To read that which is beautifully written is a joy and a burst of unanticipated surprise in these days of abbreviated txt and abrupt communication. I have recently re-visited Anne Zouroudi’s The Messenger of Athens and remain as captivated as ever by the author’s capacity to express the hidden significance of things and to create a mood by magic, for we are barely conscious of her technique, so mesmerised are we by her unaffected style and visual clarity. It is not just the Greek island topography, which is evoked by subtle selection of appropriate detail and diction, but the darker touches of her sharp and cynical delineation of human nature and the sense of people’s insignificance in the wider scheme of things that nudge us into a world which is tellingly harsh; the irony of this in what is a stereotypical tourist setting is striking. A deceptively simple example from the text (four letters) is the paragraph describing how Thodoris Hatzistratis’ ‘Grandpa’ (such a warm and comfortably affectionate term) has been laid out for burial by the women, his appearance rejuvenated in death and by their ministrations. Delicate use of pejorative vocabulary, such as ‘jaundiced’, suggests a darker tone. Then, in a powerfully brief one-sentence paragraph, comes: ‘Around his nostrils, a fat fly crawled.’
Anne doesn’t know me, but I became more interested in her work after I attended a seminar that she gave at Bloomsbury Publishing in June. If you haven’t read her novels, you should.