Author’s Pitch: SNIFF by Gregory Papadoyannis

I’m in my room now, thinking that I’m thinking. You are the only person I can tell.

I have a yellow pen, just like the ones I had when I was a schoolboy, the ones I used to write with in my handwriting notebook.

That pen wrote really white blue letters and I really liked it because with the yellow pen, letters turned out much more round.

I’m looking at the hill through the window. A bird is flying now, it might be Tsitsifikos.

It’s not Nikos the nightingale because that one comes and sings to me every evening. Wherever I go, Nikos the nightingale comes and sings to me.

It has come here now, at the house where I’m staying with my little brother. He’s younger than me, but dad always called me Benjamin instead. My brother said we should come and stay on our own here, at the house next to the sea, the house dad built.

Now I’m sitting down writing just like I used to when I had discovered the word game.

When I was at school I liked the L the way Stella wrote it because it was a lady in an evening dress just like mom. I liked the R and the S and the A too. I didn’t like the B, it looked like an official.

But most of all I liked the L. That’s why I wrote all words with a double L.

Then dad told me off because I had made a mistake.

Now all these things I’m writing, you know all about them, but I’m saying them to you, I’ve got nobody else.

But when you write something and then you read it back to yourself it’s nice because you remember what happened then and you think it’s then again. It’s like when we talk to ourselves so that we’re not scared when it’s night just like when I was still a kid and they left me on my own and I was scared. I’m still scared sometimes in the night when I’m on my own.

And you’re the only person I can tell this too.

 

 

Those little doggies, a white one and a black one

And they were just opposite us, at Mrs Elisso’s balcony.

The balcony was full of jasmines and Mrs Elisso would give them to Bella

 

Bella had a thread and a needle

And she’d pass the jasmines through them

And they’d open up

And they’d turn into a round thing full of jasmines.

But then the jasmines wither

And Bella throws them away.

The little doggies would go on the balcony and look down.

They were really small doggies.

I asked Mrs Elisso if they would ever grow up,

No they won’t grow up, she said

 

They’ll stay just as little as they are.

 

 

LittllleBun LittleBun nyRab bit goes foradrrrink

Lit tle Bun ny Rab bit goes for a drink

LittleBunnyRabbitgoesforadrink[1]

 

 

Dad said you’re a man now. We went to the main square and sat and I got chocolate ice-cream in a silver thing. People say hello to dad. If they’re officials dad talks to them and they come along and they say hello to me too and they say, what a cute little boy, what will you be when you grow up, but I don’t know.

 

Kerassia[2] is nice but it has dirt roads. Dad said we should watch our mouths because of his position. They bring people to his office and he puts them in the big house because they’re scum. Mom is too fancy. Ill go to school. Bella has no brains. Dad is angry. Mom is very beautiful. Dad is shouting. When I grow up I will be a grown-up.

 

Our church is called Metropoli. Every Sunday and on the other holidays the bells ring. There are also icons and we kneel in front of them and we light candles. There are also lots of lanterns. At the very top there’s god watching over us. Will he also see us when we’re in Moschopodi[3]? Even in Moschopodi where there are lots of trees he will be able to see us. If I’m not a good boy I won’t get a golden tooth on Sunday at church[4].

 

Dad took mom who was really beautiful and they were in Crete because we are Cretans. Cretans are the best people in the world. His mom is grandma who lives in Athens. We’re also going to Athens when we get a transfer. I’m a Pathanaikos[5] fan.

 

I eat almond chocolate bars. I dreamt I was in the car and it was full of chocolate bars and candy and peanuts and a policeman had brought them to me. The policeman brings stuff from the office. If I’m a good boy strangers who come to our home also bring me chocolate the big almond chocolate bars with the fairy tales at the back or the other one that costs two drachmas[6]. The strangers say,

What’s your name, what will you be when you grow up, whom do you love the most, daddy or mummy?

 

Bella has dolls because she’s a girl and she won’t give them to me. I don’t like dolls. I have a bunny rabbit and a ball that daddy got me for Christmas. Dad reads the paper. When I grow up I’ll be a man. That’s why dad took away my binky and won’t give it back.

