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Belletrista - A site promoting translated women authored literature from around the world


by Ersi Sotiropoulos
translated by Karen Emmerich
Reviewed by Akeela Gaibie-Dawood

Ersi Sotiropoulos is one of Greece's most beloved writers, and one can see why! She wields a delicate and finely-tuned pen. This writer is able to discern the deeper nuances in relationships between people and is a keen observer of human contradictions; what's more, she's able to transmit those observations articulately on paper.

This well–crafted collection of stories is set in Greece, and Italy across the Ionian Sea, and includes snapshots of everyday life. Sotiropoulos skilfully builds intrigue, and one can sense the tension between, and within, characters. Sometimes the tension is so intense, it leads to physical fights. Yet, beneath the tensions between husband and wife, brother and sister, mother and child, there is an intimacy and closeness that binds these people, overriding all other anxieties.

Her writing is eloquent and the narratives become more enjoyable as the book progresses. By the end, I was totally hooked by the superb writing, the insights shared, and the excellent skill on the part of the translator, Karen Emmerich.

A number of the stories involved writers struggling to hone their skill. And there were many great lines, for example: "I'd spent many evenings in the half–light, trying to write a line, trying to fit two mutilated words together on a napkin...", and, "One by one the words, then the sentences of the half-finished story streamed through her mind with incomparable grace, like white snowflakes swirling before they dissolve."

The prose encompasses fine, descriptive writing: "He ... promised he would never abandon her again. They stayed like that a whole hour, hugging under the overhang at the station, while the snow came down around them. Everything was white, and the two of them a solitary black shape in a sea of ice."

Soitropoulos understands the communication dynamic between couples, as well as the limits they impose on one another. Her characters know instinctively how far they can push their partners, and when the thread will break: "By now he's learned to keep quiet ‒it makes no difference what he says, she's made up her mind, and whirls into the kitchen like a tornado."

Sotiropoulos' writing is special; it is vivid, and beautiful, and sensual, and she often takes the reader by surprise. I'm delighted to know that more of her works are becoming available in English!