Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had removed a tooth, attended the surprisingly easy birth of a lamb, and had performed a successful, though minor, operation.
He had been called to the house of old man Stamatis, who was suffering from earache. After gazing into the dark, hairy hole of the old man's ear, the doctor had cleaned up the inside of the ear using a matchstick, cotton wool and alcohol. He was aware that old man Stamatis had been deaf in that ear since childhood, but was nevertheless surprised when the tip of the matchstick touched something hard, something that had no excuse for its presence there. He took the old man to the window, where the light was better, and stared down into the ear again; then with his long matchstick he pushed the grey hairs to one side. There was something round inside. He scratched its surface and saw a pea. It was undoubtedly a pea; it was light green and slightly lined. Dr Iannis considered the problem for some moments, then requested a small fishhook and a light hammer.
The old man and his wife looked at each other with the single thought that the doctor must have lost his mind. 'What does this have to do with my earache?' asked Stamatis suspiciously. But the hook and hammer were fetched, and the doctor carefully placed the straightened hook into the hairy hole and raised the hammer. There was a terrible scream.
'Oh, oh, the fishhook will enter his brain. May God protect us!' cried the old wife, hiding her head in her hands.
This speech caused the doctor to pause and consider the possibility that the hammer might only drive the pea further into the ear. 'Change of plan,' he announced, and gave instructions that Stamatis should lie on his side till evening with his ear filled with warm water. He returned at six o'clock, hooked the softened pea successfully without the aid of a hammer, small or otherwise, and pulled it out. Stamatis clapped his hand to his ear and exclaimed, 'It's cold in there. My God, it's loud. I mean everything is loud!'
'Your deafness is cured,' announced Dr Iannis. 'A very satisfactory operation, I think.' Shortly afterwards he walked home with a fat chicken under each arm, and an ancient pea wrapped up in his handkerchief.
The doctor was now left with an entire evening in which to write his 'New History of Cephallonia', a project which he had begun at least a dozen times. He seemed unable to achieve objectivity and so had never been satisfied with the result. He sat down and wrote:
'The ancient, half-forgotten island of Cephallonia rises from the Ionian Sea, its rocks and red earth heavy with the heat of the sun and the weight of memory. In the stories of ancient Greece, the island played its part and had its gods — among them Poseidon, the god of the Sea and Apollo, the god of the Sun. Yes, once this island, with its brilliant light, its transparent waters, was an island filled with gods. But today Cephallonia has become a factory that breeds babies for export. There are more Cephallonians abroad or at sea than there are at home. There is no industry here that keeps families together, there is not enough agricultural land, there are not enough fish in the ocean. Our men go abroad and return here to die. The only good thing about it is that only the beautiful women find husbands among the men who are left, and consequently we have the most beautiful women in all of Greece...'
The doctor refilled his pipe and read this through. He listened to Pelagia moving about in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal. He read what he had written about beautiful women and remembered his wife, who had died from lung disease despite all his efforts and who had been as lovely as his daughter was now. 'This island betrays its own people,' he wrote, then seized the sheet of paper and threw it forcefully into the corner of the room. This was not good enough. Why could he not write like a writer of histories? Why could he not write without passion, without anger at the many betrayals and oppressions that the island had suffered in the past? He went outside for a breath of fresh air, returning indoors just in time to catch Pelagia's little goat eating his writings with a look of satisfaction on its face. He tore the paper from the animal's mouth, chased it outside, then marched into the kitchen. 'That unpleasant animal of yours has eaten everything I've written tonight,' he exclaimed crossly. 'Any more incidents like this, and it'll end up on our plates.'
Pelagia looked up at her father and smiled. 'We'll be eating at about ten o'clock.'
'Did you hear what I said? No more goats inside the house.' Pelagia paused in her slicing of a tomato, brushed her hair from her face and replied, 'You're as fond of him as I am.'
