EROTIC LOVE AS A THEME IN CYPRIOT PROSE

by Emilios Solomou

As published in In Focus Vol. 9, No. 4, Dec. 2012

Work by Cypriot artist George Kotsonis. Leda and the Swan.

Work by Cypriot artist George Kotsonis. Leda and the Swan.

Just as it is in prose globally, so too in the Cypriot body of work, eros in its multiple forms is one of the central cores of literary output. Of course, Cypriot prose has its own particularities which, to a greater or lesser extent, differentiate it from the genre’s manifestations in Modern Greek or any other language across the world. A wealth of erotic themes, such as the relationship between eros and thanatos, have engaged world literature from as far back as its dawn, in the Homeric Epics and the Epic of Gilgamesh, wherein multiple facets and expressions of erotic love may be traced. At any rate, examining the theme of erotic love amounts to exploring the history of modern Cypriot prose inasmuch as eros is one of its central axes. Obviously, this presentation cannot but cover just a few amongst Cypriot creators and their works.

For purposes of investigation and analysis, erotic love will be broken down into a series of broad thematic categories: eros-thanatos-tragic impasses; unrequited, utopian eros; adultery and unfaithfulness; the relationship between eros and men of the cloth; prostitution, and deviant sexual conduct etc.

Eros-thanatos

In the prose which falls under the category of eros and thanatos, characters usually die of sorrow, or go mad, kill themselves, commit crimes of passion, or trigger erotic tragedies. Sometimes death provides the pretext that ignites erotic love; or erotic memories and thoughts emerge at the backdrop of a funeral. The publication, in 1792, of Ioannis Karatzas’ collection of short-stories entitled Erotos apotelesmata [Eros’ results], marks the production of modern prose in Cyprus, but has a wider significance too, insofar as it is the first collection of original Modern Greek short-stories. The title of the book points to its author’s intentions, its didacticism being rather obvious. Of the three erotic stories, only one terminates in marriage, whilst another has tragic results.

In the short-story entitled “Second story; the bleak love of a Corfiot, the dragoman of the Venetian ambassador in Constantinople…”, two of the central figures, Andreas and Meirem, die of sorrow after third-party interventions and misunderstandings. Choropsimé, the Armenian woman who had been the root of the scandal, is mired in guilt for not requiting Andreas’ love, and swears to die a virgin.

The year 1847 marks the publication of the first Cypriot novel, Thersandros by Epameinondas Frangoudis. The novel refers to the love of two youths, Thersandros and Eleni. Eleni dies whispering the name of her beloved while a madly enamored Thersandros commits suicide over her dead body. To a certain extent, the novel becomes a study on eros and thanatos.

At the end of the 19th century, during the period of the British dominion, prose veers to folkloric short stories. The themes of eros and thanatos are explored in numerous short-stories by D. Stavrinides (“The curse”); I. Kepiades (“Anthoulla’s complaint”, “The abandoned man”) and K. Eleftheriades (“The madwoman”), occasionally in a romantic mood.

In the period from World War I until the end of the British rule, new trends in prose have a bearing on the point of view from which writers approach their themes, not least of which the themes of eros and thanatos. Folkloric short stories subside before the prevalence of the realistic social narrative, wherein elements from estheticism become incorporated. Towards the end of this period, a turn is made to the internal, existential and erotic impasses of man, but also to political ferments.

In the short-story “On the eve of the Saviour” by Nikos Nikolaides, Marina, the daughter of father-Costas, a “possessed” female, takes a leper for a lover. “She’d killed two children inside her and kept taking in the leper’s sperm with perfect nonchalance”. The scandal breaks out and the man is taken to the leper-island, yet, “She was none like those women who would lull. An evil bitch she was, and when in heat, she would growl and show her teeth at both her master and her catcher”. Marina keeps mating with the leper. This callous, reckless love of hers will lead to the death of her sister, who is afflicted by leprosy, and finally, her own. Thus Nikolaides illustrates the irresistible force of erotic passion that blinds those in love and sometimes pushes them over the edge. Analogous themes may also be encountered in the prose pieces: “The property of the uncle” by Yiannis Stavrinos Economides, “A foreign and passing woman” by Theodoros Marsellos, “Artoulla, an extraordinary flower” by K. Montis and “The girl of the Green Rock” by A. G. Kyproleon.

