Monday, 12 October 2009

"I'd Like" Athens, Greece

I started this book of short stories called "I'd Like" late on Saturday and finished it early Monday, which probably tells you how much I enjoyed it.

As the author, Amanda Micalopoulou, states in her afterword, instead of a general anthology; she ended up writing "stories that would read like versions of an unwritten novel", and indeed they do. That is not to say that the stories themselves are not self-contained, they all are, but there is a - sometimes bewildering - series of motifs and themes that occur throughout this book (often of the visceral type: a red beret, a broken little finger, bloodied feet, theft from corpses etc). Yet this fragmentation works, especially as there is a central core of two sisters called Stella and Christiana who interlink this loose narrative (despite the timescales of the stories meaning that these cannot be the same characters throughout the book as a whole). And of course the other constant is the author herself (not necessarily Amanda herself) who pervades this works with a touching sense of self doubt about her own writing. That particular device reminded me a lot of Kurt Vonnegut's appearances in his own fiction (under his own pseudonym of Kilgore Trout).

I am probably making this book sound complex and difficult, and it isn't. The stories are honest, fresh and interesting, funny and poignant, - and the overall sense one gets is of a profound awareness of the shared human condition with just a glimpse of redemption (although the short story "Story for fools" puts that squarely in our own hands rather than any wider God).

My one gripe? Well, this is more about shedding light on being human, as opposed to being Greek! That said, there are some great descriptions of Greece both rural and urban, but at the end of the day this is a fascinating collection by a Greek author who demonstrates that - at least in a European context - our national psyches are not so different.

Which makes my next port of call particularly interesting. The work is another set of short stories by a female author: 'Ledra Street'. However this work is set in divided Cyprus (i.e. divided between Greece and Turkey). The setting of Ledra Street is particularly interesting, as this is a street which is divided in two within Nicosia - which is itself a unique example of a city divided between the two states since the Turkish intervention in 1974.

As such, this setting forms an interesting bridge between Western and Eastern 'Europe', (as well as a suitable destination en route to Turkey from Greece) and I shall update this blog once with my humble thoughts, once I have finished the book.

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