Dr Iannis turned away, defeated. It was an annoying thing when a daughter spoke cheekily to him and reminded him of her mother at the same time. He returned to his table, took the title page, 'A New History of Cephallonia', and crossed out the first two words, writing instead, 'A Personal'. Now he could express his opinions as freely and unpleasantly as he wished.
When Pelagia heard from a neighbour that a strongman was giving a performance in the village square, she put away her broom and hurried to join the group of curious islanders that had gathered there. Megalo Velisarios, famous all over the islands of Ionia as one of the strongest men who had ever lived, was jumping up and down in time to the clapping of hands. On each of his outstretched arms sat a full-grown man. One of them held on tightly to his body while the other calmly smoked a cigarette. On Vehsarios's head sat an anxious little girl of about six years, who was making matters more complicated by holding her hands firmly across his eyes.
'Lemoni!' he roared. 'Take your hands from my eyes and hold on to my hair, or I'll have to stop.'
Lemoni was too frightened to move her hands and Megalo Velisarios stopped. With one graceful movement he threw both men to their feet, lifted Lemoni from his head, threw her high into the air and caught her, kissed her dramatically upon the tip of her nose and set her down. Raising himself to his full height, he cried, 'I will lift anything that it takes three men to lift.'
The village priest, Father Arsenios, chose just this moment to walk with a self-important expression across the square on his way to the church. He lacked respect, not because he was completely round but because he was greedy for both money and food and was much too interested in women.
'Lift Father Arsenios,' someone called.
'Impossible,' called another.
Father Arsenios quite suddenly found himself grasped around his chest and lifted up on to the wall. He sat there speechless with surprise, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, and a guilty silence descended. Pelagia felt her heart overflow with pity for the poor man. She stepped forward and extended a hand to help him down, and the priest walked off without a word. Pelagia now spoke sharply to Velisarios. She was only seventeen but she was proud and knew her own mind, and her position as the doctor's daughter meant that even the men were forced to respect her. 'You shouldn't have done that, Velisarios,' she said. 'It was cruel and horrible. You must apologize.'
He looked down at her from his great height. This was without doubt a difficult situation. He thought of lifting her above his head.
'We want to see the cannon,' called an old lady, and others in the crowd echoed her.
Velisarios was immensely proud of his ability to raise the old Turkish cannon, which had the date 1739 on it and was much too heavy for anyone else to lift. He looked down at Pelagia and said, 'I'll apologize later, pretty one,' then announced, 'Good people of the village, to see the cannon, you must bring me your old nails, your broken pots, and the stones of the streets. Find me these things while I pack the gun with powder.'
People ran off eagerly in all directions to seek out these objects, and the cannon was soon prepared for the great explosion. 'I will fire the gun down the road,' said Velisarios when all was made ready. 'Everybody out of the way now.'
With a theatrical expression, the enormous man put a match to the cannon and lifted it to his waist. Silence fell. Breaths were held. There was a great roar as the old pots and nails burst from the gun… and then a long, low cry of pain. There was a moment of confusion and hesitation. People looked around at each other to see who had been hit, and Velisarios dropped his cannon and ran forward to a young man lying in the dust.
Mandras later thanked Velisarios for firing at him as he came round the bend at the entrance to the village. But at the time he greatly disliked being carried in the arms of the strongman to the doctor's house and he did not enjoy having a bent nail removed from his shoulder. What he thanked Megalo Velisarios for was that in the doctor's house he first set eyes on Pelagia. There was a moment when he became aware that he was being bandaged, that a young woman's long hair was brushing against his face. He opened his eyes and found himself gazing into a pair of anxious eyes. 'At that moment,' he liked to say later, 'I recognized my future wife.'
Dr Iannis put on a fresh shirt in readiness for his daily visit to the kapheneion, and stepped out into the yard. He was entirely unsurprised to see Mandras there, talking to Pelagia. The young fisherman's face went red when he saw him. 'Oh, good evening, doctor. I've brought you some fish,' he said.
The doctor twisted his mouth and pretended to sigh. 'Mandras,' he said, 'you know perfectly well that I know perfectly well that you have only come here to flirt with Pelagia.'
