Sunday, 6 April 2008

It is raining...

It's a pity for the tourists that arrive on the island, but it has now been raining for some 2 to 3 days. The first tourists are mainly birdwatchers. They will not get wet in their cars that most of them use to watch the birds, but the birds are hardly to be seen through the thick shower curtains of rain. One thing is funny: it is the birds that signal the end of a shower: as soon as the water stops falling from heaven, above the dripping sounds comes the carols of the birds.

Now the birdwatchers don't have to worry that their beloved marshlands are becoming dry, the places where most of the migrating birds are staying. So much water fell these last three days that the rivers are swollen and the marshlands are full.

Life on the island stopped for some days, because no Greek likes to go out during the rain. A perfect time to see how life is on other Greek islands. When you read for example 'Water in the Ouzo' by Cathy Lewin, or 'The Messenger of Athens' by Anne Zouroudi, you would say that life isn't so much different on the other islands.

'Water in the Ouzo' is set on the island of Kythera, which is south of the Peloponnese. The Dutch Cathy Lewin went there with her husband, a vet, to restore an old village house. The book is about all the problems that can befall you when you have a similar project in mind. The writer gives strong portraits of the workers and other people she encountered on the island. How to bribe in order to get your permissions, the strange working habits of some lazy Greek workers, nasty people who think they can fool you. It's all the same on Lesvos.

However life on a Greek island is best described by the Englishwoman Anne Zouroudi in 'The Messenger of Athens', a story that is set on the imaginary island of Thiminos. One day a fat man disembarks from the ferry and starts asking questions about the suicide of Irini, a woman living on Thiminos. It's not only the truth surrounding the death of Irini that is slowly revealed, but also how timid a small community can be. The writer herself lived on the Greek islands and she describes masterfully the gossiping, the power of the most important families in a small community and the habit of Greek men to have affairs.

Both women left the Greek islands, but certainly you can feel that both the ladies spent many years on the islands where they became vey well acquainted with village life. Cathy was already more distant from her Greek years. You can see that in the way she humours the colourful people she describes. Anne maybe had harder times. You feel a bitter sweetness beneath her words.

The German born Bertina Henrichs only knows the Greek islands from her holidays. But she wrote a book about a local chambermaid on the island of Naxos: 'The Chess-Player'. It is a beautiful crafted story about a local woman who risks her marriage because she develops a serious passion for playing chess.

And then for the people who don't have enough time for novels, there is also a volume of verses full of life from the Greek born Agni Fournaraki: 'Perceptions'. Like a modern Sappho she writes about life, love and nature in sweet, colourful, soft, thrilling, warming and quiet sentences. However, her poems are only in Greek and in Dutch. The volume is published with works of different artists and a CD where the poems can be listened to in Greek.

Looking at the water searching for a way on the road between the gardens, the drops drumming on the window-sill, it is a perfect moment to dwell on one of Agni Fournaraki’s poems:

"It is raining
a refreshing rain for my body,
thoughts, my spirit of love

It is raining
the drops slip and fall
above me
taking care of my worries

It is raining
a purifying rain,
a relief from being on the rack

From: Agni Fournaraki - Belevingen, Totemboek, (Holland).
Available at the Ianos bookstore in Athens and Thessaloniki:

Cathy Lewin - Water bij de ouzo, Totemboek, (Holland)
Anne Zouroudi - The Messenger of Athens, Bloomsbury Publishing
Bertina Henrichs – The Chess Player, an article from Queen’s Quarterly

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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