Thursday, 20 March 2014

Karystiani, Ionna "The Jasmine Isle"


Karystiani, Ionna (Ιωάννα Καρυστιάνη) "The Jasmine Isle" (Μικρά Αγγλία/Mikra Anglia) - 1997 

This is one of the examples where you find several different titles for the same book and you wonder why. The original title "Μικρά Αγγλία" (Mikra Anglia) means "Little England" which is what they call the island in the story, the Spanish have translated that word by word "Pequeña Inglaterra", the German title "Die Frauen von Andros" means "The Women of Andros" which is the name of the island the women live on whereas the Italians and the British call it "The Jasmine Isle" or "L'isola dei gelsomini" respectively. Why? I doubt that even the people responsible for this know the real reason.

I liked the story about the seafaring Greek guys before and during World War II and the women they leave behind on their little island. It is definitely (as mentioned in the German title), the women's story. Ioanna Karystiani describes the protagonists so well, she has an interesting way of introducing both characters as well as incidents. I like her style even though it seems a little confusing at times. But I read somewhere that it is a good recollection of life on the islands at the time. I can imagine since the author herself was born on Crete, larger than Andros but still, a Greek island. When I visited it in the early 2000s, it still seemed stuck in the middle of the past century. Very alluring, very charming but still, life was not as modern as I know it from my part of Europe, so I can imagine that this story is close to reality.

Definitely a Stream of Consciousness novel, worth a read.

From the back cover: "A modern love story with the force of an ancient Greek tragedy. Set on the spectacular Cycladic island of Andros, The Jasmine Isle one of the finest literary achievements in contemporary Greek literature, recounts the story of the beautiful Orsa Saltaferos, sentenced to marry a man she doesn't love and to watch while the man she does love weds another."

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