Weve got a white car. The car takes us to the sea. Dad holds the wheel. If were not careful well get killed. When I grow up as soon as we get somewhere I’ll say let’s get out of here.

 

We talk only inside our house otherwise we’ll lose our position. We’ve got a big house, but Mr Kondaxis comes and we pay rent. If we don’t work we’ll die. We’ve also got a yard and I go there and play but I don’t go out because there are bad people. We’ve got flowers and may beetles come and sit on the spearmint. If I’m not a good boy they’ll give me to the gypsies. If I cry I’m not a man.

 

Lambros brings the milk and says eeeeh. Amalia has red hair. Children go to school but if they’re poor they are lostcauses. Grandpa had gone to America to make money. Mr Ladyslippers is a military officer. We call him Yorgos when we have lunch together. As soon as he leaves we call him Ladyslippers because his wife orders him around and makes him wear ladies’ slippers although he’s a grownman. Uncle Elias has no brains to be here. Mr Ladyslippers said the situation is crucial.

 

Only we love each other all the others only care about themselves.

 

Where are we going dad? Wherever the road takes us.

 

FIRST NOTEBOOK

Dad reads the paper. I don’t know how to read. Dad shows me the letters so that I learn them. Dad says a man who is Russian[7] was flying in space inarocket all day and in the evening he came down and went home where the Russians were waiting for him and clapped. He came to Athens to get more claps and mom wanted us to go. Dad said the Americans are better, those poor guys are forced to do this. Things don’t look so good, says dad. You think communists do all that just for fun? Dad is asking mom, who is passing by, but mom is saying nothing. Mom is wearing the gloves she was also wearing yesterday, when they had a fight with dad. Dad told her to wear the gloves tonight at the reception. Mom wore the gloves but she didn’t wear the dress. She just wore the gloves and now she’s taken them off and she’s looking at her hands without the gloves, but she’s looking at them as if she was wearing them and she doesn’t want to go to the reception because dad yelled at her because he saw the gloves and because she hadn’t told him she bought them, because mom is too fancy. Mark my words, this will turn out badly. Mom says nothing. Dad is shaking his head. My mom is really beautiful and she does a JackieOlook. In the old days when she was in another place where there was war and dad was in the army they had taken her picture on a horse and she was passing by and people would watch her. But when dad saw it he sent the policeman to go and get the photos and they told that guy they will put him in the big house if he ever does it again. Now Bella comes and puts the radio on so that we can’t hear dad yelling at mom when they have a fight. But dad is not yelling. He tells me to go and ask the lady if she will kindly get dressed to go the reception. I go in and ask mom who is staring at the mirror. My mom is sad and when she is like this I don’t ask her nothing. When I grow up I’ll be an astronaut and mom will come to see me.

 

Then it’s Sunday and we go for a ride in the car to the sea. We listened to Economides’ New Talents[8] on the radio and then we left. He gets people to sing and everybody laughs because they don’t know how to sing and he doesn’t let them finish. Sometimes he does. If I went, when I grow up, he would let me. Mom sings nicely but dad doesn’t let her go on the radio because it’s wrong because of his position. When mom likes the song she leans her head backwards and sings even nicer. At the end, Economides always says, my beloved friends, so long and goodbye. Then we turn off the radio and we leave. Dad got a car which is a fiat and it was used when he got it but it’s like new. Dad holds the wheel and never looks around because he’s afraid he might crash because the car is new, but he watches us through the mirror. Mom wants to sing, if only the clouds would take me[9], but Bella say it’s sad. Bella sings the other one by Voyatzis[10], which is more modern. Itoldyouonce andtwice andthrice andseveneighttimes tentimes. Ifyoudont loveme I don’t want. To ever see. A wooooman. Ifyoudont loveme. Idontwant. To ever see. A woo ooo ooo maaaan. Dad likes this one too and he looks through the mirror to see the little one clap. Bella sings beh beh beh bardot bardot[11] for him because it’s his favourite because he also goes beh beh, beh beh and it’s as if he’s singing. Then dad says we should sing whenIgo mylady tothemarket amgonnabuyyou ooone littlerooster. The little rooster cock-a-doodle-dooooo will wake you up every morning[12]. Dad also sings a little in this one and mom turns around and nods to us to sing quieter to hear dad sing. Then we sing Voyatzis again, the one I like very much. Sagapo in Greek[13], iotamo in Spanish, chekako in Chinese and Portuguese, sagapoooooo, yavaslubloo. How can I say it, it is only you I love, sagapooooo. I love you. Ichlie bedich. Dad is not singing now. He says we should be quiet now because we’ve arrived at the sea and they’ll hear us.

