Black Greek Coffee by Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou
The characters and themes of the short story collection Black Greek Coffee by Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou at times seem to be summed up by the words of the story ‘A Second Chance.’ They are like a ‘map of converging clashing lines, whose ends never meet.’ These are complex, mythical, often fairy-tale renderings that touch the heart without sentimentality.
A skillful story-teller, drawing on biographical details of Greek village life, Konstantina leaves no stone unturned. Turn-the-other-cheek mothers, loving yiayias, seductive aunts, lustful pateras, adulterous uncles, and prideful, stubborn men and their cultural roles are examined in this rich collection.
The majority of the stories are told from a child’s point of view and from this perspective childhood friendships, gender inequality, war, poverty, history, illegitimate children, ‘spoiled’ women, and religious hypocrisy are examined. The emotional and psychological impact especially on women and children in a particular time and of a particular culture are examined with straightforward intimacy.
Greek words inserted into the works add authenticity and are mostly easy to understand within the context of the story (‘Yiayia,’––grandmother.) Non-translated words in trans-cultural writing can slow down a read when you have to stop and look them up, but no more so than regional slang. The flavor and tone would be completely different if writers succumbed to accommodating readers.
One of the strengths of this collection is the sensory descriptions of food, and flora and fauna, which plant the reader within the dynamically vivid culture and landscape. Whether it is the olive trees in ‘Hairpins,’ the Akarnanika mountains of ‘Black Greek Coffee,’ or the chamomile growing by the road sides, Konstantina knows these places well.
In ‘Spoiled’, the spoiled woman is like the marionette her lover gave her, difficult to manage, only able to move when someone else operates the strings.
In ‘Forty Days’, after the delivery of a baby to an unwed mother, the baby is taken away and returned each night for breast feeding by a black dressed woman who knocks on the young woman’s window. This story, like many others, is dark and light at the same time.
Reading a fictional collection that goes so deep into the way things have been, or indeed may still be, it is hard not to wonder if this going in and around stories to yield truths may also hope to affect change.
I’m looking forward to the next work by this author.
by Gail Kirkpatrick
I grew up in a small mountainous village in Western Greece. In 1985 I came to Athens to study Business Administration. I then studied for a Diploma for Overseas Teachers of English (RSA DOTE) and taught English at several language schools in Athens for over 12 years. Then I obtained a BA(Hons) in Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, UK. My short stories have appeared in the anthology 'Even Birds are Chained to the Sky' and in several online literary magazines such as The Wilderness House Literary Review, Wordsmith Journal Magazine, Tincture Journal Issue Three, The Missing Slate, Bareback Magazine and others. My story 'Freedom and Democracy' was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2014. 'Black Greek Coffee' is my first collection of short stories inspired by life in rural, 20th c. Greece. People's hardships, prejudices, fears and aspirations. I live in Athens with my husband and two riotous kids.