Prose writers from the so-called “Generation of the 1960s”, otherwise known as the “Generation of the Independence” adopt elements from the tradition of Modernism, such as neoteric narration and introspective techniques. So, even though until then prose writers would ever so succinctly and suggestively describe the human body and its parts, or merely imply the erotic act, they now venture into much more graphic descriptions, which become bolder through the writings of the “Generation of 1974” and in more recent prose. The romantic notion of erotic love, which more or less prevailed in earlier prose writers, now largely subsides. In the short-story “Vagrant street” by P. Ioannides, carnal love is the antidote to the narrator’s fear of murderous bombings during World War II. The same theme is referred to in prose pieces by Christakis Georgiou (“Archipelago”), Tasos Stefanides (“My Anna”), Christos Hadjipapas (“The devil’s throat”), Efterpi Araouzou (“Vivaldi’s peruke maker”), and Chrystalla Koulermou (“The angels’ heirs”).

Some of the aforementioned writers belong to the generation who made their appearance on the literary scene after 1990. In most cases, their prose unfolds within the space of the imaginary and the dream. Andreas Maloris, in his short-story “Grandpa reads Playboy” employs humour to look at the association between erotic desire and death. The narrator’s grandfather is given to reading Playboy magazine, which he then diligently hides under the bed. When he dies, the narrator goes to the morgue to verify the body, only to find an excerpt from the magazine tightly held in the old man’s fist. At the funeral, the grandson places the magazine in the hands of the dead. Later, he pictures him fading away over the sand hills. Using the centerfold of the latest Playboy issue, which features a nude Cindy Crawford, he fashions a paper plane which he hurls in the grandfather’s direction.

Utopian, unattainable and futile love

Utopian, unattainable love, the constant quest for beauty or even the erotic act which is cancelled at the last minute – all are themes which are looked at in numerous short-stories and novels. Ghosts of lovers past, the unbearable erotic loneliness, unsatisfied lust, cowardice, coyness and prudery, sexual impotence, social conventions, the will of the family, usually of the father, to marry into powerful families with financial potency, but also the protagonists themselves who await the coming of an ideal or perhaps a more prosperous partner and hesitate to go any further with their relationships – are all parameters of this unit. The theme is explored by N. Nikolaides (“Beyond good and evil”), D. Stavrinides (“Dried flowers”), I. Kepiades (“Anthoulla’s complaint”), M. Nikolaides (“Two white hands” and “In search of love”), A. G. Kyproleon (“Hope General Store”), Th. Marsellos (“The tribulation”), Y. St. Economides (“Amidst the pine trees”), K. Montis (“Victoria”) etc.

N. Vrachimis (“Rosamunde”, “The fisherman’s son”, “The end”, “The victors”, “Nostalgia”, “Alexa”, “A small dream of happiness”) delves into utopian, unattainable love which only elusively can be touched or tasted – his narrative, “Unknown” offering a potent example of this. In the manner of Vrachimis, G. Mavroidis too develops his prose experimentally. In the short-story “Mirrors” (1944) the narrator seeks a “vague female figure who comes and goes as if an elf”.

The topic of the futile quest for love widely occupied the attention of the “Generation of the 1960s” too, in prose pieces by Eve Meleagrou (“In a New Year’s Eve mood”), Chr. Georgiou (“Solo”, “The end of togetherness”), Panos Ioannides (“The unseen sight”), Y. Katsouris (“Sentry Box No 2” and “TsaTouenFelix”), A. Antoniades (“The student”) and Mikis Sparsis (“Solo” and “The conventioneer”).

In the short-story “Extraordinary case” by Andreas Antoniades, erotic love stumbles over conservatism with a humorous twist. Aunt Eudoxia is indiscreet enough to ask the bride-to-be whether she is a virgin and asks her to consent to a medical examination. Her ghost persecutes the couple even as they are ready to consummate their relationship. The erotic act is interrupted, the young woman explains to her partner that she’s had hymenoplasty, lets out a sigh and leaves.

The writers of the generations of the 1960s and 1974 may have considerably changed the thematic orientation of prose under the weight of the historical and political events of the previous years, yet erotic love remains a basic aspect of their work; in fact, oftentimes historical events provide the outline for a discussion about eros. In the prose work of Christos Hadjipapas, which includes both short-stories and novels (“Eros in furnace”, “Ashamed to utter our names”, “Buried coffee”, “Thepeculiarman”, “The city of the ugly”, “Details of an accident”, “Bucolic love affairs”, “Encounter”, “Like a discus thrower”, “In the eye of the serpent”), what prevails is the constant quest for love, and its simultaneous cancellation.

The same topic occupies the attention of many other writers such as: Efterpi Araouzou (“Captive”), Dina Katsouri (“The medical examiner”), Chrystalla Koulermou (“The angels’ heirs”), A. Maloris (“May doesn’t live here anymore”, “Nothing”, “The pin”), Pantelis Georgiou (“When the ice melts”), Myrto Azina (“The experiment”), Antonis Georgiou (“Of the square”, “Stark noon”), Louiza Papaloizou (“S.aveO.urS.ouls”).

In the short-story “Eleni” by K. Lympouris the conservative heroine, who moves within the circles of the Church, meets the love of her life in the face of Andreas Satanas. Her family and the church revolt against the name and the woman is left to wither in her loneliness.

Eros vindicated

Conversely, some writers choose to vindicate erotic love despite the obstacles raised by the family, poverty, social contempt, or even criminal deeds from insulted rivals. From as early as in the collection Eros’ Results by I. Karatzas, only the first story “which contains the passionate love of a young man from Constantinople”  has a happy ending, as the parents of Georgakis and Elenitsa, both noble and wealthy citizens, consent to their love. The same topic engages the interest of K. Eleftheriades (“Eros, unbeatable…”), Chr. Karmios (“The maid”), M. Nikolaides (“Chopin’s sorrow”), A. G. Kyproleon (“Resurrection message”), C. Montis (“Master Batista”) and Dina Katsouri (“The seventh short-story”).

Unreciprocated love

Nevertheless, in a multitude of short-stories, love nurtured by one person remains unreciprocated by the object of their love. In their majority, those in love fade away in agony. D. Stavrinides examines this topic in the “Perennial Dilemma” and the tender short-story “Loves me, loves me not”, in which a poor shepherdess is tormented by her passion for Georgis. She sits amidst the wildflowers and picks one petal off a daisy after another in order to receive an answer. The last petal coincides with the phrase “He loves me not” as the shepherdess sobs away. In the novella of Y. St. Economides “The perennial story” and the short story of N. Nikolaides “The Flower”, erotic love is also at an impasse.

In his novella “The cotton makers”, G. Ph. Pierides illustrates the relationships between the fellahs and the Greeks of Egypt. Erotic love plays a significant role. Heracles desires Saphiya, whom “he had cornered once or twice within stacks of sacks, but she had resisted fiercely and scratched him with her nails. And when he’d left her, furious, she’d sat alone in a corner and cried in silence. Yet she wouldn’t avoid him – in fact, she looked for him – without hesitating, even in the presence of others, to stare at him for quite some time straight in the eyes, with the uncanny look of a devoted dog”. But one night, Saphiya gives in. Afterwards, her body satiated with pleasure, in bliss, she comes to realize that he has placed a paper bill in her hand, whereupon “she feels inside her the stab of that old hatred… and clasps the paper spasmodically…. whilst two tears are running down her eyes”. Thus ends their love story. Only she had believed it was true love.

Unfaithfulness-adultery

Unfaithfulness is a significant parameter directly linked to erotic love, amours, adultery and extramarital affairs. A multitude of reasons may lead to unfaithfulness, namely money, insatiable erotic passion, complicity with authority, the quest for protection by those in power, neglect of one’s partner. A vast array of prose texts revolve around this particular topic. In most cases, a couple’s relationship suffers from lack of communication, mental and physical contact.

