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On Sunday 17th May at 3.00 pm., Dr Con Aroney will launch his book Flames in the Water Tears in the Sea, a powerful historical novel about one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, at the Pontian Community of Melbourne, 345 Victoria St., Brunswick.


Dr Con Aroney’s book

The book will be presented by academic and writer Konstandina Dounis and journalist Claire Gazis.

Ian Matthews in his review in the Order of Australia Magazine The Order (No 35, Autumn 2014)  he writes: “Terrible reality in facts and fiction Flames on the Water, Tears in the Sea by Con Aroney AM, Published by CopyRight Publishing, Brisbane RRP $27.50. It is a curious fact that a novel can often convey atmosphere, emotion and veracity about historic events better than an academic record or forensic investigation.

When Thomas Keneally AO wrote Schindler’s Ark as a prize-winning work of fiction, it was based on copious testimony. He observed, “To use the texture and devices of a novel to tell a true story is a course which has frequently been followed in modern writing.

It is the one I have chosen to follow here, both because the craft of the novelist is the only craft to which I can lay claim and because the novel’s techniques seem suited for a character of such ambiguity and magnitude as Oskar [Schindler].”

Con Aroney has woven a novel around the almost forgotten facts of the rescue of about 300,000 Greek women, children and aged refugees from Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey, after an onslaught by Turkish forces in 1922.

Drawing on his family’s history, Professor Aroney tells the grim story of yet another of the 20th century’s massacres — but one that could have been infinitely worse but for the work of an American YMCA worker, Asa Jennings. He negotiated with Kemal Ataturk for time to have the Greek refugees taken to the relative safety of Greek islands.

He then bargained or blackmailed the Greek government of the day to supply ships to take the homeless thousands from the port of Smyrna. Both Greece and Turkey regarded Jennings as a humanitarian hero and, incredibly, at one stage he represented both countries. Con Aroney has written a riveting diary of tragic events from his family’s point of view.

He explains, “All major events including the battles leading up to the destruction of Smyrna, the great fire, the evacuation and aftermath are closely based on the actual historic events, although the specific military and social actions of some of the characters are in part fictionalised.”

The book follows an easy-to-read diary format with many short chapters and includes helpful maps and dates. It is a sobering commentary on civilised society that in our own lifetime we have become so inured to the litany of horrors of the Holocaust, the slaughter in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the massacre at My Lai that the 1922 Catastrophe at Smyrna has slipped our notice. Con Aroney’s novel reminds us never to forget.”