Magazine article The Spectator

Little Promise of Redemption

Magazine article The Spectator

Little Promise of Redemption

Article excerpt

Back to Delphi by Ioanna Karystiani Europa Editions, £10.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9781609450908 If you mixed Lionel Shriver's chilling We Need to Talk About Kevin with a Joycean stream of consciousness from a female Ulysses in contemporary Athens, you'd be approaching the spirit of Ioanna Karystiani's Back to Delphi.

Viv is the mother of a notorious rapist and murderer, now locked up in Korydallos prison. Granted five days to take him on leave of absence, she decides that a trip to Delphi might provide salvation for her damaged son and for a relationship based on silence and betrayal. Strange, disturbing and funny, the book reveals the seedy neighbourhoods and bedsits of 21st-century Athens, its hot, dirty parks and 'the drone of Balkan, Asian and African languages rising shrill above every badly designed square'. Not what the Greek tourist board is going to recommend, but all the more intriguing for it.

Ioanna Karystiani is a much admired writer who won the Greek National Book Award (for her novel, The Jasmine Isle) and whose screenplay, Brides, was made into a successful film, directed by her husband, Pantelis Voulagaris, with Martin Scorsese as executive producer. Born 61 years ago in Crete, she belongs to the celebrated 'Polytechnic generation' - as a student in the early 1970s, she fought against the Colonels' Junta. Now a leading voice in the Greek literary establishment, Karystiani's writing is both lyrical and brutal, sometimes experimental and underpinned by ancient myth and tragedy.

Carrying '52 years of weariness and 72 kilos [12 stone] of sadness, ' Viv is a double victim - a woman whose son has committed horrifying crimes and who has to hide from public vilification. 'The mother's belly is the cradle of every good thing, the cave of every evil.' The reader gradually learns more about Viv's contribution to her son's character and to his capture by the police, but there is little promise of redemption. …

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