"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


[via David Angsten’s blog]

A number of readers have asked where I came up with the name and the history of the fictional island in Night of the Furies. Like the story itself, the island is a mix of mythology and history.

The name of the island was borrowed from Homer. When the hero of the Odyssey is first introduced, he’s been imprisoned for seven years on an island called Ogygia, detained there by his lover, the nymph Calypso, who desires to make him her husband. Through the intervention of the gods, Odysseus is set free and eventually makes his way home to Ithaca.

In the narrative structure of the Odyssey, then, Ogygia forms a kind of fulcrum, a middle point, halfway between his adventures after setting sail from Troy and the final voyage that delivers him home. For this reason—and the obvious parallels of erotic possession—I thought it was the perfect island name for the middle novel of my 'Night-Sea Trilogy.'

The actual history of Ogygia in Furies was based on the tragic history of Chios, a large Greek island off the coast of Turkey.

Chios was conquered by the Persians, the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, and for centuries was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. In 1822, during the Greek War of Independence, the Sultan decided to make an example of the island. 82,000 Greek islanders were hanged, butchered, starved or tortured to death. 50,000 Greeks were enslaved and another 23,000 were exiled. Fewer than 2,000 Greek islanders survived.

The Chios massacre outraged Europeans and inspired several paintings by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, including Le Massacre de ScioHERE to enlarge):

in 1824 (click

The church and the monastery I described in Furies were based on the Néa Moní monastery on Chios. It’s actually true that, after sacking the place, the Turks slaughtered most of its 600 monks and set the 800-year-old monastery on fire.

Beyond that, there’s one more connection between the mythical Ogygia and the historical Chios: Chios is believed to be the birthplace of Homer.

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