'Flirt?' repeated the young man, attempting to appear both innocent and shocked.
'Yes. Flirt. Yesterday you brought us another fish and then flirted with Pelagia for an hour. Well, you'd better get on with it.'
'Then I have your permission to talk to your daughter?'
'Talk, talk, talk,' said Dr Iannis, waving his hands, and he set off for the kapheneion.
'Your dad's a funny fellow,' Mandras said to Pelagia.
'There's nothing wrong with my father,' she exclaimed, 'and anyone who says there is gets a broom in the face.' She pushed the broom at him and he caught it and twisted it out of her grasp. 'Give it back,' she said laughing.
'I'll give it back… in return for a kiss.'
Pelagia gave the young man a flirtatious smile.
At the kapheneion, the doctor collected his tiny cup of coffee and sat next to Kokolios, as he always did. The coffee shop was full of the usual characters: the Communist Kokolios, with his splendid moustache; old man Stamatis; Father Arsenios, round and sweating. 'What's the news of the war?' Kokolios asked.
The doctor twisted the ends of his moustache and said, 'Germany is taking everything, the Italians are behaving like fools, the French have run away, the Americans have been playing ball games, the British have been drinking tea, the Russians have been sitting on their hands. Thank God we are out of it. Why don't we turn on the radio?'
The large British radio in the corner of the room was switched on, its whistles reduced to a minimum by moving it around. Just then, Pelagia appeared at the door, gesturing urgently, greatly embarrassed by her presence in the men-only kapheneion. The doctor raised his eyes to the ceiling, put his pipe in his pocket and went to the door. 'What is it, girl?'
'It's Mandras, he's fallen out of a tree on to a pot.'
The doctor shook his head in disbelief and allowed his daughter to hurry him home. There, he made Mandras lie on the kitchen table while he removed tiny pieces of the broken pot from the young man's muscular back. 'You're a fool,' he told his patient.
'I know, doctor,' said Mandras, biting his lip as another piece came out.
'Stop being so polite. I know what you're planning. Are you going to ask her to marry you or not?'
'Not yet, doctor. Everyone says there's going to be a war, and I don't want to leave a widow. You know how people treat a widow.'
'Quite right,' said the doctor and wondered, as he wiped away a spot of blood, whether his body had ever been as beautiful as this young fool's.
It was several hours before he returned to the kapheneion. When he entered, he knew immediately that something was wrong. Warlike music came from the radio and Dr Iannis was astonished to see that the faces of several of the men were shiny with tears. 'What's going on?' he asked.
'Those Italian pigs have sunk one of our ships at Tinos. And they fired on the harbour there. It was full of people. On a holy day too.'
The doctor put his hands to his face and felt his own tears fighting to appear. He was possessed by a feeling of helpless anger. He did not stop to question whether war with Italy was inevitable. Although he did not believe in God he found himself saying, 'Come on boys, we're all going to the church.' The men of the kapheneion rose and followed him.
Pelagia and Mandras
Pelagia (resting in the afternoon): Papas says that Mandras is going to have tiny pieces of that pot in his back for the rest of his life. I like his body, what I've seen of it. God forgive me, I have such wicked thoughts. Thank God no one can read my mind, or I'd be locked up and all the old women would throw stones at me. I wonder what Mandras is doing. He's so beautiful and so tunny too. He made my stomach ache with laughing before he fell out of the tree. That's when I knew I loved him; it was the fear I felt when he fell on the pot.
When will he ask me to marry him? But he's not a serious fellow, and it gives me doubts. He's so funny, but I can't talk to him about anything and you have to be able to discuss things with a husband, don't you? I say, 'Is there going to be a war?' and he just grins and says, 'Who cares? Is there going to be a kiss?' I don't want there to be a war. Let there be Mandras standing in the yard with a fish in his hands. Let there be Mandras every day with a fish.