 

 

Kerassia is a town, but it’s not like Athens. It has a big road called Alexander the great street and everyone takes a walk there. There’s an asphalt road near dad’s office but there’s a dirt road near our house. When it rains we’re full of mud while in Athens we would have been gentlemen. There are lots of puddles on the road and when it’s winter and it snows those puddles freeze. It never snows in Athens because there’s asphalt. We’ll go to Athens when dad gets a transfer. But when I grow up and become a good student I might even go to America. There are lots of cars in Athens, there aren’t many here because there are also donkeys and bicycles. On Alexander the great street you can also see the funerals passing by with the three fools holding up the flags at the back. At the main square there is Lefteris’ patisserie with the best chocolate gateau and when it’s sunny we sit at the little tables and in the summer we eat ice-cream. Opposite the patisserie, there is a coffee shop[14] but we never sit there because dad is not supposed to sit at coffee shops. Alexander the great street goes all the way down to the station where the trains to Athens go by. On the right there’s the high-school and on the left the Friends of Epaminondas[15] where there is also a cinema in the summer. If you go up the road there’s Hecuba where officials have receptions and the hospital and the park where the couples go and there are pigeons and mr hundredtwohundred. I don’t go there, only in the morning with mom, Bella doesn’t go either. Bella is not supposed to go there at all but I saw her go there with her girlfriends once. But I didn’t tell dad because he will beat her to death. Bella goes to high-school and the girls are not allowed to go anywhere in the evening. But they can go wherever they like in the afternoon and if they go for a walk the soldiers[16] walk by and tease them. But they come back home in the evening otherwise they’ll become women of the streets and nobody will want to take them. Dad told Bella that as soon as she finishes high-school a good man will come to take her and they will give her to him. But if she has no brains and doesn’t listen to dad she will be left on the shelf. I don’t want her to be left on the shelf I want her to be taken and leave.

And then I’ll take her room and I’ll be sleeping there and I’ll also get the radio.

 

Uncle Manolis came through the yard door because they let him go. They had caught him since he was young and then they let him go but then they were after him again. Then they would catch him and beat him up and then they’d let him go. Now they have let him go because it’s election time[17] but he comes through the yard door so that dad who’s at the office doesn’t see him, but the policeman might see him and tell dad. The policeman walks around the streets and if he sees something he goes and tells dad. In the evening, if children are naughty he takes them and puts them in jail. Dad gets angry when he sees uncle Manolis that’s why uncle comes sometimes in the morning when dad is away at the office. Uncle Manolis is from mom’s family and they are all miserable. I’ve got more uncles but they come from dad’s family and nobody is chasing them. Only Uncle Elias, but now that he’s a teacher on the mountains they’ve let him go. Uncle Manolis told mom he worked in a construction site, but now he has no work and he came to see us. Uncle Manolis is taller than dad and he has a big moustache because he is Cretan. We are also Cretans but dad hasn’t got a moustache because of his position. Uncle Manolis has big hands, but as I was looking at them I saw that one finger is shorter than the rest and has no fingernail. He has a brown jacket. My uncle brought me a pencil because he’s poor. Mom asked him to stay and eat with us but uncle said no and then mom told me to go outside and play. Uncle asked me if I go to school and I said not yet, but I can read the paper and he said well done. Uncle left and mom said I shouldn’t say a word about this. I asked her why and she said that he’s being chased. I asked her, is he a good man and she told me he is a good man. I asked her, if he’s a good man why are they chasing him and she told me, I don’t know. Bella said I should stop asking mom stupid questions.

