Constantinople 1908: the cosmopolitan capital of the Ottoman Empire teeters on the brink of upheaval. Turks dream of liberty while the subject peoples yearn for freedom – not necessarily the same thing. Far from the turmoil of Constantinople, in the Anatolian hinterland, archeologists are excavating an ancient city. There they uncover a past that seems to hold within it a warning for the present.
The Greek girl Theodora Vlachos has other things on her mind. Her existence, centering on her family and thwarted infatuations, oppresses her and she longs to escape. Then the flamboyant Russian exile Natalya Petrovna and her brother Vlad enter her life. Their disturbing presence, coinciding with the dramatic events of the Young Turk Revolution, draws Theodora into a new, often volatile world. And there is John Townsend, the American professor, a dreamer and lover of classical civilization, overtaken by his past just as he thinks to have found peace in this city he has come to love. There is also the Poet, who has the words to say it all, but prefers to remain aloof in his house overlooking the Bosphorus.
Revolutions take people by surprise; they raise hopes by promising change. City of Man’s Desire tells the story of several individuals, how their lives intertwine as they struggle to understand and adapt to a new reality, which, despite the designs of men, follows its own unpredictable course.