Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maria Polidouri – Turn Off This Light

Oh, turn off this light!
What good does it do to the night?
The day has passed and that’s enough.
Who knows if not my sleep
Around the corner lurks,

And if it misses its chance,
The one I await, to come.
I have my soul in my teeth
The sobs have left
My breasts weary.

Take the light! The time has come
To stand alone at last.
Of this travesty of a life I’ve had enough.
And every effort on my behalf is yet an enemy
To fight before my final battle.

Oh, let all the sighs subside.
Let there be something for me with which
I can fool the night
So that is can stoop with added warmth
Over my restless eye.

Take the light! This is the moment!
I want it all for mine.
The time has come to go to sleep.
Take the light! It tortures me…
My soul is what to me it cold-heartedly denies.

© For the translation: Lakis Fourouklas

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner


The 7th Month came out only as an eBook and as I read in the net this is the first ever short story that Lisa Gardner has written, whose last novel Catch Me I’ve reviewed recently.
     The 7th Month was released just a few days before the latter and as the title suggests the author’s heroine, D.D. Warren, is in the seventh month of her pregnancy. As we soon find out being in that condition makes her feel kind of unhappy. D.D. loves to be on the move, to be active, to hunt and capture killers, and now that, whether she likes it or not, she’s stuck in an office in Boston P.D. doing nothing much, she seems lost. Thinking too much; this is her problem these days. When you don’t act, you think, and she sure has a lot to think about. D.D. when she has to fight crime, to face dangerous situations, she always comes on top. But when she has to cope with domestic issues, like settling down at last and starting a real family, well, then she feels at a loss. Alex, the father of her unborn child, that wonderful man that never pressures her into doing things she doesn’t like, and who doesn’t ever interfere with her professional life, the man that understands her like no other, has just asked her to move in with him, and she doesn’t know what to say. And the biggest problem is that he wants her answer today. Today? Isn’t that a bit too soon? And what is she supposed to do?
     In walks Donnie Bilger, an executive producer, who, if momentarily, manages to save her from her thoughts and her big dilemma. Bilger wants to hire a detective as a consultant for a movie project. The money he offers is way too much and thus, D.D., with her boss’ approval, decides to take the job herself, since now she has to think about the future of her child as well. As she’s to find out they need her right away, that very same night, since the previous consultant, a retired cop, has put on a disappearing act.
     When she finally arrives at the place where the movie will be shot, a cemetery, the night has fallen and it’s freaking cold. Things however will not exactly play out the way she expected them to. On her way there she was looking forward to a somewhat peaceful, but well-paid shift, but arriving at the scene she will find herself in the middle of mayhem and chaos, in the epicenter of a criminal cyclone that will include: aspiring actors, cold-blooded killers, Russian mobsters, money laundering and so forth. As it seems, wherever she goes trouble follows. But maybe, just maybe, something good will come out of this messy situation she found herself in, at the end.
     A well-crafted story with a few twists and turns and some surprises and the manual of a good assassin as an added bonus. A short, but nevertheless enjoyable read.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: Budapest Noir by Vilmos Kondor


