Celebrated UK writer Victoria Hislop puts down roots in central Athens
By Marialena Spyropoulou
British author Victoria Hislop is a resident of Athens these days. She had been passionately trying to develop her ties with Greece ever since I met her some years ago – at the time her first book, “The Island,” had just been published by Dioptra Publications in Greek. I recall her saying to me back then that she wished she had some kind of Greek roots.
Hislop has since not only acquired broad recognition for her writing, she has also managed to divide her time between Kent in the South of England, where she lives with her family, the island of Crete, where she spends her holidays and, as of late, the central Athens neighborhood of Patissia, where she is now renting an apartment.
Meanwhile, the author is scheduled to talk about her new city of choice during a special event tomorrow at the Numismatic Museum. The talk, “The Beauty of Athens,” starts at 9 p.m. and comes in response to an invitation from journalist Nikos Vatopoulos and the Kathe Savvato stin Athina (Saturdays in Athens) team and public relations consultant Vasso Sotiriou.
So what else is the author up to these days?
“I’m finishing my new book. The plot is Cyprus, 1974, very new for me. The book will be ready for England in September.”
Why did she decide to get a place in Athens?
“I come to Athens nearly every month to see friends, do talks, or something with my books. Being in a hotel you are never part of a place. I very quickly found the perfect place. I am so excited. It’s very near Vaso [Sotiriou is also her manager]. It’s very lively and I want to write more about Athens, not journalistic, fictional things. It’s a very inspiring city. Staying in a hotel makes you an outsider, and I want to speak the language properly and this will help a great deal. I have to furnish it first,” said Hislop, who has already had a taste of local red tape in her efforts to get her apartment connected to the power grid.
What does Athens mean to Hislop?
“My first visit to Athens was a long time ago. My Athens is my friends and the people [connected with] ‘The Island’ [The award-winning novel set on the island of Spinalonga was also adapted for TV and aired on Mega Channel in 2010]. They live in Athens and work in theater, so it’s always a priority for me to see a play. I really enjoy it because it stretches my Greek. The theater seems to do incredibly well in Athens. I love Greek music, I go to [Antonis] Remos concerts. I haven’t seen Anna Vissi yet, but I want to.”
Hislop also enjoys Greek cuisine, and local cheese in particular.
“I put on weight in Greece, then always lose it in England. In Greece, everything’s in olive oil, which is better.”
What advice does she have for first-time visitors to Greece?
“You have to be open-minded to get to know Greece. You have to be patient. It’s not an easy country. You have to wait. I think people who come to Athens for a weekend get lost a lot. I try to walk everywhere, to find how things link up. That’s the secret in Athens, not to take taxis. Taxi drivers are my least favorite people in Athens. I’ve had very bad encounters with taxi drivers,” said the author.
What are the best and worst things about Greece?
“The sea is extraordinary. I have traveled pretty much all over the world and the sea in Greece is better than anywhere else. Apart from taxi drivers in Athens, [the worst thing] is the smell of cigarette smoke. I get a cough every time I come to Greece. I can’t understand why people poison their lungs.”