 

In the evening when you ride in the car if it rains you see the raindrops on the window and they’re chasing each other but they don’t get angry they’re just playing and if one finds the other they become one and they run faster on the glass and then they leave and you can’t see them and more of them come and they play catch-me-if-you-can and at the front there’s the wiper that goes up and down and it goes gnow gnow and it chases the raindrops and doesn’t let them run and mom and dad are talking but they’re not fighting and dad is looking through the mirror and he puts the radio on quietly and it says we shall pass the time with some music and songs, if only youcame only foranight[18] and a young man was passing by oneday, at the front door a young girl, a beautiful brun ette. I will taaake you, with a wreath as my partner for e ver and e veeeeer. He took her and they went to foreign lands[19], then I don’t know what happened because the radio says it’s the news and you hear the shepherd ring his bells[20] to gather the little sheep so they can listen to the news and it goes tootoorootootooooo ding ding and he tells you the news and then who got lost by the redcross please whoever has any information and dad doesn’t like it and changes the station without looking because he always looks ahead so that we don’t crash and then he listens to foreign stations and they speak fast and sometimes he finds songs that go yehyehyeh and Bella says leave it daddy but it’s better when Bella is not here and it’s quieter just us going in the night and I’m not scared because we’re in the car and I like it when we’re going in the car and dad talks and mom talks and they talk quietly and then what you’re listening to drifts further and further away and you fall asleep and sometimes you take a peek and you see the lights and you say are we there and mom says no mylove sleep and you see the lights go towards the back window again and you look and it’s dark again the village is gone you look at it back there and if you’re little you climb at the back and dad laughs and then they talk quietly and then their voices drift far away and you wake up and your mom tells you sleep mylove I’ll let you know when we’re there and you don’t want to get there because it’s nice to go in the car in the night.

aa

Mom was crying again yesterday because dad told her off. But dad was shouting, I got you a fridge, I got you a cooker, I got you a car, what else do you want. And then he would repeat it, I got you a pitsos[21], I got you an izola[22], I got you a fiat, what else do you want. Then dad was shouting and we couldn’t hear what mom was saying because they were in their room so that we couldn’t hear them and we could only hear dad shout. Then dad got angry and went out and slammed the door and then I went to see mom, but she wouldn’t talk to me and I told her that the little one was crying and she took him in her arms and told him, hush, hush. Dad got us an izola cooker which is the best and it has an oven and now Bella doesn’t have to take the Sunday roast to the baker’s[23] and I call her Bella lazy-bonella, Bella lazy-bonella. She dances the twist in her bedroom and puts the coffee-table behind the door and she listens to the radio, hello how are you, I’m fine thank you, did I say hello, no I didn’t. Dad bought the car with instalments. It stops sometimes when it’s uphill and dad says he’s tired and we’ve got to get out and push and mom sits at the wheel, but then, once it starts again, dad tells her to get off and he takes the wheel, because she’s a woman. Dad says the car breaks down because mom drives it but it actually stops only when dad drives it. When mom takes us for a ride it never stops. On Sunday, when we went to the sea it stopped again, but it was dad who stopped it this time because he heard Bella say that she was wearing a bikini under her clothes. Dad stopped and told her to get the hell out of here because if they saw her in a bikini at the beach she would become a laughing stock and he would lose his position. Bella got off, but mom told her to get back in and told dad that all women wear bikinis nowadays and dad got even angrier and tried to start the car but it wouldn’t start and dad got pissed off and got off and started banging the hood. Then he stopped because a car was passing by and someone might have seen him and it wouldn’t be proper. Then the car started, but dad told Bella, if you dare to swim in a bikini in front of me I’ll beat you black and blue.

