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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Among the Zinnias

It's here! 

Among the Zinnias is now in ebook and paperback!




AmazonUS


AmazonUK








Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Hoarder

I saw this post in The Facebook group, A Good Greek Read and I thought the book title looked familiar, Inside Hitler's Greece.

Sure enough, I found the book among many others in my basement, where books seem to accumulate.

Copyrighted in 1993, I remember someone in my family reading it, so with the prompt from Facebook and the fact that I had the hardcover in my hand, I decided to read it.

It's not a light easy read by any means, but it is an interesting one, especially when considering my father-in-law, Tomas, was among the resistance fighters who fought against the Germans and was very much privy to the wide spread starvation that occurred as a result of the German occupation.

As I read the book, memories of Tomas emerged. Both the Germans and Italians occupied Greece during the second World War. Tomas told me some stories about the Italians, which at the time, I thought were just his way of being nice to me, his Italian-American daughter-in-law. But I've just read similar accounts in this book.

According to Tomas, the Italian soldiers were mostly kind-hearted and tried to help the Greek civilians. He told of Italian soldiers giving their food rations to the children of the village and then catching turtles to boil and eat, instead. The children would aid the soldiers in catching the turtles, knowing they'd get the soldiers' food in return.

The Italian government also did as much as they could to supply some food to the starving Greeks. This was in contrast to the German government and soldiers who took what they could and shipped much of the Greek food supply back to Germany to feed that hungry population. Thus, especially in the cities, the Greek civilian population dwindled rapidly under these dire conditions.

Another memory of Tomas and his war stories is about two men who had come to the countryside from Athens in search of food.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Blanket of Snow

Photo credit: taken from Facebook Group, Parga Paradise, posted February 8, 2017 by Lloyd Gowland who credited the original post of Rosario Grazioso.

A small sprinkling of snow, like the shake of a snow globe can create a scene of beauty and is a tolerable situation.

An even coating, perhaps a few centimeters, is a bit of a nuisance but barely disrupts the flow of life.

A heavy blanket, however, one that stops traffic, closes businesses and blocks the television satellite programing is respite from the unruly spin of daily routine. I for one, welcome it. (Retirees, this is not meant for you, and stop telling me how great your life is).

In Your Own Kind, such an event brings a group of people closer in proximity, maybe more than some want, though for others the closeness cements their budding relationships.

. . . Uncle Mike had said the little village would be dead until after the new year, but Sarah didn't see it that way. Yes, it's true. The tourists were gone, the restaurant often empty and mostly she worked on weekend evenings. But for her, this place was more alive than it had ever been. 
          She and Alexandros explored the cliffs in front of the lighthouse, and sometimes they would have the pleasant surprise of coming up over a boulder to see a group of harbor seals resting on the rocks ahead. And if they were very still they would have several minutes to watch them close-up before their intrusion was detected and the seals would jump from the rocks and disappear back into the sea. There were days to fish with homemade rods that they made from the long reeds they pulled from the lake. And when the first snow arrived, Alexandros' friend, Eagle, took them to the beach and showed them, with some old skis and poles that were in the restaurant basement, how to ski on a flat surface, an activity neither of them had ever done. Then when a Nor'easter blew up the coast and buried the village in a white blanket of snow, cutting power for three days and causing the New Year's celebration at the town hall to be cancelled, they took the skis and drew lines in the snow from north to south and back again.
          Minos invited the restaurant workers to stay at his house because he had a generator, which kept the heat running. A few of the cooks took him up on it, as did Sarah, but Minos' wife warned them all in English and in Greek to behave in front of the children. 
          "No bad words, and no hanky-pankying each other." She'd learned some of her English from American movies. 
          Eventually, as with every year before that one, the gray days began to lengthen and winter began to slowly melt away. . .


 

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lost in Translation

She said she doesn't want anything from you. That's what he told the older woman. That's how he translated my message.

