I have taken advantage of a few days of vacation to visit the island of Navarone, famous for its large and lethal Nazi guns (the Navarone guns, indeed) destroyed in a daring commando action during World War II. Well, strictly speaking, you can't physically travel to Navarone for the same reason you can't go to Mompracem, Patusan, Zinderneuff, Treasure Island, or the troubled kingdom of Zenda: they are legendary places, fabulous places that have never existed. But you can explore them with your imagination, with books, movies and even a map. In fact, along the lines of cartographic mythomania that has allowed me to monopolize maps of King Solomon's mines or the location of the Beau Geste fort, I have very detailed plans of Navarone and the location of its cyclopean and deadly artillery.
The maps of Navarone, two, appear in my old English edition (Collins, 1977) of the novel by the Scotsman Alistair MacLean originally published in 1957, the year I was born, and they will tell me if it is not a sign to be born in the year in which appeared The Guns of Navarone and that was also when The Bridge on the River Kwai premiered, so there could be had as godfather both the tough Greek fighter Andrea Stavros who played Anthony Quinn and the strict Japanese colonel Saito (“be happy in your work”). My copy of MacLean's great novel is somewhat worn (like me) and I see that it has the stamp of the Es Molí hotel in Deià, so I must have borrowed it from there the summer I spent spying on Robert Graves and reading The Count Belisario.
The first map shows the location of the island, in the Aegean, in the Sporades, near the coast of Turkey, above the Dodecanese, and south of the imaginary Leradas Islands and the southernmost, Maidos, which with Cape Turkish Demirci (also invented) create a strait that must be passed to reach the (non-existent) island of Kheros to the north. Aiming at that strait are the two monstrous German guns of Navarone in fortified caves on the heights of a roadstead, dominating the port of the town that gives the island its name and covering in their firing range the entire sea beyond. MacLean invented this geography to justify the urgent need for the allies in his narrative to silence the monstrous cannons in 1943 in order to rescue the 1,200 British soldiers of the Kheros garrison, threatened by an imminent enemy invasion, in a maritime operation.
The intrigue of the novel (and the hugely famous 1961 film based on it) centers on that near-suicidal, timed mission to destroy the cannons before the rescue fleet comes within range. The commando that carries out the action, with its members dressed in the film as the most unlikely Greek fishermen ever seen (Peck's sailor tabard, Niven's leather jacket and beret, and Quinn's fleece vest , undoubtedly stolen from his sister, are icons of adventurous fashion) is landed from a caique in the south of the island occupied by the Germans and has to negotiate some cliffs that are famous for being impossible to climb. Then you must cross the entire island, from high mountains with snowy peaks (Mount Kostos) and the wild place called The Devil's Playground, until you reach Navarone and the promontory where the canyons are, under a castle. The second map shows the location and location of the two artillery pieces and all of their installations in such detail that you better not get caught by the Nazis with the plans on you. In fact, I have separated the sheet from the map in case I have to eat it.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.