Zyranna Zateli is a contemporary Greek writer with a devoted fan base. She was born in Sochos, Thessaloniki, in 1951; she currently lives in Koukaki, Athens, in the company of several cats. A very special personality, unworldly yet precise in her meaning, her writing oscillates on the borderline of reality and fantasy, starting from incidents of her own childhood. The elements of nature, death, and animals are intensely present in her work.
Her books have been translated in many languages and excerpts have been transmitted by the Greek radio; some of her books have been recorded by herself for those who prefer audio-books. Her particular literary style is magnetic for the reader. Certain elements of her writing (her persistence on Greek diacritics, even the font she uses) are mysteriously attracting; and, while the essence of her stories definitely does not match the ingenuity of Marquez or Dostoevsky, it does succeed in keeping the reader’s interest intact through fantastic derailments, unlikely developments and mental journeys in a very special world. As the back cover of one of her most popular books states: “Zatelian humanity emerges from innumerable elements – the earth, the water and the darkness; and, therefore, does not aspire to closure“.
The trilogy that established Zyranna Zateli is entitled Under the strange name of Ramanthys Erebus and we are currently awaiting with great anticipation its third part (the first two being Death came last and Passion thousands of times).
In this article, we will take a look at her first novel, Last year’s fiancée, and we will definitely revisit the entirety of her creations (like devoted Zatelians) with the zeal that befits the high priestess of realistic utopia of 20th century Greece.
Last year’s fiancée is the first in a collection of short stories that was published in 1984. It chronicles, in the first person, the early teenage love of its female protagonist with a being extremely sparing in expression with whom she spent the greatest part of her days.
Recently, this particular work was transferred to the theatrical stage by an ambitious new group of artists. Zateli was sincerely reserved about the endeavor; however, those of us who were lucky to see the play in the upper floor of the Neos Kosmos Theater witnessed a triumphant production of Zatelism – with intense realism, almost subtractive, yet entirely consistent with the energy of this so unique writer. During this theatrical performance, the (only) part was presented simultaneously by three female actresses, who twirled (both literally and metaphorically) in the coil of the story’s path with the immediacy – as well as the eloquence – that represents this very special species that Zateli serves.
They got engaged in secrecy, at the back balcony; it was a cold January night with a full moon.
The recipient of the protagonist’s love abandons himself to her devotion and pampering during the hours he does not sleep (and the hours he sleeps are many). Sometimes, he escapes their shared room, only to return as if nothing had happened. The two of them develop their own communication code that no one else can share. From time to time, his mother appears in the back yard for sessions of almost sacrilegious physical contact.
The protagonist, completely surrendered to her own fantasy world, escapes living reality and allows herself to serve the greatness of a love almost unfulfilled – a love that, indubitably, is the fiercest of all…
…until an irrevocable event brings a brutal ending to the story. One day, Marcus is suddenly run over by a truck, in the middle of the snowy road where he was sleeping – a victim, in the end, of his Morphic passion. He had no time to react and his crimson blood vibrantly colors the white of the snow.
When the protagonist, a tragic figure, enters the coffee shop nearby, shocked by the blood that has colored the street, she receives by one of the patrons the disarming reply: “Why so upset? It was only a cat…”
Last year’s fiancée is the vestibule through which we enter the mystic ceremony of the Zatelian world, where we are asked to be part of the blessed mysteries of contemplating the heraldic, with the full realism of animals, plants, children.
The books of Zyranna Zateli may not be beach reads yet no one can say that we cannot read them at the beach. Starting with Last year’s fiancée, we invite you to an unprecedented journey through which we will return to the roots of a Greece that certainly lies somewhere within us; however, it does not cease to lift us inestimably in the sphere of the transcendental, of the natural destiny – in the end, of the truth.