The dead man who wasn’t there

It is still too early to say whether the history of Ancient Amphipolis, where archaeologists are now digging up a massive and splendid tomb, will provide material for a Hollywood film – the ambition of many a Greek tourism minister. If we do get to enjoy a decent movie set here one day, it will hopefully not be reminiscent of those Indiana Jones-style movies that have so often come to memory over the past few weeks but more suited to the political fantasy genre. It could be the story of how the supposedly non-populist politicians hijacked science. Or we could be in for a crime thriller with a twist, as the most wanted man will not be the killer but, instead, the dead man.

Meanwhile, we appear to be closer to poetry territory rather than cinema. I quote here from Manolis Anagnostakis’s poem “The Dead Man:”

“The first telegrams began to arrive / The newspaper presses ground to a halt and waited / Orders were given to the proper authorities. / But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour. / All wore black ties / Rehearsed broken-hearted postures before their mirrors / The first lamentations began to be heard. the grievous laudations. / But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour. / Finally the hours dragged into days / Those dreadful days of waiting […] But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.”

Likewise, the media have for weeks awaited the big news: “Dead man found.” Sure, some things are different. Ties are not mournful but festive, colorful, blue-and-white. The postures before the mirrors are not “broken-hearted” but proud, upright, almost arrogant. And there are no lamentations to be heard,only cries of enthusiasm about the global admiration that Greece has once again received.

For one thing, the word “die” should give its place to “turn up:” “But the dead man would not turn up at the appointed hour.” For although we still don’t know who this person is and are not in possession of information that would give credence to our assumptions, we are certain that it’s someone “great.” Perhaps even the one and only, the Great, the man who, according to various irresponsible Greeks and foreigners prone to psychoanalyzing the entire nation, the country needs to restore its broken spirit.

This was the story throughout the summer, with some reports saying a clearer picture would emerge by Christmas. Political time, however, runs much faster than archaeological time. In the end the former overtook the latter and demanded a quicker pace, even at the risk of turning painstaking research into sloppy results.

So much anxiety, so many expectations systematically nurtured through high-ranking visits, a tomb spokesperson and live television coverage. But the dead man would not appear on the appointed hour.

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