The Quest, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis

Posted: 08/08/2018 by vequinox in Literature

The Quest cover

ROMANIA-EARLY YEARS

….Crete was like a scimitar outstretched, shaped like an eloquent eyebrow. Crete captivated him, filled him made him feel immortal. He would maintain these nocturnal vigils until the morning star appeared, the sign he waited for, and then he would go downstairs. He would throw some cold water on his face and drink a glass of milk, then go to his regular chair on the porch and wait until everyone else was up and ready to face the day’s responsibilities. No matter what the weather was like, one would always find him there, sitting with his eyes focused towards the south. He was always found in that position, as if he was looking at his island, as if he was walking on its soil, as if he was drinking his Cretan wine in his backyard, as if he was living on his island, as if he was there.

No matter what day of the week it was, the old man was always there when his grandson woke and came to sit close to him. This made the old man feel reborn, as if graced with a new life. These were the times when he would tell Pericles story after story about his island, about his life that passed like fresh water from a mountain spring he could drink from and never feel quenched. He told stories about the blue sea, the olive groves and orchards of oranges and lemons, and about the boys who would go around all day long with slingshots in their hands and adventure on their minds. He would tell his grandson about the cicadas with their endless singing all summer long, about the sea that sometimes turned angry and rolled with waves as high as a house, ready to swallow anyone in its path. He would tell him about gods, lots of gods, not just one like they had these days but lots of gods and, above them all, Minos, the greatest, the wisest, and the most just of all. He would tell Pericles about the young men who ran and took part in sporting competitions, the boys who danced and jumped like eagles until it seemed the mountains were leaning down to admire them. He would tell him about the young women who eyed the boys and felt a slow burning fire in their bodies. He would tell him about the wars, all the many wars they fought until the day of liberation when they celebrated and partied for forty days and forty nights non-stop.

Pericles listened quietly, his childish mind filled with young men and women as beautiful as the gods, with well-mannered, simple people joyously going about their daily lives, and with high, snow-capped mountains that spoke like men and went down to the valleys and danced during the celebration of freedom. And the boy imagined Crete to be an orchard with flowers and fruit trees where gods walked and talked and joked with mortals and where it was always spring and summer, unlike the cold place where they lived….

 

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