I guess the title tells it all, as in this book we do indeed have a Budapest Noir. However it’s not a modern day noir, since the events it describes take place in the famous city in 1936, just after the death of a populist leader who wanted to impose a fascist regime. The good Hungarian author, who was born in 1954, gives us a bleak view of the city, whose people seem to constantly walk on a tightrope between dream and desperation. On the one hand we have the politicians with their big words and never-ending promises, on the other we have the hopes of the poor for a better future, and finally we come face to face with an everyday reality that is so harsh that it offers most of the people nothing but an occasional smile, while filling them with sorrow and fear at the same time. It is in this city, and under these exact circumstances, that the main protagonist in the story, journalist Zsigmond Gordon, is looking for the next scoop; the big story that will make a small or bigger difference in people’s lives. Gordon is one of those reporters that enjoy nothing more than being on the hunt. He looks around him all the time, in search of something, anything; he moves across the city time and again and every now and then, in order to make things work, he uses, or gets used by, his sources in the police force. And he is one of those people who’ll do anything to tell the story, once he decides that it’s worth telling, even put his life on the line. It is exactly this particular weakness, if you can call it so, that a man called Vladimir Gellert, a police inspector and part-time friend of Gordon’s, will try to exploit. He’ll give him in an indirect way a story that he, a slave of the politicians whims, cannot properly investigate; and what a story it is! It all begins when the corpse of a young and beautiful woman is found in one of the most infamous areas in the city. The deceased doesn’t carry any document that can show who she really is, and the only thing they discover in her bag is a Jewish prayer book. Gordon, more curious than even, is determined to find out how come such a beautiful, seemingly educated and probably religious woman, ended up dead in a place like that. So he’ll start wandering around, meeting people and asking questions again and again, without receiving any clear answers. But he doesn’t give up. His stubborn investigation though lands him into trouble; not only because it seems to lead nowhere, but also because it gets some very important and thus powerful people, upset. Why doesn’t he simply give up? What will it take to make him back off? Is he willing to risk everything to solve the case? Well, about his personal safety he cares not, but there are some other people whose lives he cannot jeopardize. However, protecting them will not prove such an easy thing to do as his enemies always seem to be a step ahead. The author, using this crime as his stepping stone, moves ahead and leads the reader into an epoch of great change, as far as the history of central Europe is concerned. The picture he paints is gray to black; the city that in the eyes of the modern day traveler seems like a dreamscape here looks kind of nightmarish. He writes about prostitution, organized crime, the power games between the politicians, and about some people who are willing to do just about anything, to betray everything and everyone, in order to make things work their way. This is a book that could be read as a thriller, a chronicle, or even a social commentary. I’m sure that fans of crime fiction will enjoy it, but I’d also recommend it to everyone who’s interested in reading a good story. The genre is not an issue here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Dogma by Lars Iyer


Dogma, unlike the author’s previous novel, Spurious, has received mixed reviews. The latter was welcomed as a masterpiece, but when it came to the former the critics were not that enthusiastic. Now that I have read the novel I can say that I really wonder why? Why did they not like it as much as Spurious? For me this a great novel, as it combines humor, irony, philosophical thought, amazing discussions-monologues and a peripatetic mood.
     Even though Dogma is the second novel in a not so closely knit trilogy, which will come to its end next year with the Exodus, one can easily read it as a standalone volume.
     The main protagonists in this story are two friends: W, who’s a Catholic Jew atheist and Lars, who’s more or less, or rather less than more, Hindu. The first thinks too much and philosophizes a lot about the end of days, while at the same time he’s preparing two projects on capitalism and religion (“Capitalism is the evil twin of true religion,” he claims), while the second just lives, or maybe I should say survives, in the shadow of his friend. I think that this is one of the oddest couple of friends that I’ve ever encountered in world literature. They are so different from each other that the only thing that seems to keep them close together is the simple fact that no one else could ever put up with them. W on the one hand, never stops thinking and talking, every now and then he points his poisonous words towards his friend, who’s a non-thinker, he often enough throws one-liners in their conversations while trying to make a point, he gets angry and revolts constantly, at least in his head, and he makes new decisions all the time; decisions which sometimes he sticks to, but most times he doesn’t; to put it simply he’s not only a man of words, but also one of action. As for Lars, who’s the narrator, he simply seems to be nothing more than a receptacle. He just listens to his friend, he puts up with his whims, he follows him in his varied adventures, he learns from him, and every now and then, when he absolutely has to, he opens his mouth to say a few words to appease the spirits and bring serenity to W’s soul. Most of the times all he has to do to achieve that is quote the Vedas or tell him stories from the Hindu mythology.
     Their dialogues, or rather W’s monologues, are simply a joy to behold. And, as one would expect, quotation time it is: “You should never learn from your mistakes”; “We must read if we want to live”; “We’re not capable of god”; “Philosophy’s like an unrequited love affair”; “Always claim the ideas of others as your own”; “The Dogma must always be drunk”; “Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday.”
     W looks and sounds like a prophet of the end. He expects catastrophe to hit the earth any time now; and he feels that more strongly than ever in America, where the ignorant natives apart from having no Plymouth Gin for sale, they have also “made a Disneyland of Armageddon.”
     “It’s time to die,” he says at the end, “but death does not come.” Thankfully, I should add; because if it did then we’d miss the opportunity to enjoy the third part of his unique mental and physical escapades.
     Highly recommended to everyone out there who loves good literary fiction.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: Raylan by Elmore Leonard


