Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cyprus: Census, by Panos Ioannides

This proved to be a difficult book, fragmentary in style, with a good deal of metaphysical discussion between the characters overlaid on the narrative. Conversations did not have the speaker identified, so that sometimes I had to stop and work out just who was saying what. Nevertheless there is a powerful story underlying the text.

Joseph Akritas is a burned out war correspondent. His wife Maria is ill with cancer. Together they retreat to a small village in the mountains of Cyprus. On the way, that meet Michael, from the island of Patmos (the island where the Revelation of St John was written. Maria becomes pregnant to Michael. In the village a mysterious couple, Piotr and Hanna Archangielsk, are working on the restoration of medieval wall paintings in a local chapel, and Maria takes up the task of assisting them by writing down descriptions of what they find.

Eventually Maria gives birth, not to a child but to a mysterious life force. While she dies in the process, spiritual healing is released for those who are able to accept it.

While it is a challenging book to read, and I found much of the philosophy hard to follow, overall I felt it was worth the effort involved and may go back to re-read this one later.

"Census" received the Cyprus National Prize for Literature in 1973. Panos Ioannides was born in Famagusta, Cyprus in 1935 and lives in Nicosia. "Census" was translated by Despina Pirketti and published by Armida Publications Ltd.

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