CULTURE

Victoria Hislop discusses ‘The Sunrise,’ her evocative new novel about partitioned Cyprus

Penning her evocative new novel about Cyprus was like “putting her fingers into a live electrical socket,” says global best-selling author and grecophile Victoria Hislop.

British-born Hislop, 55, who resides much of the year in between Crete and Athens, was describing the process of writing her latest fiction work, “The Sunrise,” published on September 24.

The novel is set against the inflammatory backdrop of the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, in which many Greek Cypriots were expelled from their homes.

“Writing about Cyprus is a bit like licking your fingers and putting them into an electric socket – you feel the live current coming out,” said Hislop, whose 2005 debut novel, “The Island,” has been translated into 31 languages and was turned into Greece’s most successful television series.

“Cyprus is still a very living story – the end of the story has not yet been reached and people still feel very passionately about how unjust it all was,” added Hislop, who recently returned to the occupied region of Famagusta, where her book was set to take part in the 40th anniversary commemorations and rally.

A lifelong fan of Greece, the award-winning scribe and former travel journalist also owns a property on Crete, where “The Island” was set, and has learned to speak Greek.

“The Sunrise” tells the story of an ambitious young couple, proprietors of the upscale Hotel Sunrise, whose fortunes are soon devastated by the conflict between Greece and Turkey.

In a formula that has served her well, it is Hislop’s fifth literary foray to both the darker side of human history and to her beloved Mediterranean. Apart from “The Island,” which was about the abandoned leprosy colony of Spinalonga, two other previous works, “The Thread” and “The Last Dance,” were also set in Greece, while “The Return” was pitched during Franco’s tragic civil war in Spain.

As with Cyprus, Hislop found that many Spaniards were still reluctant to talk to her about the painful era – and hid behind a “pacto de olvido,” a pact of forgetting.

“I met so many people in Cyprus too who had lost everything,” recounted Hislop, who is often credited with inventing the “smart beach read.” “For them, it is as if the events were yesterday.”

The Oxford graduate, married to British journalist, writer and broadcaster Ian Hislop, said she couldn’t imagine ever setting any of her popular novels in a cold climate.

“My body hates the cold. My hands go numb, even in an English summer, if it’s below 20 degrees. Greece definitely supplies the warmth I need.

“I love Greece’s light, the blue sky, the landscape, the language – and of course, the people. There is almost nothing in Greece that I am ‘neutral’ about – unlike my own country,” admitted the famous novelist this week.

Hislop was speaking ahead of her forthcoming appearance at a six-day artistic exhibition, “Art Links,” to be held in Athens from October 17 to 22.

Hislop will deliver a free talk on “The Importance of Books” on Monday, October 20, at the Art Links Athens 2014 event. The festival will also showcase creative workshops and live performances from a number of other international artists, musicians and leading Greek fashion designers.

To reserve tickets and find out more about the Art Links schedule, visit www.exploringacreativelife.com/art-links—athens-2014.html.

* Amanda Dardanis is a freelance journalist based in Athens.