Raylan is the protagonist of the TV series Justified, and a man we’ve met more than once before in Elmore Leonard’s stories.
     In this book, that kind of makes us think that it’s not novel but rather a collection of interconnected stories, we follow Raylan as he’s called to investigate three different cases. The first one has to do with the removal of the kidneys of a known criminal and then the offer from the perps to sell them back to him; the second concerns the murder of an ex-miner, who suffered a lot during his stay with the company and afterwards as well; and finally the third follows the footsteps of a rather brilliant college student, who after losing a lot of money playing cards decides to hit the road and head to Las Vegas, looking for the big score.
     As one would expect from a Leonard book its strongest points are the characters and the dialogues. Be Cool; that seems to be Raylan’s mantra, and cool he is. He is a Marshall, an enforcer of the law, who has his own individual sense of justice and who follows his own rules; someone who doesn’t seem to care how justice is done, as long as it is done. So, when he investigates the kidneys case the only thing he’s interested in is solving it and arresting the perps, he doesn’t care even a little bit, that the men in question are the sons of one of the biggest drug lords. When he tries to prove that the death of the ex-miner did not occur as an act of self-defense, but rather that it was a cold-blooded murder, he does not hesitate to clash head to head with his temporary employer, a sexy yet ruthless woman, and when the final solution comes about, though highly unorthodox, doesn’t make him break a sweat. And when he accidentally bumps into the runaway girl, instead of arresting her on the spot he gives her a chance to make things right. In Raylan’s world the end justifies the means. And in his world, one way or the other, justice is always served.
     Raylan however is not the only unique, in his ways, hero in this novel. The baddies are just as interesting as him, or even more so. We have old man Crowe, who no matter what has his own set of rules; Rita, a kind of housekeeper for the man and his occasional lover, and the only person he can totally trust along with, Raylan; and then comes an adventuress, a woman with a heart of ice: “This was a cool woman with evil ways. The best kind.” And finally we have someone who betrayed all her beliefs, if she had any, who chose to forget her past and do everything and anything she possibly could to secure herself an unknown yet brilliant future; one who believed that she could and would have all there was to have, and couldn’t take no as an answer; a victim of her own making.
     Raylan’s adventures offer the reader something similar to a roller coaster ride; they are cool and they are exciting, without seemingly trying to be so.
     Highly recommended to all the fans of the good writer, but also to every single soul out there that enjoys a good old crime novel. I’d say that Raylan is here to stay.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti


