Alexandria, Egypt: at one point a trading hub and a cosmopolitan crossroads of the world. It was also the place where, during World War I, E.M. Forster fell in love with a young Egyptian man. Pharos and Pharillon is a collection of essays and articles he wrote about Alexandria, mostly written during that time and dedicated to that man, Mohammed el Adl.
Organized in two parts, the book opens with Pharos and seven stories that paint a poetic picture of the ancient city and its history. The second half, Pharillon, consists of four stories, followed by Forster’s moving introduction of the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy to the English-speaking world. The division in the book is signaled by Cavafy’s now famous poem, “The God Abandons Antony.”
The sketches were written for the local Egyptian press and were also published in The Nation and Athenaeum, a British political newspaper owned by Leonard Woolf, husband of writer Virginia Woolf. The Woolfs published Pharos and Pharillon in 1923, and with its poignant accounts of the events and history of one of the first global cities, it remains an enlightening portrait, and a useful guidebook, into modern times.