However, my actual words, having been carefully chosen and sculpted, were meant to spare her ego. What I'd actually said was: Tell her, I appreciate her effort very much and would love to have something to eat later but I've just eaten and would not fully appreciate how delicious her food is. Tell her also that she's such a wonderful cook! (big smile from me to the woman awaiting translation.)

Most people would agree that, although both statements declare the same basic truth, each gives the listener, in this case, my mother-in-law, a different perception of the speaker. What other reason is there for language than if not to communicate what is in one's mind. And if a person takes the time and effort to mold the message into just the right words, one would hope that it would be that precise message that the listener receives, no?

Such mistranslation, for that is what I'd call the above encounter, has been without a doubt a strong motivator for my learning Greek. But this is not about me and my incompetence with the Greek language or my feeble attempts to communicate with my Greek relatives. Rather it is a revelation that speaks to something I'd never thought of despite the fact my life has been surrounded by people with whom communication is a monumental effort . . . and yes, an art.

This is about reading translated editions of books.

But how does the encounter above relate to reading? Can different translators have different renditions of translated material? I'd never thought about it much until I read the article, The Subtle Art of Translating Foreign Fiction, after which I thought about my new favorite author, Donatella Di Pietrantonio. But she writes only in Italian and I do not read Italian. So, does that mean my love for the author is actually meant for the translator?

Friday, December 9, 2016

It Only Takes One Generation to Forget

He was stripped naked, forced to kneel in the snow as a dull sword was given to a 16-year-old villager, a sort of baptism into soldierhood, though there were plenty of guns available for the job. It took the boy several blows of the sword to accomplish the task. The victim: an Italian soldier taken prisoner in the mountains of Greece during World War II, a young man who now lives in my psyche and haunts my dreams.

This true account was taken from the diary of New Zealander, Tom Barnes, whose daughter-in-law turned those pages into a book called The Sabotage Diaries. He and his men, part of a team that was parachuted into Greece, witnessed the account but were not able to stop it. For several reasons, this book is more than just an interesting read. The narrative of that one unfortunate Italian captive, is but a few lines in the tale and yet, I cannot let it go. I see those family members of mine who were players on that field. My father-in-law, Tomas was a young andarte (partisan-guerilla) among those the British allies came to help. My mother-in-law, Chevi, was a young woman who suffered the consequences of the war and was one who carried the munitions for the soldiers as Barnes was aghast to learn--women in Greece were the pack mules.

But it's the words of my father, Carl Fagioli, that ring in my ears. An Italian-American, born of immigrant parents, he suffered throughout his life from bouts of anxiety that in later life he attributed to his time in World War II. His mother, a widow and he an only son could have deferred the deployment but they didn't know. She was a barely-literate immigrant trying to make a living in the Bronx. When dad was sent to the front, he was grateful it was in Asia, for now the relatives back in the old country were deemed enemies and he wasn't sure how he'd be able to survive if he had to fight against them. Was that young prisoner in the Greek mountains a relative? A friend of one whom dad would visit in Italy forty years later? Would the family members of that young soldier have ascendants who'd come as tourists after a few generations to swim on the Greek shores? It only takes one generation to forget the atrocities of the past. . . That's why it's so easy to repeat them.

My father-in-law, Tomas had told a few war stories in his time and of course these colored my reading of Barnes' book. Another quick mention of a seemingly insignificant character in The Sabotage Diaries was a young twenty-year-old woman who the Greek guerrillas deemed a poutana (whore) for collaborating with the Italians. The Greek rebels that the allies came to help were actually split into two factions, leftists and right-wingers. It would be the only time they'd work together and even before the world war had ended, they would battle for control of Greece until the people were left in destitute tatters with broken hearts, broken homes and widespread starvation.