The same theme has been raised from as far as back as the origins of modern Cypriot prose, with “Eros’ results” by I. Karatzas. In “Third story, containing various erotic incidents of a nobleman from Zagoria”, Antonakis, albeit betrothed to another girl, falls in love with the Russian Barbara Gregorievna in Poltava, and goes on to commit an act of emotional and erotic unfaithfulness. In the end, the solution will be provided by his obligatory departure from the city and the Russian woman’s marriage to someone else. Unfaithfulness is the theme of many subsequent prose writers, e.g. I. Kepiades (“The abandoned man”), K. Eleftheriades (“The madwoman”) and M. Nikolaides (“Soul and body”, “The swing”).

In “The Lowland” (1936) by Loukis Akritas, this particular theme is approached through the lens of social critique which involves the landlords against the landless, and the oppressors against the oppressed. How far would a man go to survive in such conditions? Christophis, a landless villager, submissive and undignified in his conduct towards the rich, turns a blind eye to the affair of his wife, Anastasia, with the landlord Leousis.

In the short-story “The traitor” by G. Ph. Pierides, Michaelos commits a double betrayal. He betrays the EOKA anti-colonial struggle just as he betrays his wife with Maroula. His brothers- in-arms are murdered and he is executed as a traitor.

As we proceed to the “Generation of the Independence”, we encounter the same topic in the novels of Th. Kouyialis (“The voice within”), Chr. Georgiou (“Archipelago”), Eve Meleagrou (“Penultimate Epoch”); and to a certain extent in the prose pieces of Niki Katsaouni (“To myself”) and Mikis Sparsis (“Mist” and “Black spots on an azure background”).

In “A handful of moments”, Tasos Stephanides visits the issue of adultery and other erotic topics in the context of the binary lust/erotic desire and purity.

The “Generation of 1974,” too, opts for more than a few references to adultery, for instance in novels by Christos Hadjipapas (i.e. “In the wake of the black moon”) and his short-story “Dream letters” in which the narrator addresses his absent beloved in a deliriant monologue, arranged in the form of a letter. In it, he confesses that he had attempted once or twice to cheat on her, but to no avail. The first time he was intoxicated and recited a poem for her. The second time, he didn’t get an erection. “Therefore, I am pure enough to receive you,” he admits, “even though the New Testament spoils it for us: to have conceived of sin is no different than having actually committed it”.

Adultery also appears in the novellas “Yezul” by N. Marangou, “Arodaphnousa” by A. Iacovides, “The rattles of time” by M. Michaelides, in which one of the topics that emerge is the insatiable erotic passions of queen Amalia – but also in the short-story “Above the city” by Ant. Georgiou.

Marital relationships

Relationships within marriage have already been touched upon in the context of the units on unfaithfulness and, to an extent, in the association between eros and thanatos. In almost every case, relationships within marriage are problematic. Unhappiness usually prevails and the couple suffers from lack of communication. Love has waned and happiness is scarce. Poverty, childlessness, unfaithfulness, languishment, jealousy and tyranny, usually of the wife against the husband (!), are some of the aspects the writers choose to explore. Lack of communication in the couple is observed in the short story “Curse” by D. Stavrinides, whilst in “A mystery” the question arises whether the impoverished newlywed couple will find happiness. Relationships between couples, either Greek or Egyptian, are looked into by G. Ph. Pierides, too, in his novella “The Cotton Makers”. In the three cases under examination, none appears to vindicate the couples’ expectations.

In the short-story “Matutinal supplication” (1936) by L. Akritas, we observe Irene’s thoughts on the hedonic sensation she had experienced during a truly sinful night – but only in her dream. When morning comes, she is filled with invincible desire and insatiable lust. Next to her lies her husband, whom she feels no desire for. Their marriage has reached a deadlock, and she’s ready to yield to an extramarital affair.