At the beach Bella took her dress off and stayed in her bikini which was orange and a bit yellow. But she stood further away from us and she was sunbathing in her bikini and then dived in the sea and didn’t pay any attention to us and dad was very angry, that’s why we just stayed on the sand and none of us would dive in the sea. Then mom took the little one and they walked along the seaside and then she dipped him in the sea a little and the little one was scared and she was laughing. Then, when Bella went out of the sea again, she sat on her towel and a company of boys walked by and they talked to her and she talked to them as well. Then my dad told me to go and tell her to behave herself otherwise he would go and beat the stuffing out of her. I went up to Bella and told her that Dad says she’d better behave, but she said nothing. Then I didn’t know what to do so I went back to dad who gave me an angry look and said I should tell her to move her ass over here otherwise things would turn out badly. I went up to Bella and told her to come where dad was and Bella told me, tell him I’ll come whenever I like, but I didn’t go to tell him anything because he was furious and I went into the sea until mom and the little one came out of the sea and then Bella came along and we sat altogether but we didn’t talk. On our way back dad told Bella not to wear it again because she will become a woman of the streets, but mom told him that she doesn’t have another one because they threw away the old swimming suit and now they have to buy a new one. Dad told mom that it’s all her fault and that she is encouraging Bella, but I’ll cut you off. Once we arrived dad said no more beach trips and that will teach you and Bella said she would go on her own and dad slapped her and she went to her room and put the radio on only nearyou lifeisbeau tiful youramrs are aspring timebreath[24] and she put the bedside table behind the door and dad stood out of the door and knocked, but he couldn’t open it because she might have put the coffee-table behind it too. Dad was really angry and he went out and slammed the door.

 

Mom has her melancholies. When she has her melancholies she doesn’t speak. She goes out and it’s raining and she walks all the way to the bridge. She took me with her once and she held me by the hand but we didn’t talk. When she has her melancholies we don’t talk. She goes to the bridge where there are no houses and she gets soaked from the rain because she has her melancholies and if dad gets back and she isn’t back yet he will start shouting and then he’ll tell her off and she will cry. Mom doesn’t love me when she has her melancholies, Bella told me, but she’s lying. I look at the rain and wait for her to come back and if dad comes back from the office first I pretend I’m sleeping so that he doesn’t ask me where she went. When it rains I go hhhh on the window glass and I draw little houses and then you have to keep going hhhh on the glass otherwise the little houses disappear. If there is a bit of light I make a duck on the wall just like mom has shown me. If it’s dark I don’t call dad because he tells me off and says I’ll never be a man and he pulls my ear nor Bella because she makes fun of me and tells me I’m still a baby and I’m scared of the dark, bebe bebe, she says and leaves. Mom must come back. I’m making a duck and a little rabbit on the wall for the little one but he’s crying.

By Gregory Papadoyiannis

Translated from the Greek by Andriana Minou

 

[1] Famous Greek nursery rhyme/game for babies

[2] Small town in the area of Thebes

[3] Small town in the area of Thebes

[4] Expression used by Greek parents when talking about the Holy Eucharist ritual to their children

[5] Panathinaikos is a very popular Athens football team founded in 1908

[6] The Greek currency from 1832 until 2002 when the euro was introduced

[7] Reference to Yuri Gagarin’s visit to Athens in February 1962

[8] The first talent show in Greece, which started being broadcast on the radio in the 50s and was presented by Yorgos Economides.

[9] Nostalgic classic of the 50s sung by Sophia Vembo

[10] Yannis Voyatzis was an extremely popular singer and film star of the 60s and this was one of his greatest hits. At that time, on the one hand the Greek songs of the 40s and 50s were already considered old-fashioned/conservative in the 60s and on the other hand the Greek and foreign songs of the 60s were considered “modern”/too liberal.

[11] 1961 song by Dario Moreno, which became very popular in Greece

[12] Old classic Greek song by Nikos Gounaris

[13] Another great hit of the 60s by Voyatzis, singing I love you in all the languages he can think of

[14] A type of coffee-shop that had a bad reputation back in the 60s, usually frequented by people from the lower classes or outlaws.