Me and You is one of those books that somehow manage, in an almost magical way, to steal a reader’s heart; and that not so much because of their myth, but because of the prose; a prose that sounds tender, almost nostalgic, and which every now and then seems to converse with the silence and the psyches. This is the story of Lorenzo, a fourteen year old boy that doesn’t seem to do well in the world he lives in, but who also tries hard not to show it. And that, because of his mother, whom he deeply loves, and whose aura for some reason reminds him of Morocco. “Life is sad without a sense of humor,” the author says, and that’s exactly the element that’s missing from the boy’s life. Whatever he does he can never feel glad, not even a little bit happy. Apart from his mom the only other person he seems to get on well with is himself. His parents cannot really understand him and feel sorry for him, and that’s why he decides to take a trip to the mountains with some of the popular kids in his class. But of course that trip will never come to be, because he just made it up. His plan is simple: while his parents will feel happy thinking that he’s at last at some faraway place and having fun with some other people, he’ll be hiding in a long forgotten storeroom in the basement of their building. At the beginning everything goes according to plan: He stocks his humble abode with all the supplies he’ll need for his week-long stay and then spends some quality time with himself, playing video games, watching TV and thinking deeply about his life; “Why did I have to be just like the others?” “On my own I was happy, with the others I always had to pretend.” Now, hidden as he is in his beloved basement and isolated from the whole world, yes, he does feel a little bit happy. Life, however, is not about to leave him in peace for long. So, in comes Olivia, his half-sister who has serious drug abuse issues, and who from one moment to the next smashes his fragile, but seemingly secure, world to pieces. Thus the free man becomes the slave; a slave to her needs; her personal slave. Someone has to help her fulfill those needs, and if not Lorenzo, then who? Ammaniti seems to closely observe and analyze the dynamics that develop between these two young souls; dynamics that somehow seem to presage a complete catastrophe. As it seems the one simply cannot stand the other. However, like it or not, they need each other, because if their secrets come to light they both have a lot to lose. So they form an alliance, one that will help them survive their troubles, make them realize some things, and give them the chance to see their selves as they truly are. The fall for the two of them doesn’t seem to be far, but neither is the recovery. Just as Olivia writes to her father: “I have to learn not to hate you,” Lorenzo needs to learn how not to hate living with the other people. A well-written novella that can easily be read in a single sitting, and which has a lot to say to the observant reader. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maria Polidouri - Only Because You Loved Me

I sing not but because you loved me
In times gone by.
And in the sun, in the summer’s waking wait
And in rain, and in snow,
I sing not but because you loved me.

Only because you held me in your arms
One night and you kissed my lips,
Only because of that I’m pretty as a lily in full blossom
And I can feel a chill running through my soul,
Only because you held me in your arms.

Only because your eyes have looked at me,
With their soulful gaze,
I’ve proudly adorned myself with my being’s
The ultimate diadem,
Only because your eyes have looked at me.

Only because as I was passing by you noticed me
And through your glance I saw drifting by
My delicate shadow, like a dream,
Playful and in pain,
Only because as I was passing by you noticed me.

Because kind of reluctantly you called for me
And you tended your hands for me to hold
And you had in your eyes that special blur
Of a love that of limits knows naught,
Because kind of reluctantly you called for me.

Because, only because it was dear to you
That’s why my passage was a thing of beauty.
It was as if you followed my every step,
Or as if you were passing somewhere nearby.
Because, only because it was dear to you.

Only because you loved me I was born,
That’s why I was given the gift of life.
In this graceless life the often unfulfilled
My life has found fulfillment.
Only because you loved me I was born.

Only because of your exquisite love
The dawn has filled my hands with roses.
To shine a light for a moment upon your path
The night has adorned my eyes with stars,
Only because of your exquisite love.

Only because so beautifully you loved me
I’ve lived, to make your dreams
Aplenty, you fair one that ruled my heart
And thus in peace I die
Only because so beautifully you loved me.

© For the translation: Lakis Fourouklas

Image taken from here

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: The Golden Scales by Parker Bilal

