We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under the brilliant gaze of the Bishop of Alexandria and the majestic dark green pines that grow out from every available crack or crevice on the surrounding granite hills hugging the idyllic stone homes and cobble lanes of Stephanitsa on the Island of Paradisaki only just north of Crete.
The scene above sets the backdrop for a new work of fiction by English/Greek writer Eleni Trataris Cotton.
I have often discussed with friends the situation in Greece however hesitated in writing anything, basically because I felt I didn’t entirely understand what was really going on there over the past ten years. After reading this work you too will understand some of the nation’s complex political and personal issues that range from the extraordinary to the every day.
Cotton introduces the reader to a place that captures the very essence of rural village life on an idyllic Aegean island The time is the present and a cast of quirky characters include the sadistic evil Arsie, Apollo the lovable rebellious donkey and the very idealistic English couple Serina and Peter. The plot and subplots are easy to follow but have deep undercurrents. Cotton however provides many laughable moments, as well as the odd lump-in-the-throat one about an eleven year old lad who dies in a motorcycle crash. Cottons comments on the effect of a death in the neighbourhood are moving. Her observations of local villagers, place and time are delightful and more importantly extremely perceptive.
Cottons debut story is beaming with insight and will elucidate all readers about the authentic and eternal Hellenic voice of resistance, the voice of Marathon and Salamis of the 300 at Thermopylae, the long war of independence of Metaxas’s famous Oxi of a people who painted their houses blue and white the colours of the Hellenic flag during the Italian occupation of their Island and of the students in Athens who stood up to the terror of the regime of the Colonels in 1974
Cotton pens many marvellous word pictures like “It was one of the old stone-built manors, as they were called, with large airy rooms, high carved wooden ceilings and old wooden floors. The front faced the square, with just enough of a front garden for a bit of lawn surrounded by several containers of geraniums and other local plants whose blooms made a swathe of sizzling colour against the backdrop of cool grey stone. Behind and totally secluded, was a walled garden with a patio, a small lawn and, towards the rear wall a neat vegetable garden with rows of green plants in every season, the result of the couple’s joint effort”.
Straight from the Donkeys Mouth is very much a work of fiction but I feel it comes from a really personal place.
To have that kind of insight and to put into print is such a gift, thank you Eleni!
4 December 2014
by spiros hrambanis
Peter and Serena, new to an idylic Greek island, come across many trials whilst making their way in business.
The donkeys are the stars in this story though!
Unfortunately what happens in this fictional account of life in Greece is being played out for real these days.
A great must read story!
by Eileen Hall