[15] Epaminondas was an ancient mythical hero of Thebes. This was a type of community centre with a restaurant and other activities

[16] Serving in the army is still compulsory for all Greek men. Back in the 60s, men had to serve in the army for two years.

[17] Reference to the 1963 elections, when the centre-left party of Georgios Papandreou won for the first time

[18] Classic Greek song, sung by Danae Stratigopoulou in 1948

[19] Classic Greek song, sung by Stella Greka

[20] Reference to the news opening titles on Greek state radio, featuring a folk song about a shepherd

[21] Pitsos was a Greek household electrical appliances company founded in 1865 in Athens. It started manufacturing fridges in 1959.

[22] Izola was another Greek factory founded in 1930 near Thebes. It started manufacturing household appliances in 1951. The factory was permanently shut down in 1991.

[23] Having an electric cooker was considered a luxury in Greece until the 60s. When housewives needed to cook food in an oven, they would take their trays of food to the nearest bakery and cook it there.

[24] Classic 1948 Greek song

 

Gregory Papadoyiannis

Gregory Papadoyiannis graduated from the Law and Journalism Schools, studied cinema direction and worked at newspapers, magazines, radio and television, initially as a sports editor and later as a columnist and editor. At the same time, he worked as a translator of literature books in collaboration with several publishing houses and translated books by William Faulkner, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London, Marc Twain etc. into Greek.

In 1991, he was awarded the national prize for young playwrights at the competition of the Ministry of Culture for his play The situations. He was awarded the second prize twice at the same competition, in 1995 and 1999. He has translated theatrical plays by authors such as David Mamet and Tennessee Williams for the purposes of performances in prestigious theatres of Athens. He has also worked as a director’s assistant at the National Theatre of Greece as well as the Theatre of Thessaly. He has been involved with the cinema as well; as a director of two short films that were screened in Greek film festivals and as a script-writer for feature and short films. He has also worked as a script-writer and director’s assistant in several television series.

Gregory is a co-founder, administrator and writer for the books & cinema section of the website www.eyelands.gr . He is the curator for the only Greece-based international short story competition, run by www.eyelands.gr . He also co-ordinates and leads a series of workshops on creative and collaborative writing all over Greece. After living in Athens for several years, he now lives in the island of Crete. He currently works as a translator and editor for Strange Days Books Publishing (www.strangedaysbooks.gr )

PUBLICATIONS:

To the Almighty, hereunto (comic album, 1988), The situations (play, 1992), The Philadelphus case (science fiction novelette, 1999), Sniff (novel, first edition: Empiria Ekdotiki [2008] third edition: Strange Days Books [2014])The city beyond the river (short story collection, 2011), Ephemera (comic album, 2016). 52 eyelands (2013, Strange Days Books) and The Baby Jazz (2017, Fomite Press) are Gregory’s publications in English.

 

CONTACT DETAILS

E-mail: info@eyelands.gr & papado374@gmail.com

Telephone: +3028310 54166 & +306973978315

 

 

Andriana Minou

Andriana Minou is a musician/writer living in London for the past 12 years. Her work as a writer and poet has been published by Strange Days Books, The Paper Nautilus, Rattle Journal, poetix, Story Brewhouse, codepoetry and more. This summer she co-organised for the second year in a row Sand Festival, the first literature festival at the remote island of Gavdos in Greece. She is also the founder of the Vladimir&Estragon Piano Duo and the Oiseaux Bizarres Ensemble. Andriana holds a BA in Piano Performance, an MA in Performing Arts and a PhD in Piano Performance Practice. As an academic researcher she has organised the 1st International Jani Christou Conference (London, 2013) and has presented her work at IRCAM, Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2014). She has written librettos and performance texts for operas and performances presented around Europe (Amsterdam, Berlin, Athens etc.). As a composer/songwriter, she has released two albums with the DIY label FYTINI (as Delicassetten Machimenai and andrianette) and composed music for various performances and films. www.andrianaminou.com

 

Category: Authors’ Pitches

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X