CULTURE

Two books bring together two eras in the same country

These are two short books, one just out – Nadia» by Lena Divani (published by Melani) – and an older one that has just been reissued – «Ta fidia ston Kolono» (The Snakes at Kolonos) by Thanassis Skroumbelos (published by Ellinika Grammata). Both explore the world of the lower-middle class: Divani’s that of today, Skroumbelos’s that of the post-civil war period. Nadia is an average young woman who works in a department store. She has her family, Tassos, whom she is planning to marry, and an emptiness inside her that just keeps growing. Instead of blooming, Nadia is falling apart. Everything that happens to her seems empty. «Her man was this man. But he kept telling her the same things, the same things, continually. Strange, she may have been granted a new talent, because he opened his mouth and Nadia knew what he was going to tell her. An appalling talent.» She never enjoys her mother’s home-cooked food. «How many thousands of times must the routine be repeated before it changed completely? How many more Mondays would she eat pasta, how many more Tuesdays baked beans and feta cheese, how many more Saturdays meatball stew?» So she starts trying to create upheaval in her stagnant life. Skroumbelos describes some moments in a more distant everyday life, when houses were «stripped, with their plaster scratched and the rot of time heavy upon them. Damp, with the well water contaminated and the cobblestones in the wide courtyard broken. Old furniture shops and panel beaters, with gardens and coxcombs and bitter orange trees and scented plants, the houses behind Gazi, in the ghetto. The locals have been away for years now, with emigration and all the rest.» All that, which sounds picturesque and idyllic many years later, wasn’t so at the time. Young people of that time fell in love, sought, reacted – as always. Skroumbelos portrays the characters in his neighborhood, while at the same time portraying one section of Greek society after the civil war. «The match was made. Lakis in a suit, the car borrowed from the doctor, and a visit to the in-laws. He took Takis the cat with him for his best man, for support, with a bunch of red roses and a double-breasted suit.» Then came the concrete and formica. «Going in the taxi and later walking, he observed the city. It had changed appearance, everywhere scaffolding and tall buildings had sprouted. From up high in Ilissia he saw the houses with the tiled roofs and their courtyards spreading out in front of him, and beside them the marble facades of tall, newly constructed buildings glittering.» These are two books that bring out two eras in the same country.