The Golden Scales could be read as a melancholy song for Cairo. The author, using a simple case of a disappearance, or maybe abduction, for his starting point, he travels the reader back in time and he show-lights to him the everyday life of the Egyptian capital. He does that in a somewhat light way, using a sense of humor that borders to irony, but that’s not enough to hide the reality; a reality that’s as bleak as the lives of the poor people in the country.
     So, he talks about dirty cops and corrupted state officials, who have a lot of close ties with the rich the powerful, about the new dirty money that has been laundered in the country for the sake of some questionable characters from the former Soviet Union, and which allows certain people to make or to follow their own rules, about the city poor whose lives get from bad to worse, about the rich that reside in huge fortress-like houses, choosing to ignore all the suffering in the streets, and about the fear and the darkness that surrounds the local show biz, the sex and the drugs trade.
     This novel reminds me of a crime story and a social commentary at the same time, and it’s just as well that it does, if I may add. The epicenter of the plot is not so much the crime, as is the society in which it took place. A society, that back then, in 1998, was just as divided as it is now.
     It all begins when some bodyguards of sorts, arrive at the boat where Makana, an ex-cop from the Sudan and now refugee lives. The men simply state to him that he has to follow them because their boss wants to meet him, and he just obeys, since he knows too well that he has no word in the matter anyway. As he’ll soon come to find out, the boss is none other than Saad Hanafi, a man rumored to be so rich as to own the biggest part of the aristocratic suburb of Heliopolis. Makana knows Hanafi is one of those men that “sell dreams”, one of which is his football team, the most popular in Egypt. Now he wants him, of all people, to discover the whereabouts of Adil Romario, the biggest star of the team, who’s gone missing ten days ago. Makana, though reluctantly, accepts the mission, since he could really use some money right now, and of that his new employer has aplenty.
     Thus he starts his investigation; an investigation that will bring him time and again face to face with danger, but which will also lead him into some of the most infamous streets of the city, into dens and into luxurious establishments, and that will also make him realize that the people who really cared about Romario were but a few; most of the ones who knew him actually were not that hurt that he was gone. As the case will start getting more and more complicated and the good detective will find himself moving from one dead end to the next, something else will happen that will complicate things even more; he’ll meet a woman from England, who’s been searching for the last seventeen years for her missing daughter and who’ll soon end up dead, murdered perhaps by the very same man who took her child. But who would that be? That’s the big question that Makana sets himself to find the answer to.
     This is a very good crime novel, written in a nice straightforward manner, and which travels the reader to some places that look familiar and strange at the same time. The author seems not only to pen the psychological profiles of his characters, but of a whole city as well. And he talks about that city’s essence, the one which as foreigners to its culture, we are by ourselves unable to see. A job well done.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maria Polidouri - Young Man

Young man, with the colorless glance, with the tight lips
Your sorrow has made my dark heart blossom.
But I did not dare reach to you then and now I do not dare
And thus I’ve followed the familiar path into my darkness.

Some other hopes I see happily dance around you;
A sweet smile full of promises you carry.
But farther away all the time I drift, so no one will be able to see
In my telling eyes my vain secret.

And if she took me not onto her light wings
The belief of joy, so that I could dream,
I can see you sweetly smile to her call
And I wish that that was not but an illusion.

Your melancholy that I have loved, I wish to never see
Against you rise as an inevitable catastrophe,
And, my futile love, as a joy of the wind I wish
It will again someday be and of an unappeased mania’s the fuel.

Copyright for the translation: Lakis Fourouklas

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review: What It Was by George Pelecanos

