Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The House on Paradise Street"

Sofka Zinovieff has published two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Eurydice Street and Red Princess, a biography of her paternal grandmother.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The House on Paradise Street, her first novel, and reported the following:
This page [inset below, click to enlarge] works well as a chancy dip into the book. Maud, an English woman living in Athens, recalls the first day she met Nikitas – a charismatic, older journalist to whom she was married. We know that Nikitas has now died – 20 years later – in a mysterious car accident, though it isn’t made clear on this page. One of the main themes of the book is Maud trying to find out more about her husband’s past. He had been born 62 years earlier, in prison. His mother, Antigone, had been a left-wing partisan during the Nazi occupation and then left him behind in Greece to go into exile in the Soviet Union. If Maud’s English voice is one of the main narratives of the book, Antigone’s is the other. The old Greek woman returns to Greece after her son’s death and terrible family divisions are re-opened as she recalls her past and the wounds of the Civil War.

This first meeting between Maud and Nikitas brings in many of the themes of the book: death and burial in Greece; the outsider trying to understand Greece; memory and its slippery tricks. Maud is an anthropology student at this stage and she is always observing what is going on around her. She doesn’t understand everything – she doesn’t yet speak the language well – but she is intrigued. Nikitas attempts his seduction by taking Maud to lunch at the First Cemetery – Athens’ most glamorous graveyard, where the workers have a little ouzo cafe. Nikitas views this expedition like a challenge and it works. After drinking too much ouzo and eating the delicious mezedes, the walk through the green, shady cemetery is something Maud will never forget.
Learn more about the book and author at Sofka Zinovieff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue