So I was lucky enough to be one of the first in the country to read this amazing novel from Ioanna Bourazopoulou, where she has created a mad and wonderful post apocalyptic world filled with wonderful characters and strange goings on. Winner of the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature you are unlikely to have read a book quite like it before. You can read my review shortly, but in the meantime I caught up with Ioanna and asked her a few questions. Here is what she had to say…
What Lots Wife Saw has a post apocalyptic setting and a unique one. Where did the idea come from?
I am not really sure, I’ve never been able to trace the origins of a story and discover the first thought or feeling behind it. Probably because the original idea undergoes so many transformations as the book progresses, generating new interpretations and dilemmas, that it metamorphoses completely. All I can say is that I love creating dark, dreamy or even grotesque settings, where characters find themselves in strange and ambiguous situations facing unexpected challenges. Consequently, they are forced to become resourceful and daring and, through them, I am forced to become resourceful and daring too –which perhaps explains why I adore this type of fiction
This is very much a character driven novel – Do you have a favourite?
The main characters are two types of ‘survivors’ who have struggled to create new lives after losing everything that mattered to them –their family and country, their dignity, their faith, their self-esteem. Some are full of anger and hatred, others of guilt and self-pity. The first type of survivors reside in the Colony and serve the Consortium of the Seventy-Five, an international company which has found a way to benefit from human desperation. The second type encompasses people like Phileas Book –too weak to fight back, too hurt to recover, too small to make a difference. Although being on opposite sides of the Mediterranean –and opposite sides of morality– these two types of survivors will manage to communicate and change their fate. I feel closer to Phileas Book, I confess he is my favourite, but I acknowledge that without the screams of the damned, his virtuous prayers would have never been answered.
How did you come up with Phileas Book’s peculiar brand of “crossword”?
By making a series of poetic assumptions –a freedom this type of fiction allows. I wanted to invent a way of communication between people who have never met, but have similar needs and desires. Assuming deep feelings which words fail to express create certain vibrations that are detected only by sensitive recipients, Book can communicate with his crossword solvers, as a writer can communicate with his/her readers: between the lines. It’s not scientific assertion, rather wishful thinking; Book, as his name suggests, embodies many of my literary pursuits and fantasies.
The mystery element of the novel is clever, complicated and compelling – did you always know the ultimate outcome or did the characters tell you on the journey?
I usually know the end, it is a knowledge I consider vital in order to have a destination and avoid wandering in the fog without a purpose. I never know how to get to the end, it is a state of ignorance I consider equally important in order to become resourceful and productive. My aim is to get to the end using the roads less travelled, walk down strange and dim-lit paths, following deceptive signs and misinterpreted clues, which will lead to many dead ends and false leads, and will hopefully make the journey interesting for both the reader and me.
You won the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature. Can you put into words how that made you feel?
Surprised, thrilled and a little worried, to be honest. The book was nominated for other prizes also but failed to win and I was beginning to feel very comfortable with that; it was an ideal situation, being among the better but not the best, I had the publicity and the credit of the nominee but not the responsibility of the winner. When awarded I wondered what that would mean for me, how much freedom I would lose, would everything become too serious? I soon realized that winning is not so bad after all – it only relates to the specific book; a new book has a new and untested writer behind it, who is eager to challenge the previous one, invent new writing techniques, experiment, take risks and surprise. All in all, winning was a very pleasant and useful experience.
Can you tell us anything about your next project?
It’s a peculiar adventure set in a lake which belongs to three different countries, and which is the birthplace of a sea-monster. I feel very privileged and moved because the National Book Centre of France has given me a scholarship for this specific book, as part of a generous scholarship programme supporting Greek writers, a financial and, more importantly, moral aid and encouragement which I will never forget. I so hope the book will satisfy both them and the readers.
Thank you SO much to Ioanna for taking the time to answer these questions. And I am VERY excited to read what she brings us next.
Review What Lots Wife Saw.
Well. What can I say. Having just finished this sprawling wonderful expanse of a novel, peppered with the most unlikely characters you will ever have the joy to encounter, and set in a future where the world we know has changed in indescribable ways, I am feeling quite honoured to be amongst the first in this country to read it. Winner of the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature, quite deservedly so in this reader’s opinion, this is post apocalyptic fiction at its best. Not only that, Ioanna Bourazopoulou has managed to write a mystery, a thriller and an adventure all tied up into one wonderful package.
Rising oceans have engulfed much of the planet and changed the landscape forever. From amid this new world a strange “salt” peppers the earth, addictive and hallucinogenic, and controlled by the mysterious “Consortium” of the 75. In their strictly controlled Colony, their employee’s live and work to a tight, unyielding rule of law, overseen by the governer and his six star bearers. When the governer is found dead, it is clear that chaos may well ensue, but what exactly are the 75 up to? Meanwhile, away from the colony, Phileas Book creates and publishes his strange and wonderful “crosswords” made up from letters sent to The Times, until one day, approached by a representative of the 75, he finds himself thrust into the mystery of what exactly happened in the immediate aftermath of the death of Governer Bera. By reading the letters of the six, he is asked to extrapolate a theory by using his “crossword” methods…but Book is suspicious. Of the Consortium, of the Six and of the motives behind the request. Was it murder? Or even something more sinister….
This is an extremely clever story…utterly insane in its concept in the best way possible, it will have you tied up in the most amazing literary knots – and the ultimate resolution may well take your breath away. It certainly did mine, because really, despite all the information being freely available I never actually came to the correct conclusion whilst engrossed in its pages. A lot of that may well be to do with the brilliant writing – the scene setting is superb and a lot of your head will be wrapping itself around this strange new world…and perhaps even imagining what your place in it might have been. And so the author distracts you from the clues you might otherwise have picked up on – with hindsight it was all perfectly clear but I would like to bet that the majority of you will scratch your heads just as much as I did both during and after reading the book. Which you must. Don’t miss it! Phileas Book is perfect – through his eyes you will discover what went before – as one of the original survivors of the change, he leads us through the terror and the emotion – and why he now stagnates, creating his puzzles, but not really living in any real sense. The six all have their own brilliant mindsets – I wonder which you will sympathise with, hate or love….When you have read it come back and tell me. Enquiring minds want to know. This is inspiring writing – originality and the ability to surprise and delight has definitely not been lost as far as this author is concerned. I hope to see many more marvellous creations in the future.
To finish I must thank the publisher for sending me an advance copy of this novel, and I hope that the above review has done it justice. If you follow me on Twitter I will be talking about this one a lot – and pointing you in the right direction to find out more. Happy Reading Folks!
What Lots Wife Saw was brought to us by Black and White Publishing. You can follow them on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/bwpublishing
If you fancy getting yourself a copy clickety click here http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Lots-Wife-Ioanna-Bourazopoulou/dp/1845025474/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378108364&sr=1-1&keywords=what+lots+wife+saw
Happy Reading Folks!