Nevertheless, in Akritas’ “Silly old men”, an aged couple who ponders over their life on New Year’s Eve eventually dies in a hug.

Marital relationships occupy the attention of A.G. Kyproleon in his short-stories “Confession time” and “The immigrant”. In the latter, a couple’s relation is fading, even though they got married out of love. The husband says to himself that his wife shows no understanding for his feelings, which incidentally is precisely what she complains about too. N. Vrachimis deals with the same topic in his narrative “Sylvi’s shadow” (just as he does in the majority of his short-stories) in his distinguishing neoteric style.

In “To myself” of N. Katsaouni, particularly in the units entitled “Hence…” and “The rounded time”, problematic relationships are presented through introspection, segmentation and deliberate vagueness. Crankiness is present everywhere, as amply demonstrated in the following dialogue: “In essence, he was sleepy. – Are we going to sleep or make love? It used to be that he merely said I want you. She was trying to choose which of the two and yawned thrice in a row – which finally sealed her decision. – Let’s sleep”. Hateful relationships between couples are analyzed in the short-stories “Drosos’ daughter” and “A fine funeral” by M. Sparsis. In the first, the couple divorces after 40 years of marriage and in the second, the wife’s wish to bury her husband comes true. “I’ll bury you one day, I’ll be damned if I won’t”, she often used to tell him. “First I’ll bury you and then I’ll go home skipping!” Still, during the funeral she laments: “Where are you going, my Lambros? Why do you leave me?” her voice resounds. “Who will pay off the debts you’ve left behind?” In D. Katsouri’s short-story “Ms Marianna”, the eponymous heroine is trapped in an unhappy marriage, given that he is a brute and she is a cultivated, sensitive woman: “It was during the nights that Mr Alexandros moaned over her, clasping her breasts. And when he’d finish, he’d let out a fart and turn the other way snoring, leaving Ms Marianna staring at the ceiling with eyes wide open”. Also looking into marital relations, are: Chr. Koulermou (“The angels’ heirs”), Myrto Azina (“The Experiment”), Pantelis Georgiou (“Holy Trinity of love”) and the younger Ant. Georgiou in his short-story “Prattle” wherein Nitsa seeks erotic satisfaction from a much younger man, Yiannis, whilst her husband prefers foreign women, as the couple wallows in utter alienation.

Friendship and love

But what happens when two friends lust after the same woman? This topic had engaged the attention of prose writers from early on, the answer being that strong friendship subsides and sometimes hatred goes as far as crime. This is explored in short-stories by D. Stavrinides (“The two friends”), Th. Marsellos (“The pale woman”), Chr. Hadjipapas (“The encounter”), St. Stavrinides (“The mind’s eyes”).

Men of the cloth and eros

A theme to which quite a few prose writers are drawn is the investigation of the relationship of clergymen and monks with erotic love. On most occasions, their attitude is critical. Oftentimes, this kind of love is only carnal and linked to games of power and corruption; still, it is sometimes proven genuine.

In the short-story “A monk’s confession” by D. Stavrinides, Daniel the novice commits suicide as, in spite of himself, he cannot conquer his lust for a young woman.

N. Nikolaides, too, probes into this particular topic with scattered references in various prose pieces, some of which he chooses to elaborate on. For instance, in the short-story “The bitch”, Yiannoulis is the illegitimate offspring of the youngest daughter of old-Yiannis the resin-maker and father-Gabriel the cenobite. The short-story unfolds within dionysianism and the limits of bestiality.

In his prose poem “The monk’s book” Nikolaides refers to life in a dismal monastery. Employing humour, sarcasm and irony, he describes the monks’ temptations, not only regarding women, young and old alike, but also an angelic lad, the milky fig tree, the back of the carrion crow, the goat, or even the carnation they had hurled down the gulch but insists on blooming.

In G. Ph. Pierides’ body of work the relation between men of the cloth and erotic passion is given ever so elusively with a short, plain scene in “Miniature 5” from the “Time of the blissful”: “As the young maid bowed, holding out the tray with the traditional sweet and the coffee, Ms Polymnia [the Chairwoman of the Charitable Association] caught the starved eye of father-Gervasius gawking at the girl’s rich breasts and from there hovering down her body, as if palpitating… ‘He should be ashamed of himself…’ she thought, distraught. Nevertheless, the ecclesiastical smile that lay across her face had remained intact”.

