Sun Over Santorini, chapter alert and author’s notes—
Dima’s moody, Ian’s gone all philosophy professor, and Peltsin is way closer than either of them realize. Tomorrow is the ferry to Mykonos — if the auto-injectors full of muscle relaxant don’t do their jobs first and land Dima at the Soviet embassy!
Ian’s not quite sure where his head is. He’s either oblivious to how his actions impact Dima, or he heads down philosophical rabbit trails that don’t seem to connect. Bringing up Solzhenitsyn was a clumsy move, and Dima reacted as Ian should have known he would. Solzhenitsyn’s writing was banned in Russia at the time as counter-revolutionary. He was thought of as a “class traitor.” Talking about him was all but guaranteed to make Dima more uneasy.
The Sacred Band of Thebes, however, was an inspired note. Dima caught the reference immediately. Despite a rather liberal thaw in ideas about homosexuality during the Lenin years, Stalin re-introduced harsh criminal penalties and encouraged strong aversion to same-sex relations. He may have done so because his rival Trotsky was openly gay. (A fact that has since been mostly erased from Russian history.) The Soviet Union became oppressively homophobic during the Stalin years and remained so after, with the exception of a brief renaissance during the Perestroika years.
Dima seems not to have have internalized much of the negative attitudes, which might make observant readers wonder why. (The author may have a few surprises up his sleeve.) When Ian brings up the “Sacred Band” of pairs of ancient Greek male lovers, Dima’s funk at least momentarily softens.
He’s clearly conflicted, but it’s not his sexual attraction to Ian that bothers him.
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