But the memory of one particular story from Tomas, had me reading about that so-called-whore with a heavy heart. There were groups of fighters vying for favor with General Zervas, the perceived leader of the Greek guerrillas. And bringing her to the general appeared to be a move to please him. Was that poor woman a traitor or a pawn? Someone who had jilted the amorous advances of one of the local boys-turned-guerrilla? A starving villager who'd succumbed to an Italian soldier's charity? An unlucky woman drawing water from a village well when the guerrillas passed by? Eventually she was taken away and shot.

This is my father-in-law's story:

Cousin Theodore was an andarte fighting against the Germans with the leftists. Tomas joined him with the thought that it would be better at least to have family within the ranks of whichever group he followed.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Split Second Decisions that Define a Future

The first Greek I ever met, was the one who hired me for a diner job in a New York suburb back in 1980. I didn't know he was Greek, probably couldn't have found Greece on a map. After all, there'd been no point in high school for attending to useless drivel like geography. If it wasn't going to make me a good wife or if I couldn't enter it into my journal while I cut classes and sat in the library writing, I simply wasn't interested.

I hadn't had any intension of taking that diner job. I'd just given up on a failed hairdressing career. Actually I was a shampoo girl. My fate had been sealed several years prior when I'd gotten caught ditching my high school Spanish class. That was my solution to some nasty bullying. All I knew was that I couldn't go back to that class and when one hapless guidance counselor got the unpleasant duty of reprimanding me, he'd tried to scare me with some line about needing Spanish coursework for when I applied for a university. Silly fool. College? Me? I'm one of six children and a girl. Didn't he know anything?

"Well, what are you going to do with your life?" he'd asked me.

"Be a mother and a wife, of course." I thought, "what else?" But he seemed to want an answer. I knew I liked to write and to read books. But you can't make a living out of that, can you? Hmmm, well, I also knew a girl who was in a program to become a hair stylist.  I liked blow drying my hair. I was pretty good at styling it. I really couldn't think of any other profession at that moment and I figured he needed an answer. It was his job after all. Guidance counselor. So, I gave him something mostly so I could get out of his office.

"I want to be a hairdresser," I said.

Oh that sweet man! From then on, he worked with a vengeance to get me into the 2-year cosmetology program and my hairdressing career was off and running. The first thing I learned was that I didn't really like to touch other people's hair. But the commitment was made. So, I'd give it all I had, which turned out to be very little. I never made it past shampoo girl and I was tired of living in my parents' house. Remember the six kids?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Insects and other creatures.

Imagine insects and small creatures crawling into your window at night or just living in the cracks of your stucco walls.

I've just reread the hilariously entertaining book, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durell. As Durell, a young boy living on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s, recounted his intimate relationship with the creeping crawling creatures of the area, I could not help but think of my own, not-so-romantic experience on Corfu in 1987. I'd missed the last ferry to the mainland and had to spend the night in a hotel that boasted a closeness to nature like none I wanted to experience. I'd thought my stint on the mainland in the village of Margariti, a few years prior, had desensitized me to those creatures. But I was wrong.

Rewind to that first experience of the Greek countryside in Epirus, 1983. Within the altered state of mind-numbing culture shock, I'd become hypersensitive to sounds--not only to the lilt of approaching Greek-speakers but also to the barely audible sounds of small creatures that only I seemed to hear until they made their presence blatantly known. Take the Greek termites, for example. A small scratching sound, almost imperceptible, unless you happened to be lying wide-eyed in the middle of the night, a thin sheet sticking to the sweat on your body. In that case, as was the case for me on those sweltering, pre-air-conditioned nights, I implored my husband, Nick, to identify from where the sound was coming but he couldn't hear it. I, on the other hand, could localize the vicinity somewhere near the floor by the door but when I turned on the light, there'd be nothing there. It wasn't until we'd needed that one wooden chair for a dinner guest, that the scratching sound was accurately identified. I retrieved the chair from the bedroom and brought it to the guest beneath the grape arbor where the family had gathered for a meal. The guest sat on it, and with a small creak, the chair disintegrated under his bottom and he fell to the ground.