Mandras (leaving the harbour in his boat): It's going to be too hot again today, I know it, and all the fish will hide in the rocks and go to the bottom. Let the clouds hide the sun, let me catch some fine fish and I'll take one to Pelagia and she'll ask me to eat with them, and I can rub her leg with my foot under the table while the doctor discusses ancient poetry. I know he likes me, but he doesn't think I'm good enough for her — he's always calling me a fool.
The trouble is that I can't be myself when I'm with her. I mean, I am a serious man. I follow politics, I want to improve the world. But when I'm with Pelagia it's as if I'm twelve again. I want to amuse her and what else am I supposed to do? I can't imagine myself saying, 'Come on, Pelagia, let's talk about politics.' Women aren't interested in that sort of thing, they want you to entertain them. Perhaps she thinks I'm a fool as well. I'm not in her class, I know that. The doctor taught her Italian and a bit of English, and they're not a typical island family. I mean, the doctor's sailed all over the world, he's even been to America. And where have I been? What do I know? I love Pelagia, but I know that I will never be a man until I've done something important, something people can respect me for. I feel so useless and insignificant here on the island.
Pelagia (taking roast lamb from the village oven): Where is Mandras? He's usually here by now. I want him to come, I can hardly breathe, I want him so much. My hands are shaking again.
I'd better take this silly smile off my face or everyone will think I'm mad. Come, Mandras, please come, stay for dinner and stroke my ankles with your feet, Mandras.
Mandras (mending his nets): We're going to go to war with Italy very soon. I've got a letter saying that I'll be ordered to join the army in the next few weeks. I know one thing, I'm going to ask Pelagia to marry me before I leave. With no jokes. I'm going to make her understand that in defending Greece I'm defending her and every woman like her, and if I die, I'll die with the name of Pelagia and the name of Greece equally on my lips. And if I live, I'll walk with my head held high for the rest of my life, and everyone will say, 'That's Mandras, who fought in the war. We owe everything to people like him.'
The island's saint, St Geronimos, dead for five centuries, had lived a genuinely holy life and had left his ancient blackened body in an island church as evidence of this. He was so loved by the islanders that he had two feast days, one in August and another in October, and on these days he tolerantly looked elsewhere as the population of the island became excessively drunk. It was eight days before Greece and Italy declared war on each other, but it might have been any October feast day in the last hundred years. The cruelty had gone out of the sun, and the delightfully warm day was made even more pleasant by a light wind from the sea that wandered in and out of the trees. From all over the island, people made their way to the church where the saint's body lay, packing the church tightly and squeezing together in the yard outside. At different points in the crowd, Velisarios, Pelagia, Dr Iannis, Kokolios and Stamatis all turned their heads sideways to hear the distant prayers of the priest. The sun climbed higher and the people, packed together, began to sweat. The heat was just becoming unbearable when the service ended, the bells rang out and the celebrations began.
A small band began playing while a line of pretty girls stepped from side to side at the back, and a row of young men danced with their heads twisted backwards. Those who were drunk began to insult each other, and in some places fighting had already begun. Pelagia moved nearer the church and sat on a bench. Someone tapped on her shoulder and she looked up and saw Mandras. He fell drunkenly to his knees and declared dramatically, 'Pelagia, will you marry me? Marry me or I die!'
She regarded him silently for a moment, then said quietly, 'Of course I'll marry you,' When he heard this, Mandras leapt joyfully but unsteadily into the air, then suddenly became extremely serious and said, 'My darling, I love you with all my heart, but we can't get married until I get back from the Army.'
'Go and speak to my father,' said Pelagia. Then, worried by the strange way in which she did not feel as happy as she ought, she made her way back to the church in order to be alone with the saint. Time passed, and Mandras failed to find the doctor before drink overcame him. He slept sweetly in a pool of something disgusting but unidentifiable, while, nearby, Lemoni attempted to set fire to the beard of the sleeping Father Arsenios, and Kokolios and Stamatis became lost in the bushes while searching for their wives.