Of all authors, the most caustic over the clergymen’s transgressions is Y. Katsouris in his book “The whoremongers and the sacred staff” but mainly in his novel “According to Evagoras and Eugenia or the cornuto’s struggles”. In the “Sacred staff” he describes the sexual encounter taking place in the rural church of the Archangel Michael between Kyriakos, a rural constable, and Maria. At a very distinct moment, the bishop recalls Eugenia with the “nice pair of racks”. “I missed your canon, holy bishop”, she told him as he offered her myrrh flowers next to the Epitaph. This reference, added in the form of a brief memory, is developed into a novel with climactic satire in “According to Evagoras and Eugenia”. The plot gravitates around the cuckoldry of economic hotshot Evagoras’ wife, Eugenia, and the city’s bishop, and the subsequent financial alliance of the two men.

Chr. Hadjipapas too, in his prose work, appears critical of ecclesiastical officials and their hypocrisy, feigned morality and power games. For instance, in the short-story “In a whorehouse”, the black limousine of the Bishopric of Limassol arrives to pick up a whore called Lella with orders to take her to the bishop. In his novel “In the eye of the serpent”, the adolescent narrator surprises the village’s priest without his cloth, caught betwixt the legs of Myrto, who moaned like a cat on a hot tin roof. In the novel “In the wake of the black moon” (1993), Marianna deceives her husband with hegoumen Ioannis, with whom she shares a blistering, passionate love, emotional and carnal alike.

Initiation into carnal love

Prose texts referring to the initiation into carnal love could be grouped under a separate category. As would be expected, in most cases they are about teenagers, mostly boys and more rarely girls and young women. Employing mnemonic techniques, writers regress from the present to the past. The role of the initiator is assigned to experienced women and whores. This particular topic engaged the attention mostly of the “Generation of the 1960s” prose writers. This is fully explainable since, “spicy” by nature, it had been a taboo in earlier times, but not so after the Independence, and mainly after 1974 when new mores emerged and prose veered to new techniques and themes. G. Mavroides, in his short narratives from the book “Mesa Potamos, storytelling” (1993), which range from half a page to a full page in length, touches on initiation not only into love but the world in general. A similar topic we find in the novella “Back at the time” by X. Lysiotis. In the “Eastern Mediterranean” by E. Meleagrou, the narrator recalls an incident involving her neighbor’s little boy, which took place behind the hennery: “He asked you to take a look and you let him, you actually let him touch you, you almost wished for it, this deed, this great sin”.

In his recent, largely autobiographical novel, “Koazinos”, P. Ioannides too relates the sexual awakening of a teenage boy at a time of very strict mores, when he was still a student at the Pancyprian Gymnasium, in the 1950s. He talks about the boy’s and his friends’ visit to a whorehouse and his intercourse with a girl from his school.

Analogous experiences are registered by Y. Katsouris in his own autobiographical novel, entitled “Stylianos’ Anavasis”. In his tender and sensitive narrative “The Saint”, a similar experience is conjured up in the dream of a boy, as the writer investigates the relation between a person’s first sexual initiation and guilt over committing carnal sin.

One of the central themes of Chr. Hadjipapas’ prose is precisely this awakening, the first thrills of the flesh, for instance in the short-story “Bucolic love stories” featuring a 15-year-old as a protagonist. Here, as in numerous prose pieces by Hadjipapas, erotic desire is inconclusive. Conversely, in “In the eye of the serpent” the adolescent narrator tastes utter sexual pleasure in the experienced hands of Myrto. Finally, in “Waiting room” (1973) by M. Pattichi, the topic daringly developed in the second part is the sexual awakening of a young woman.

