I recently read Oracle Night and I've been dipping into The Art of Hunger lately. Since I'm on a Paul Auster kick at the moment, I'll write about another coincidence. Or rather, a series of coincidences.
One day a couple of years ago, I was browsing around in the big Eleftheroudakis bookshop, near the English books. I was looking at Greek literature in translation, no more than glancing at the spines of the books. One of the ones that particularly caught my eye was Father Dancing by Nikos Papandreou. His father the long-time Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou taught at Harvard in the sixties and seventies, and his children were brought up in the States and Canada until his return to Greece in 1974. Father Dancing, I believe, was written in English first, and then translated by the author into Greek, a method which Panos Karnezis uses as well.
A moment later, as I was leaving, I saw two men come in, speaking English. One of them seemed very familiar to me. He spoke with an American accent. I thought at first he was some actor. Then I realised that it was none other than Nikos Papandreou. I went back and peeked at his author photo just to be sure.
At the time, a novel called Poor Margot had just been published by Soti Triantafyllou, who has also lived in the States and who translates from English and French. She had written Poor Margot in English but had decided to get someone else to translate it into Greek for her. I thought this was rather strange, and I wondered if she had published it in the US first. When I left Eleftheroudakis, I was walking along Akadimias and decided to pop into the Patakis bookshop to look at Poor Margot and see if it had been published in English first.
Soti Triantafyllou (This photo is marked, but it's the nicest one of her available.)
Certainly my train of thought had led from Papandreou to Triantafyllou, for obvious reasons. It turned out that it hadn't been published in English.
As I was leaving the bookshop, my caught a new book with Melina Mercouri on the cover, although the book wasn't exclusively about her.
I went next to a little cafe-bar on Solonos and opened up my notebook to do some writing. Within minutes, Soti Triantafyllou came in and asked to put up a little poster of Poor Margot on the wall with the other posters.
I had looked at two books, and shortly afterwards had seen the authors, in the space of an hour. It occurred to me that if Melina Mercouri were still alive, I'd probably see her somewhere too.
That night, I went to see The Man Who Wasn't There. A few minutes after I had sat down, who should come in and sit down in the row in front of me? Of course. Jules Dassin, director and husband of Melina Mercouri.