A quest and suspense in ‘The Blue Hour’

In his latest novel, «The Blue Hour» («I ble ora»), Thanassis Chimonas has brought together a quest, suspense and a road story, where mysteries are never fully resolved. When his older brother Antonis, a film director, disappears for two months and fails to get in touch with his family, Dimitris undertakes to search for him, reluctantly at first, since his brother has often left town without bothering to inform his family and has always let them know where he is, eventually. Prompted to action at last by his mother’s anxiety, Dimitris embarks on a journey that will take him from Athens to France, Italy and Germany. As he becomes increasingly suspicious of Antonis’s friends and colleagues, Dimitris begins to believe that his brother may be in danger. Yet he is held back by an inertia he cannot comprehend. Trapped The novel begins dramatically, with the narrator physically trapped in a car during a flood, unable to help a man and his child who he can see drowning. But even when he is free, it seems that Dimitris feels unable to act. He lacks will power, keeping up a relationship with a woman he claims he feels nothing for. He berates his mother for inaction, for failing to see a doctor about her health problems, yet he himself keeps procrastinating – fatally, in the end. One by one, he tracks down his brother’s former friends and connections, only to find that Antonis has always just left, often leaving his hosts in the dark. Though we never meet the brother, his personality dominates the story. He cannot bear to travel or stay alone, then he vanishes suddenly without saying goodbye. Talented and moody, he seesaws between moods of manic excitement and supreme confidence in his work to deep depressions, when he hides himself away in his workroom and sees no one. He inspires love and admiration among a wide range of people but he also quarrels easily with them, and abandons them with equal ease, traveling from one place to another, one country to the next, forever planning the next film, to which he brings all the obsessive energy of the perfectionist. In his pursuit of Antonis, Dimitris meets several people who have experienced the sharp edge of his brother’s tongue for various mistakes he perceives them as having made – one for his luxurious lifestyle, another for daring to suggest he act as a mere assistant to another director. Yet Antonis preaches and sometimes practices kindness, giving money to a feckless friend, for example. The tension mounts as Antonis is nowhere to be found and we start to believe, along with Dimitris, that he may have come to some harm. Kathimerini English Edition asked the author about his book. How did «The Blue Hour» come into being? Did you start with a particular theme or characters in mind? Actually, all my books start in the form of a story that becomes more and more clear in my mind. The theme, the characters, the plot are all part of a whole. When this is completed, I put my pen to paper and start writing the book. Still, in «The Blue Hour» there are some autobiographical elements, maybe more than in my other books. Quest The narrator embarks on a quest to find his missing brother, Antonis, but it seems that he himself is lost. He is already in his 30s but has not committed himself to any kind of work or even to his relationship with the woman he has made pregnant. And a strange inertia holds him back from making decisions and taking action. What attracted you to this theme? In all my books, the main character is a little bit confused like that. I think this is a characteristic of young people who live in our times, in the 21st century. I do believe that today nothing is really clear. As before, people feel a need to revolt but they do not know how, or against whom. Concerning «The Blue Hour,» the hero may embark on a quest to find his brother but he also tries to discover himself. Antonis remains mysterious to the end. Every character in the book has his or her own perception of him, and they all interpret his actions differently. Did you want to explore the difficulty of really knowing another person? ‘Devoured’ by art Antonis is what we call an «artist.» All these are characteristics of a person who is really into art, any sort of art. A person who wants to create something really big but can never accomplish his task as it becomes bigger and bigger every time he approaches it. A person who is finally «devoured» by art. The plot is open-ended, leaving the reader to guess what happened. Do you enjoy leaving your readers in the dark? Always. I believe that my novels are like road movies (this is something that is more clear in my first book, «Ramon»). I hate definite endings and I loathe happy endings. You have written both short stories and novels. What are you working on now and what kind of future writing projects appeal to you? At the moment I’m not working on anything. Every time I finish a book I feel like my head becomes empty of ideas. I guess I need some time to rest and I never stress about when I will start the next one. I suppose in the few months a new inspiration will come to me, or maybe not, who knows. The author Thanassis Chimonas was born in 1971 in Athens. He made his literary debut with two short stories in Ta Nea newspaper, one of which was published in «Love in the First Person,» a short-story collection (Kedros, 1997). This was followed by his novels, «Ramon» (Kedros, 1998), «Broken English» (Kedros, 2000), «Undeciphered Soul» (Patakis, 1997) and «The Blue Hour» (Patakis, 2005).