Prostitution

Prostitution is an often visited topic in Cypriot prose. References to prostitution and strip clubs become all the more frequent from the “Generation of the 1960s” onwards. Quite a few of them are encountered earlier too, but in the texts of the writers of the 1960s prostitution becomes a central parameter of prose. The turn to the development of this particular topic was influenced by the new mores brought about by economic growth, mass tourism, and the post-British-rule end to the island’s isolation. Of course, the incorporation of houses of ill repute into the plot appears to indicate another thing too. Namely, that in a conservative society, which held free relationships as reprehensible, there is no other option except to purchase sexual services. Frequent references we find to the whorehouses in the Turkish mahalle. From as far back as his novel “Three nails”, N. Nikolaides looks into this particular topic, in a body of work which was nothing short of audacious. Kassianos the Nailed, an impotent man manages “with the help of the masterful impulse of an experienced whore, to culminate, swoon, squirm and lose himself in vertigo…” His therapy is ephemeral, yet he kicks out his wife, Yiasemi, and takes in Adriana, the whore, who becomes impregnated by her lover, Anastasis. In bed, Adriana “would turn her back on him with disgust”. He would attempt to catch her asleep, but she’d wake up and fight him with might. One night, she bites off a piece of his ear, but is still unable to stop him. In the end, Andriana leaves him and ends up in a brothel. On his deathbed, Kassianos recognizes her child as his own.

References to whorehouses, prostitutes and strip clubs are also encountered in short-stories by K. G. Eleftheriades (“The madwoman”), M. Nikolaides (“Myrrh and tears”), L. Akritas (“Foreign land”), K. Montis (“A couple”), Chr. Georgiou (“Without luggage”). The latter’s novel “Archipelago: Twenty years of labour” is based on the wedding of Matthias Oriole, a rich heir, to the whore Ioanna.

In Meleagrou’s “Eastern Mediterranean”, common women are on the one hand contemptible and on the other hand admirable by the rest of them. “But secretly inside of them, a veil of admiration shrouded these women, something akin to envy for so affluently being offered the love of men, so much so that they would discard it; whilst the others, your own sisters, cousins, acquaintances, struggled to find someone, in fact the whole family would strive, and when they finally did, the most miraculous chapter in their lives, passion, love, would close once and for all…”

Various references to paid love we find in the novels of P. Ioannides, “America 62”, “Koazinos” and in his short-story “The silence came at night”, as well as in most prose pieces by Y. Katsouris (“The brothers”, “Memorial”, “The fixed point”, “A patriotic story”). In an unusual, provocative speech for his heroic friend Andreas, in “Memorial”, the narrator reads: “We always dreamt of buying a night of love in a strip club, in the habit of those pot-bellied men, because as you know in our town the only kind of love that comes at a low cost is the conjugal one. And we were not married”. Similarly treating the same topic in their short-stories are A. Antoniades (“The encounter”), K. Lymbouris (“Tsou Tai”, “Flower calling”), Ant. Georgiou (“High noon”); and in their novels, Chr. Hadjipapas (“In the eye of the serpent”), E. Araouzou (“Captive”, “Vivaldi’s peruke maker”) and Chr. Koulermou (“The angels’ heirs ”).

Deviant sexual behavior 

The last unit is about deviant sexual behaviors, such as love triangles, nymphomania, insatiable erotic desire, bestiality, erotic love between women, male homosexuality, incest, the Oedipus complex. In a series of prose texts writers refer to love triangles. In his novel “Three nails”, N. Nikolaides describes the triangle of Kassianos-Adriana-Anastasis, rumoured to share the same bed. To a similar topic, if only suggestively, C. Montis also refers in the short-story “A couple”.

In the novel “Archipelago” by Chr. Georgiou, a group of villagers sneak up on two women and a man who jump naked out of a hearse parked outside the cemetery. Inside the hearse, they find two dresses, shoes, a military uniform and a pair of thick army boots – whereupon one man comments: “Behold, the National Guard in full swing!”