Click above to buy

 As we read in the preface, the inspiration for this book came from a conversation Pelecanos had with his friend and co-author of the cult, yet hugely successful TV series The Wire, Ed Burns. It’s been written at a feverish pace during the summer of 2011, and thus not long after the release of The Cut, that great crime novel, yet another book by this acclaimed writer hits the stands.
     The main characters in this story, as in many others by Pelecanos, are: private investigator Derek Strange, the city of Washington, D.C. and music. A minor role falls to Nick Stefanos, yet another one of his famous creations.
     At the beginning we meet Derek and Nick, now partners in a P.I. firm, as they sit in a diner eating, drinking and talking about things. But as one topic leads to the next, all of a sudden the former finds himself in a need to tell the latter a story from the distant past. The year was 1972, and back then there were a lot of things going on in the city; a lot of things, but not so strange. It was a time of change in everything; in politics, in fashion and in crime; in violent crime. However, the criminals that Derek is about to describe remind the reader of some infamous people from the past, Bonny and Clyde; a couple that modern day psychologists would refer to as sociopaths. The villains in this story are Robert Lee Jones, a trigger-happy psycho who’s known as Red Fury, and Coco Watkins, an impressive looking woman who owns a brothel.
     Derek will cross paths with them while investigating a seemingly trivial case, and before too long he’ll come to realize that what started off as a walk in the park is going to turn out to be something completely different. So, all of a sudden he’ll find himself in the epicenter of a circle, or rather, a cyclone of events that will culminate in a crime spree, unlike any other, during which murder, in the lips of the killer, will come to sound just like any other word. This case however will also give him the opportunity to meet again with an old friend, police detective Frank Vaughn, a meeting that will bring to him a little bit of joy, but at the same time awaken in him some dreadful memories. Now the two of them have to put their heads and their individual talents together to stop Jones, who seems to be more interested in his every day glory and his future legacy, than staying alive or becoming the city’s crime boss. As the action will be heading for its peak the author will go on doing what he does best, which is, talk about the city and describe its neighborhoods and its politics and habits, through the music, the people and their interactions. Here we meet cross-dressers, hookers, drug-addicts and drunks; people who are trying to hold on to life and people who have nothing to look forward to; hopeless and hopeful.
     A very good novel, well-written and with a fine story to tell but, in my humble opinion, not as good as The Cut. I’m sure the fans will love it though, not only for its action and pace, but also because it provides some useful info about the background of one of Pelecanos’ favorite heroes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Catch Me is the first book by Lisa Gardner that I’ve ever read and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed it. The author has a unique way of carrying away the reader into the dangerous worlds of her own creation and of misleading him and, of course, of making him feel a kind of sentimental bond with her heroes, or rather her heroines.
     I say Heroines, because it is indeed the women who rule the day in this well-crafted thriller: Detective D.D. Warren, her younger and overeager colleague Detective O and Charlene Rosalind Carter Grand, who’s supposed to die in four days time. D.D. used to declare with pride that nothing, absolutely nothing, could ever surprise her, but as Charlene narrates her story, as she explains to her that she’s bound to be murdered on the 21st of January at 8.00 PM, just like her best friends were, during the last couple of years, she’ll start to question herself and all her certainties. The woman even describes to her the way of the murder, strangulation, and she even points out that during the investigation that will follow they will find no defensive wounds on her body and no forensic evidence whatsoever.
     D.D., at the very beginning, when this short and seemingly weak woman approaches her with her story, and pleads with her to investigate her future murder, thinks that she’s crazy, but her curiosity takes over and so she decides to take a look into the case. The more she investigates though, the more she finds out, and thus little by little she comes to believe what the woman told her was the truth.
     However, her time these days is very limited and no matter how much she’d like to spend more of it on this case, it’s impossible to do so. On the one hand she has another open investigation concerning a serial killer that only targets pedophiles, and on the other she’s expecting her parents to arrive in Boston any time now, and thus make her life miserable. Truth be told, she’d rather hunt down psychos and killers, or psycho killers, day after day, than spend a single hour at the same table with her mother. It’s not that she has something against her; it’s just that the latter never stops trying to impose her own precious rules into her daughter’s life. D.D. and her partner have recently become parents and her mother believes the time has finally come for her to get married. She, however, likes her life and her relationship just the way they are, and wishes not to make things complicated.
     The story though doesn’t only speak of the relationship of D.D. and her mother, but also of that between Charlene and the woman who gave birth to her. I say it like that, because no one in his right mind would describe that woman as a mother. She was a psycho, who abused her and her sisters time and again over the years, making their short lives a living hell; a nightmare. Well, that nightmare still haunts Charlene and decades later she continues to feel guilty for the things that she’s done and for those that she was never able to. Now, as she only has four days to live she revisits the past and tries to seek there the answers to her many questions. The answers are indeed to be found there, however by the time she reaches the point of perception, it will probably be too late to do something to change the course of events.
     If one asked me what is the strong point in this novel I would say it’s the characters. The author creates masterful psychological portraits and she seems to perfectly understand the inner world of her heroines. She describes their ways of thinking and acting in detail and she paves with a light hand the way that will either lead them to salvation or to catastrophe. If there’s a weakness, I’d say that it’s the fact that the careful reader will come to realize a bit early who the perp is, but I wouldn’t say that that takes even an iota of the reading pleasure away. I’m sure that the fans of the genre will love it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

