearers (in the story) and the reader in a “fantastic climate” of doubts regarding the veracity of the narrator-friend and the ontological status of the depicted phenomena and occurrences – with the question “did it happen or didn’t it?” being left hanging in the air; troubling.