In their novels “Without luggage” and “The wounded horses”, Georgiou and A. Antoniades respectively develop an analogous topic. In T. Stephanides’ “Confession” two friends talk about carnal love and purity, as one of them confesses his experiences. In one of his stories, he reveals that when he was a supervisor during the war, girls used to come to his tent looking for work. “One night a work-woman stepped in with her two daughters. ‘Choose, boss’, she said. She had firm breasts and stout thighs. I kept them in the tent, all three of them. First I undressed the mother; then she undressed the daughters”. Finally, Chr. Argyrou, in his recent novel “The man of the king,” employs brazen language to describe the erotic night the eunuch Nikitas spends with three Arabian women.

The question of nymphomania appears in the short-stories “Spiders” by Chr. Georgiou and “Confession” by T. Stephanides. In Georgiou, the convict Asimis recounts to his fellow prisoner Menios how he became involved with a nymphomaniac, “a woman who was all legs on either side of a bottomless well. And she always wanted someone occupied with it”. In T. Stephanides, the narrator was aware of the nymphomaniac’s behavior, he nevertheless married her and committed murder for her sake. Once again, the myth is looked at through the binary opposition of erotic lust and purity.

In E. Meleagrou’s “Penultimate epoch”, reference is made to erotic love between women.

Male homosexuality is referred to in the novel of P. Ioannides, “America 62”, and in the books “True Story” and “Immoral stories” of A. Karayian; also, in the short-stories “Campaign” by A. Antoniades, “Crime of honour” by K. Lymbouris, and in the bold “After the night” by A. Georgiou. “The Bitch” of N. Nikolaides has already been referenced as a story flirting with the limits of bestiality. The same topic is mentioned in Chr. Hadjipapas’ novel “In the wake of the black moon”. In Kyr. Margarites’ “When Charlie screwed a fly”, a paradoxical event is described, that of the erotic act of a soldier with a fly in plain sight, no less – effectively an act of masturbation.

In his short-story “The dance with the bells”, A. G. Kyproleon in essence talks about pedophilia, namely the lust of teacher Kotsarikos for his 16-year-old pupil Katina and his attempt to rape her. An analogous theme, which however does not go as far as pedophilia, is developed in Chr. Hadjipapas’ short-story “The unsteady step”.

Incest or erotic relations between relatives by marriage form yet another parameter, which offers quite a few examples, either of it being carried out or averted, e.g. in the uncanny short-story “Supernova” by T. Stephanides, which unfolds within the framework of surrealism.

In E. Meleagrou’s first book, “The house of Solomos”, the plot develops around the Oedipus complex. In “Eastern Mediterranean”, one of the core themes is the love of Margarita for Ionas, her husband’s uncle. The book almost describes an incident of masturbation involving Ionas’ wife, Fryni. Cases of masturbation are also encountered in the prose of other litterateurs from the “Generation of the 1960s onwards.

In the collection “The Demon of prostitution” by N. Marangou, specifically in the homonymous short-story, Stelios has been possessed by erotic passion for his Polish daughter-in-law, the wife of his son Andreas, whom he contemns. The ensuing attempted rape will cost him his life.

To sum up, Cypriot prose writers in their entirety have investigated every aspect of eros, thus managing to bring out its multiformity. In fact, eros is the prevalent topic in their body of work. Their erotic themes are placed within the specific sociopolitical and historical conditions at work on the island, particularly from the period of the anti-colonial struggle of 1955-59 onwards. From the “Generation of the 1960s” and especially during the “Generation of 1974”, writers exchange the romantic outlook on love for erotic disproval and loneliness. Inhibitions begin to subside, the erotic act and the human body are now boldly described with more details, and writers look at deviant sexual behavior all the more often. The erotic topics are either seen through humour or developed in a dramatic or even tragic fashion. At any rate, both male and female characters in prose appear vulnerable to love. Female writers investigate the topic of erotic love almost exclusively through a female perspective, whereas male writers sometimes venture into an in-depth investigation of the female psychology.

Translated by Despina Pirketti
 

 

 
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One thought on “EROTIC LOVE AS A THEME IN CYPRIOT PROSE

  1. Pingback: EROTIC LOVE AS A THEME IN CYPRIOT PROSE | In Focus Magazine

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