Pelagia walked back from the feast with her father, bursting with a painful mixture of anxiety and happiness, desperate to mention Mandras's proposal. But the doctor was in a much too drunken state to be sensitive to his daughter's feelings, and when they reached the house, he danced about the yard before falling onto his bed fully clothed.
Pelagia went to bed and could not sleep. 'I love you, Mandras,' she declared, at the same time as doubts rose in her like an invasion of tiny devils. How much did she really know Mandras? What evidence did she have that he was patient and kind? Can you trust someone who replies immediately, without thought? She was frightened by the suspicion that there was something hard about his heart. If it were not love that she felt for Mandras, then why this breathlessness, this endless desire that made her heart beat fast? She imagined that Mandras had died, and as the tears came she was shocked to discover that she also felt relief.
In the morning she took herself to the yard and created tasks that would cause her to see him as soon as he came around the curve of the road. But he did not come, and Pelagia passed the day with feelings of impatience that soon turned into real concern. That evening, when he had still not appeared, her father said, quite unexpectedly, 'I expect he hasn't come because he's feeling as sick as everyone else.'
Pelagia took his hand and kissed it gratefully. 'He's asked me to marry him. I told him I'd have to ask you,' she said.
'I don't want to marry Mandras,' said Dr Iannis. 'It would be a much better idea if he married you, I think.'
'Don't you approve of him, Papakis?'
He turned and looked at her gently. 'He's too young. Also, I have not done you a favour. You read poetry, you speak Italian. He isn't your equal, and he would expect to be better than his wife. He is a man, after all. I have often thought that you would only ever be able to marry happily with a foreigner, a dentist from Norway or something.'
Pelagia laughed at the ridiculous thought, then closed her eyes. The doctor went inside and came out with something that he handed very formally to her. She took it, saw what it was, and dropped it into her skirts with a cry of horror.
The doctor remained standing. 'There's going to be a war, and terrible things happen in wars, especially to women. Use the gun to defend yourself. It might happen that your marriage will have to wait. We must make sure first that Mussolini does not invite himself to the wedding.' He turned and went into the house, leaving Pelagia to her fears, and after a few minutes she went to her room and placed the gun under her pillow, imagining once again that Mandras was dead.
It was not until the third day after the feast that there was a quiet knock at the door. Mandras stood, speaking fast, a bucket of fish in his hand. 'I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, but I was ill the day after the feast, and yesterday I had to collect my Army papers, and I'm leaving for Athens the day after tomorrow, and I've spoken to your father, and he's agreed to the marriage, and I've brought you some fish.'
Pelagia sat on her bed and went cold inside; it was too much happiness, too much pain. She was engaged to a man who mixed marriage together with fish and war, a man who was too beautiful to go away and die in the snows of Tsamoria. Suddenly Mandras seemed to her to be an extraordinarily delicate creature, so delicate and beautiful that he was sure to die. Her hands began to shake and she whispered, 'Don't go, don't go.'
I, Carlo Piero Guercio, write these words with the intention that they should be found after my death, when what is written here will not harm me.
I know only silence. I have not told the priest, since I know in advance what I will be told; it is a wicked sin and I must marry and lead the life of a normal man. Nor have I told a doctor, as I know that I will be informed that I am sick and can be cured of my disease.
What could I say to such priests and doctors? I would say to the priest that God made me like this for a purpose, that I had no choice. I would say to the doctor, 'I have been like this from the start, it is nature that has created me.' But they would not understand. I am like someone who is the only person in the world that knows the truth, but is forbidden to speak. And this truth weighs more than the universe, this burden cracks my bones.
In my search to understand myself, I have read everything, from the most modern to the most ancient, and it was in the work of the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, that I finally found myself. In his writings, he explained that there were three sexes, the third sex being men who loved men, and this idea made sense to me. Plato also wrote that if an army was made up of men who loved one another, they would be the bravest army in the world, because men would become heroes, ready to die for their lovers.
I admit that I joined the Army because the men are young and beautiful, and because I knew that in the Army I would find someone I could love though never touch. I would not abandon him in battle, I would win his admiration, I would die for him if necessary and in this way give purpose to my life.
