CULTURE

Eyes not quite open?

“With Wide Open Eyes» (Kastaniotis publications) is an innovative mix of photography and short stories edited by Katerina Frangou. The black-and-white photographs all lend an air of mystery to everyday subjects, be they Thodoris Hourmouziadis’s seagulls in a lowering sky, Katerina Pattakou’s tables seen through windows or Stamatis Laganis’s puzzling interiors. Yet the exciting visual material often outshines the writing. Perhaps the concept of the book is to blame, with its extra-literary demands. Frangou explains that the «aim was to overturn the image that foreigners have» of Greece, an aim doomed to failure, based as it is on the shaky premise of an erroneous image shared by all foreigners. The writers who ignored the stated aim or twisted it for the purposes of fiction did best. Lena Divani’s story, «Basically, Penelope Was an Idiot,» offers an acute portrait of a novice teacher’s failure to deal with her own life or her insolent, work-shy pupils. Panos Karnezis’s «The Find» is a sly, undogmatic take on stereotypes in a hilarious tale about a village trash collector who spies what he takes to be an ancient Greek soldier by the side of the road, sleeping off an Olympian hangover in full armor, and Amanda Michalopoulou’s eccentric heroine lives out her fantasies in «400 Pleats.» Of the cardboard cutouts in some of the other stories – Vassiliki Kappa’s scholar who expects Ancient Greek to be spoken in Athens today, Spyros Karydakis’s German beggar, and Alexandros Asonitis’s Microsoft engineer who rants about US military superiority when spurned by a plucky Greek barwoman, the less said the better.