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A SONG FROM THE SOUL  

 1997



ISBN 960-236-843-8    388 pages

 LIVANIS PUBLISHING HOUSE  







It all starts in Smyrna, a short while before the ruthless expulsion of Greeks from Asia Minor. The heroine of the book, still a very young woman then, grabs the reins of her life and that of her family’s and leads them out and away of their predicament like a real man, like a father and a brother.

This novel unfolds in Alexandria of the Greek poet Kavafis- in which he lived most of his life along with a large portion of Greek people - and is completed in Crete, on a coast right across Alexandria.

The souls ”, as the author writes in his book, “ desperately sought to return to the earth,” wander around us at least for a while and wear their earthly attire through the lines of this book. “ The Song of the Soul ” is about a real story.

This novel was to be written to offer the sense of powerful bonds between the members of a family during wartime.

Yet, unintentionally, a strong character was born from its words, young Marika, who, at the age of thirteen, came to meet life and death at the same time.

We are in Izmyr in 1921. In her mother’s bedroom, where she was taken in a hurry from school, she saw her newborn sister in the cradle and her father, lying dead on the iron bed, beside it. His colleagues had put him there after his deadly fall at the shipyards where he’s been working. Young Marika is at a loss unable to understand the tragedy around her, which simply overturned her plans and crushed her dreams.

Uncle George, her mother’s brother, invites them all to come and stay with him in Alexandria where they could cope with the family needs after their loss. Uncle George has a wife, Aunt Paraskevi, and nine children; Marika, apart from her mother has got four younger brothers and sisters, including the newborn. The big dining table of the family is always laid. In that home, all different ages and interests make Aunt Paraskevi renew all the time the delicacies on it, in order for the children, siblings and cousins together, to find something to eat when they have time.

Marika doesn’t take long to find her way in the multinational, multicultural society of Alexandria. When she started looking for a job she first went to the sea, where there was once built the Lighthouse. She was so fond of the sea, like her father. There, she made a wish and gave a promise. She asked the Nereids to help her and her family, and then … she promised them her soul.

Soon, Marika turns from the kid who picks the pins from the floor in the bra and corset factory of Madame Bernar, a Polish-Jewish cosmopolitan lady, to the owner of the business thanks to her hard work and her boss’ sympathy. When Madame Bernar decides to go to her daughter in Poland, long before the war, Marika inherits the factory paying little by little.

When, just before the war, she hears about Madame Bernar’s death, she feels the need to offer her a memorial service and, not daring to go to the Synagogue, she goes to the Orthodox church and asks for a service to her teacher, as she calls her. Her generosity and donations to several church foundations don’t leave much choice for denial to the priests.

Now, she’s got enough money to be powerful and impose her will. Her decisions, some of the times, sound strange to her friends and people who know her, but… that’s Marika, as they say.

She educates, builds dowries, decides and chooses grooms and brides for her four siblings but she remains solid and set to her decision to remain single, free and independent.

After a lot of encouragement and pressures, the Patriarch himself added to this, Marika agrees to get married and chooses a friend of hers from childhood. It is an unfortunate marriage. Her first child dies shocking the whole family. Marika, decisive as ever, gets pregnant soon after. This time the child lives but her husband shows signs of distress, still suffering from the previous blow. A few months after their son’s birth, he dies. Marika is alone and a widow and states that she will never marry again.

The war breaks out. Her flat in the center of Alexandria shakes as the bombs hit the city and the sound from the battles in El Alamain is heard clearly. Marika is neither touched nor stuggered. She finds comfort in her business and in gambling. In the morning she works, in the evening she plays cards. She doesn’t even allow her guests to run to the shelter. “Whose turn is it to deal?” she asks when the rest around the table are terrified, have dropped the cards and are ready to leave money and everything to run for a place in the shelter.

Only one player, the strongest one, who has repeatedly challenged her during the game, sits high-and-mighty as if he also doesn’t hear the bombs around them. When a bomb hit a nearby building, there was absolute tumult and the lights went out, it was Marika and he who stayed sat at the table holding their hand of cards. The rest kneeled and hid under it seeking for the least protection.

He caught her eye and she fell in love with him…

Years later, when Marika was alone, after her relatives departed, and without any fortune left, after it being wasted by her late second husband, she finds herself on a beach in south Crete, looking for the last time at the sea that connected her to the city she had become great, or, at least, left her with the strongest memories. She pronounces some of her friend’s, Kavafis, verses, with whom they were neighbors and socialized a little – not much, because she didn’t approve of his peculiarity.

“… as if ready from long ago, as a brave one,

Bid goodbye, to Alexandria that’s leaving…”

As soon as she finishes saying the verses, she runs to the sea swimming towards the legendary city. She never returned. She was loyal and true to her promise to the Nereids.

 “By this script”, the writer concludes, “I wished to imprint the characteristics of a society during a specific period of time. This novel is neither a myth nor history. I don’t even know what it is… Yet, it is said that the heroes of a novel are souls without bodies. So, these souls have requested to return to earth for a day or two. For as long as it would take to keep company to the reader who read this script. They wished to feel the scent of the earth leaving their ethereal and immaterial paradise for a while…”


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