In the Army I found my family. It was a world without women, and for the first time in my life I did not have to pretend. I was very fortunate at first; our unit was sent to Albania, where there was no real fighting, and we did not realize that we might be ordered to invade Greece. No one outside the Army can understand the joy of being a soldier, of being part of a group where you are all young and strong and quickly learn everything about each other. We believed we could not die, we could march eighty kilometres a day, singing battle songs. We were new and beautiful, we loved each other more than brothers.
I fell in love with Francesco, a young married soldier from Genoa, who accepted me as his best friend without ever suspecting my passion for him. He was an entirely beautiful boy, reminding me of one of those elegant cats that give the impression of immense but easy strength. I was attracted most of all to his face, with its strong, high cheekbones, wide mouth and one-sided smile. He was always amusing and respected no one, constantly entertaining us with his wickedly accurate imitations of Mussolini and Hitler. Everyone loved him, he never got a promotion and he did not care.
We soldiers loved the army life but had no love of the Fascist leaders of our country, nor did we have any idea of why we were in Albania. However, looking back, it seems clear that an invasion of Greece must have been the final intention; there were clues everywhere, if only we had seen them. In the first place, there was the fact that all the roads that we built (which, we were informed, were for the benefit of the Albanians) led towards the Greek border. In the second place, we heard stories from reliable sources about how our frontier posts were attacked a number of times by our own people dressed as Greeks, so that we could blame the latter for the attacks. When some Albanians shot at our soldiers, we announced that our attackers were Greeks. We also learned that one of our leaders arranged to have his own offices blown up so that Mussolini could finally declare war against the Greeks.
I have related these things as if they were amusing, but really they were acts of madness. When war against Greece was finally declared, we were told that the Greeks would be defeated within days. We were sent off to die, with no transport, no equipment and too few men. At first, having no idea of what the future held for us, we whistled and sang, and from time to time Francesco, marching beside me, looked at me and smiled. 'Athens in two weeks,' he said.
Then the weather turned against us and rain poured from the skies, turning the ground to mud so that we struggled through it, ten thousand men whose uniforms were weighted down with water, our aeroplanes unable to fly because of the bad weather. Our twenty heavy guns sank into the mud, and our animals were unable to pull them out. We struggled on in these conditions for several days, at a height of three hundred metres, our legs turned to ice so that we could no longer feel our feet. 'Athens in two months,' said Francesco with a twisted smile. But we saw no sign of the Greeks and believed that we were winning without fighting.
On 1 November, a bomb fell among us and there was a scream as a poor fellow from Piedmont lost his legs, followed by the short, sharp sound of gunshot from the trees. We realized that the Greeks had cleverly got us into a position where we could be surrounded and cut off from all help. We were trapped in the valley floor and the Greeks, whom we very rarely saw, moved like ghosts among the upper slopes, so that we never knew when we would be attacked or from where. Their bombs seemed at one moment to come from behind, at another moment to come from the side or from the front. We fired at ghosts and at mountain goats. The heroic Greeks seemed to rise out of the ground and fall on us as if we had raped their mothers. It shocked us. We had no air support. 'Athens in two years,' said Francesco. We were completely alone.
We ate only dry biscuits, but when our horses died, we ate them. We were ordered to turn back and had to fight our way through the soldiers that surrounded us. We grew immense beards, we were half buried in snowstorms, our red, swollen eyes sank deep into our heads, our hands were torn as if by cats. We became desperately thin, digging for food in the frozen ground like pigs. It was a hell of machine guns, bombs and ice, a hell in which battles were fought without rest for eight hours at a time, while on the mountains our dead lay in forgotten piles, body upon body. We fought on but we lost our hearts as a great darkness settled across the land. The snow fell endlessly. My boots, crawling with insects, fell apart. I think it must have been December when we understood that we were as broken as our boots.