Click above to buy

If you enjoy taking a ride into the ancient myths and into the worlds of fantasy, you will surely enjoy Ragnarok.
     Byatt, one of the great masters of the English language, tries with a certain amount of success, to reinvent here for us the Norse myths, while at the same time drawing parallels with the modern day world. What she’s most interested in, as it seems, is not to retell a story that’s been told so many times before, but rather explore whether we’ve learned something from humanity’s past mistakes, if we somehow became a little wiser. Besides, as she points out: “…They (the gods) are human, because they are limited and stupid.”
     The narration drives the reader back and forth in time, talking to him/her about the wars of the gods and those of men. It all begins with a thin girl, who’s trying to survive the war, hiding in a shelter. At the start she feels kind of bored -“The thin girl, despite the war that was raging, was more afraid of eternal boredom,” as we read- until a book full of wonder and awe falls into her hands; a book that talks about Asgard and the gods, and which for her becomes a passion. Through that book, she comes to discover an amazing world, where magic exists, and where the gods are full of weaknesses and prone to mistakes, who sometimes look kindhearted, but most of the time are just petty and vengeful; they somehow remind her of the gods of the Old Testament.
     The thin girl is encouraged by these stories to look deep inside her own being, to discover herself, and to ask questions about the what’s and the why’s of modern day reality. It all comes tumbling down, day after day the world heads straight towards total destruction, she seems to think, and no one can or maybe wants to do anything to stop it from happening. Even when the war comes to an end, the thin girl cannot feel happy, because she thinks that she saw the future, and she already misses the illuminatingly dark world of the book.
     Byatt, using the myths as her stepping stone, sets off to create a parable about today: about the world of plenty, where more and more people starve to death, where the powerful still play their dirty games at the expense of the weak and the poor, where one catastrophe follows the next as the earth seems to takes its revenge on people, and where, as usual, the ones who have the less to lose, are the ones called upon to pay the price.
     She tells a story in exquisite prose and she gives the reader food for thought in an almost poetic way. I’d recommend this book not only to just every fan of good literary fiction, but also to every thinking person out there. The gods blew it, the author seems to think, so now it’s up to us to make things right; we’ll either correct their mistakes or we’ll just be drawn into the abyss, which they have created (with our helping hands, of course) for us.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To a girl without a name

What is your name; Sophia, Aishe, Julia or Katarina;
I do not know.
What I do know though is that I’ve seen your face, I’ve heard your voice,
Distinctive as a joyful howl.
I’ve seen you in the streets of Tunis asking for democracy
And in the Cairo squares looking for freedom from tyranny.
I have heard your voice, yelling at me: Wake up!
-From Syria’s imperial ruins
From Iran’s theocratic prison cells-
Wake up!
I’ve seen you bleeding into Africa’s oilfields
And the deadly mines of South America
I’ve seen you dying while traversing the roads of the silk
And coming back to life, crying out loud: Enough!
Enough, you cried; enough;
Before raising your weak, your feeble banners
Of dreams and of the current European desperation.
You armed yourself with your youth and a smile,
With two open arms and three friends of the heart,
With a neighborhood, with your entire little world,
And you set out to speak your mind to the vultures
Of the socio-economic-political order.
But your voice carried no strength.
It could not be heard over the horns of the cars
And the ridiculous cries of joy of the TV personas.
Your presence was too small, your tears of no importance,
You could not draw on you the looks of
The modern day robots passing restlessly by.
But you didn’t give up:
Here I shall remain, you said.
And here you stayed. There.
There, in the middle of a street of the city; a city.
There, where the enforcers of the laws of the few met you:
In Athens and in Lisbon, in London and in Dublin, in Barcelona.
There, where they hit you and they gassed you and they made you bleed.
Your blood and your tears travelled the world over
Through YouTube and plasma TV screens,
Through mobile phones and Facebook pages;
They were tweeted now and again.
A lot of people saw them; a few felt them; a handful got upset.
But most, the big crowd, just chose to look somewhere else
And forget.
One way or another though, you’ve managed to achieve your goal;
To give a helping hand to the building of the Temple of New Hope.
And you have pointed the way to a different path,
Old at the same time and new,
Ordinary and unique,
A path that’s hard to follow,
Which as such before too long it will once again become
A phantom trail of a long lost world.