How do I talk about this book without saying this thing that really needs saying? I think I’ve already said too much. It’s one of those books that can be spoiled by knowing there can be a spoiler. You look at this book, you start reading it and you never guess this book can punch you in the face. But it can and it will hurt.
In 1940s some 14 000 of Greek communists, exiled from their country after losing the Civil War, ended up in Poland. Sakis Sallis, the narrator of this book is a middle aged writer who was born in south-western Poland – Lower Silesia to Greek parents. Now he is living in the crisis-stricken Greece and decides to go a writer’s retreat on the island of Paros to work on his novel in which he wants to revisit his childhood memories.
Sakis is single, childless and of misanthropic disposition. He drinks too much, he smokes too much and he thinks he can undo it all by taking a lot of magnesium supplements. But how can Sakis be fixed? He has no home. In Poland he is the ‘Grek’, in Greece he is the ‘Polonus’. His parents are dead and there is no one else. There is nothing left but the memories of the Arcadia of his childhood.
The first fourteen years of his life are now all a myth, told and retold to himself, where his red-bearded, fearless father is the God. The only God Sakis ever believed in. The Eden of his childhood, a small town in Lower Silesia might be located in the warmest part of Poland but it’s still a far cry from his parents’ homeland. They try to recreate it the best they can. His mother cooks Greek dishes, replacing every ingredient with cabbage and potatoes. His father goes on long trips in search of cicadas. The Greece-communist Poland clash is probably the best part of this book and what makes it unique, I guess. This is when our narrator lets go of that cynical persona, the one that internally makes fun of all the people surrounding him in the writer’s retreat, the one that can’t see himself in any romantic relationship, the one that communicates in bullet-like sentences. When Sakis talks about his parents, it’s all honey and poetry. They are his only anchor. Ah, Sakis, be careful.
* The title of this book translates to "Greeks Die At Home".