Waking up in the morning, ten degrees below zero. The first question: who has frozen to death now? Who has slipped from sleep to death? These were the days of the white death, in which the legs became swollen and turned bright purple, deep blue, coal black. I was exhausted, shaken by the screams of men in unimaginable pain as their legs were cut off by our army doctors. I lived in fear of the white death and inspected my feet every few hours. Francesco was undoubtedly mad. His mouth moved continually, his beard became a column of ice, his eyes rolled in his head and he did not recognize me. We had lost four thousand men. There was nothing in our lives except the white death, the bitter absence of our friends, the joylessness of the icy mountains.
One morning Francesco turned to me with a wild expression in his eyes, speaking to me for the first time in weeks. 'Look,' he said and rolled up his trousers, revealing the purple stripes on the white flesh. He touched the dead flesh with a look of horror in his eyes, rolled his trousers back down again and said to me, 'It's enough, Carlo. It's too much.' He began to weep, trembling all over. Then he took up his gun and, before I could prevent him, advanced towards the enemy, stopping to fire every five steps. In recognition of his heroism, the Greeks did not return his fire, but a bomb fell next to him and he disappeared beneath a shower of mud. There was a long silence. I saw something move where Francesco had been.
I put my gun down and ran towards the place where he lay. The Greeks did not shoot at me and I saw that although the side of his head had been blown away, he was still alive. I knelt and gathered him into my arms, then stood up and faced the Greeks, offering myself to their guns. There was a silence, and then a cheer came from them. I turned and carried the bleeding bundle back to our side.
Francesco took two hours to die. His blood ran down my uniform, his mouth formed silent words, the light in his eyes faded and he began the long, slow journey towards death, suffering what must have been indescribable pain. I buried him in a deep hole, the home of enormous rats.
We lost the war and were saved only when the Germans invaded from Bulgaria, forcing the Greeks to fight two different armies at the same time. We fought and froze and died for no purpose. I took no part in the shameful conquest of Greece because the day after I buried Francesco, I shot myself in the flesh of my thigh.
The Wild Man
On 28 October, Greece and Italy formally declared war on each other. All the young men of Cephallonia disappeared to join the army, and Dr Iannis attempted to join too but was turned down when it was discovered that he had learned all his medical knowledge on ships and had no proper qualifications. Several Italian families on the island were attacked and their houses were burnt down, and the islanders developed a silent, sorrowful expression as they learnt to live with the thought that their sons and brothers might die. As the weeks passed, however, they were comforted by the news that their country was winning the war and that the Greeks were winning back territory that was theirs by right in Albania. The villagers went often to church and Father Arsenios surprised them by making fine, emotional speeches and by not getting drunk. Almost immediately, shortages of certain foods and other household essentials developed, and beans became the greater part of the doctor's and Pelagia's diet.
The war had the effect of increasing the importance of Dr Iannis, as the village community turned to him for advice and leadership. The doctor watched his daughter progress through a series of emotions, all of which seemed to him to be unhealthy and worrying. At first Pelagia had been in a state of painful anxiety, and then in storms of tears. She would sit by the wall outside as if she expected her fiance to arrive at the bend of the road where he had been shot by Velisarios. Later, she developed the habit of remaining silently in the room with her father, her hands motionless in her lap as tears followed each other silently down her cheeks. Pelagia calmed her fears by writing letter after letter to Mandras, relating island news and gossip, telling him about her terrible dreams and her fears for him, and begging him to write back to her. She began the task of making a cover for their marriage bed, but lacked the benefit of a mothers instruction in such matters. Each time it reached a certain stage, it began to look suspiciously like a dead animal, and she felt forced to undo her work and begin again.
As day followed day it became clear that not only had Mandras not written, but that he never would. After careful observation of his daughter, her father realized that she was becoming bitter and increasingly certain that her fiance could not love her. When he realized that Pelagia was seriously depressed, the doctor made her accompany him on his medical visits, sent her to bed early and let her sleep in the mornings. He made a habit of making her laugh against her will, and deliberately made her angry by such tricks as moving all the knives from one drawer to another. The doctor considered the return of her normal cheerful manner to be a sign that she had given up her passion for Mandras. On the one hand, he was glad of this, since he did not truly believe that Mandras would make a good husband, but on the other hand, Pelagia was already engaged, and the breaking of an engagement would cause great shame. The awful possibility occurred to him that Pelagia might marry a man she no longer loved out of a sense of duty.
