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The Life and Reputation of Dimitri Andalaft

Max Johnson Dugan

Published on

We, regrettably, found less information about the life of Dimitri Andalaft (ديمتري قندلفت) than we did regarding George Byron Gordon. Consequently, Andalaft appears as an occluded figure relative to Gordon in these accounts. We know Gordon’s birth and death, where he studied, and his professional trajectory up to his untimely death. Andalaft, on the other hand, exists mostly as a dealer who needs to resolve the negotiations around NEP-80. Knowledge about Andalaft is further complicated by the unreliability of biographical information provided during negotiations—whether Andalaft was is dire financial straits, as he intimates, is as much a strategic representation as it is a straightforward one.

Two travelogues provide another representation of Andalaft. These accounts represent Andalaft as enthusiastic beyond the typical dealer in Khan al-Khalili, a capable English speaker, and a dealer of more expensive wares. Additionally, both accounts describe Andalaft as a specialist in “Persian” goods. Norma Latimer recounts a time that Andalaft helped her purchase a copy of the Qur’an from a nearby seller. Latimer desired a copy of the Qur’an but could not afford Andalaft’s “much more beautiful and rarer copies” (Latimer, 92). Nonetheless, Latimer facilitated a purchase that pleased Latimer. Sladen goes further in his praising of Andalaft, detailing his excellent taste and knowledge about his inventory. In Sladen’s account “Mr. Andalaft always strikes one as the artist rather than the trader” (Sladen, 98). Romanticism aside, Sladen adds some flesh to the thin representation provided in Andalaft’s letters to Gordon.

The letters from Andalaft to Gordon demonstrate his English aptitude but also indicate he may have been experiencing financial problems. Throughout the letters, Andalaft employs an obsequiously humble tone and lavish salutation. His writing alternates between a clean cursive handwriting and, in one example, a typewriter-penned letter. By 1923 and 1924, Andalaft intimates that he is in dire straits financially. Whether this is actually the case is unclear—Andalaft may have communicated desperation to obtain the pity of Gordon or accelerate the authentication and payment process. For example, he closes his February 1924 letter by asking Gordon to send a check at “an early date” because he is “in great need of ready cash.” These letters, in combination with the two travelogues above, provide a glimpse into the figure who negotiated with Gordon during the acquisition of NEP-80.

Works Cited

Lorimer, Norma and Benton Fletcher. By the Waters of Egypt. London: Methuen & Company, 1909.

Sladen, Douglas. Oriental Cairo: The City of the “Arabian Nights. Philadelphia: J. B Lippincott Company, 1911.