‘Deceased houses’ of Nicosia’s buffer zone examined in new book

“Deceased houses» is the key phrase used by author Jacques Lacarriere in the introduction to his latest book «Nicosia: The Buffer Zone,» recently published in Greece by Olkos Publications and translated by Voula Louvrou. «The buffer zone» is the official term given by the UN to the line that divides the Cypriot capital into Greek and Turkish sides. Since August 16, 1974, only UN patrols have been allowed to enter. This buffer zone is the theme of Lacarriere’s book, as well as being a place he managed to visit twice during 2002 with the help of the French Cultural Center in Cyprus. The book also includes 24 photographs of the so-called «deceased houses,» taken by Panikos Chrysanthou. «The buffer zone has variations in width due to smaller and larger streets. So the width can vary from 3 meters to even 1 kilometer, depending on the space. In the so-called Lane of the Bayonets, the distance between the Greek and Turkish guard posts is only a few meters. And, depending on the days and people’s moods, there is a lot of teasing, swearing or rude gestures between the two sides and sometimes the strangest games take place,» writes the author. Lacarriere has divided his route into 12 stops. There are houses with gaping windows, as well as abandoned toys and other objects. «Although I use the term blind facades, blinded facades would have been more appropriate. All the doors and windows have been sealed shut with wooden boards, corrugated iron, bags of sand and cement blocks. Especially in Ermou Street, which used to be the liveliest and most commercial street in Nicosia but today is full of weeds, trees, rats, cats and ravens, one has the impression of walking along the streets of a contemporary Pompeii where the years, the centuries and the ruins, past and the present, all clash with each other. In general, ruins do not betray how old they are, but this is not the case here.» Those who have visited Nicosia and have peeped at the buffer zone, have imagined the «deceased houses» alive and the streets full of people. Lacarriere’s routes shed more light on the less visible aspects of «Nicosia’s Pompeii.»