Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Άλμπατρος (Albatros)

During my summer holidays, I actually managed to run out of books to read (yes, it does happen even with the best estimations...) and I was briefly in a state of shock! 

Fortunately, my sister came to my rescue, recommending one of the books she had read, Άλμπατρος (Albatros) by Soti Triantafyllou.  What a little gem in the middle of all the heatwaves!  I was immediately and fully immersed in the book, in an England in the wake of the twentieth century, at a time when the class system and the British Empire start changing, while the two main characters, from the two extremes of the social classes make the courageous decision to abandon their fate and fight for people's rights.

I was impressed by the quality of the author's writing.  Don't get me wrong:  there are  excellent examples of modern Greek literature, but they are really not that many... Following in the general trend these days, some Greek authors prefer to deal with chick-lit themes, vampyre themes, and I suppose it will be a matter of time before I will see (pseudo)erotica themes in the bookstores... Yet, despite the pressure to write for "what the audience wants", I am pleased to see that some authors persevere and shine through their example in the international scene.

Soti Triantafyllou
While I could not find any of the Triantafyllou's works in English, I did find two of her works (but not this one) in German.  I am glad that there is at least some attempt in translating her works, because I really think she's one of the great authors of modern Greek literature.

In Albatros, we follow the lives of two different characters and backgrounds that meet and decide to change the rules of the game:  little Molly grows in the worst of London's filthy neighbourhoods, only to persevere and go to one of the few schools allowed for girls and later on become one of the first suffragettes.  She will also marry Edmund Matthewseld (I can't be sure about the spelling, as these names appear in Greek), a baron who will prefer becoming a politician (in those days, I suppose this was seen as an anathema) and strive towards social equality. Their union will cause a scandal in puritan England and mark the beginning of the era when women are finally considered as humans...

The book is about 550 pages, and there is never a dull moment.  Various characters, perhaps of lesser importance but certainly playing a crucial role in the development of the story, parade through the pages and put colour onto the reality of England in the late 1800s... While the language may at times betray the fact that it is modern, on the whole I had the feeling I was reading a translated work of a semi-classical author.  I would even go so far as to say that had this book been written in English, it would have all the qualities of a classic. I suppose this is what attracted me so much to the book in the first place:  the very good use of words and grammar, the descriptions that will not necessarily seek to evoke emotion, but rather provide the right background to each of the stories.

The book does not have a happy end:  Endmund dies and Molly is left to strive on her own (and does she really have an affair with an IRA-man???).  But that's alright:  I was swept through their stories, the stories of their friends and their families; I travelled to England, to South Africa, to the rest of Western Europe and for a while, I was really in that period, and I could understand the beliefs, the politics and the struggles of the up-and-coming middle class.  An important lesson in history.


  1. What a great find!

    1. It was, I thouroughly enjoyed it!




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