Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The First Greek Detective Story

I am currently translating into English ‘The Notary’ by the Greek writer Alexandros Ragavis. Set and written in the early nineteenth century, about the time of the Greek war of independence from the Turks, the story takes place in the Ionian island of Kephallonia. A fairly complicated plot involves faked wills, murder, night escapes on horseback or by boat, and a last-minute rescue from the gallows. In this it resembles the roughly contemporary stories of Wilkie Collins and Sheridan Lefanu. For all the complications of an antiquated style of Greek, Kephallonian dialect and the sprinkling of Italian words typical of the Ionian islands, I’m finding the story gripping. It will be published by the excellent small Athenian publisher Aiora, which specialises in Modern or near-Modern Greek classics, both poetry and prose, translated (usually with the original on facing pages) into various other European languages. But first I have to translate it; a slow and difficult job.

Here is an only slightly relevant picture of a 1919 meeting of ‘Parnassus’; a Greek literary society. If you know the Greek alphabet you might be able to puzzle out the names of those present.

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