Pelagia returned from the village with a jar of water upon her shoulder, set it down in the yard and came through the door, singing. The news had been bad for some weeks — not only had Kokolios lost two of his sons, but the Germans had attacked the Greek army so that the courageous Greek troops were at last facing defeat. Strangely, the bad news made Pelagia even more appreciative of the first signs of spring on the island. She was feeling strong and whole and was enjoying having the house to herself while her father was away visiting a friend on the other side of the island.
Pelagia's singing was brought to a sudden stop when she entered the kitchen. There was a stranger seated at the kitchen table, a most wild and horrible stranger, whose hands trembled ceaselessly and whose head was utterly hidden beneath a mass of dirt, mud and hair. An enormous beard hid the lower half of the stranger's face, in which Pelagia could see only two tiny bright eyes that would not look at her. Rags covered the stranger's body and in the place of shoes there were bandages, stained with blood both old and new.
Overcome with fear and pity, not knowing what to do, Pelagia said, 'My father's out. He should be back tomorrow.'
'You're happy, anyway. Singing,' said the man in a cracked voice, and his whole body shook.
'You can't stay, I'm on my own,' said Pelagia.
'I can't walk,' replied the man. 'I walked from Epirus. No boots.' Just then, the goat wandered through the open kitchen door, approached the stranger and made a gentle attempt at tasting the stranger's rags. 'Ah, at least your goat remembers me,' the man whispered, and began to weep.
Pelagia was astonished by these words and said, 'Mandras?'
The man turned his face towards her and said, 'Don't touch me, Pelagia. There are insects crawling all over me and I smell terrible.'
Pelagia felt guilt, pity, disgust. It seemed unimaginable that this pitiful ghost hid the mind and body of the man she loved. 'You never wrote to me,' she said, making the accusation that had destroyed her love for him and left her empty.
Mandras replied, 'I can't write.' For a reason she did not understand, Pelagia was more disgusted by this confession than by Mandras's physical condition. 'Couldn't someone else have written for you? I thought you were dead. I thought you… couldn't love me.'
'How could I let everyone know? How could I have my feelings discussed by the boys?' He glanced up again so that at last she recognized his eyes, and said, 'Pelagia, I got all your letters. I couldn't read them but I got them.' From inside his clothing he drew out a huge, dirty packet. 'I carried you in here,' he said, beating his chest. 'Every day, all the time, I was thinking of you, talking to you. I was not a coward because of you, I even prayed to you. And when the Germans attacked us I got through their lines, and all I could think of was that I had to get home to you, and now...' His body shook as he wept. 'Now only the animals know me.'
'I'll fetch your mother,' Pelagia whispered and ran out of the house, down to the small, fishy but extremely clean house by the harbour where Kyria Drosoula, Mandras's widowed mother, lived. Kyria Drosoula was a woman so large and ugly that at their first meeting people wondered how she had ever found a husband. She was in fact a brave, kind woman, and during Mandras's absence she and Pelagia had comforted one another.
Now the two women returned, breathless, to the doctor's house, and found Mandras in exactly the same position that Pelagia had left him in.
Drosoula ran into the kitchen with a cry of joy and then stepped back with an astonished look that in other circumstances would have been amusing. 'It is him,' said Pelagia. 'I told you he was in an awful state.'
'My God,' Drosoula exclaimed, then began to inspect Mandras as if he were an animal she was considering purchasing. 'Go and put a big pot to boil,' she said finally, 'because I'm going to wash him from head to foot, but first I'm going to get rid of this hair, so bring me some scissors.'
Mandras sat motionless as his mother, making terrible faces as she did so, cut away the ropes and lumps of his hair and beard, revealing the horribly infected state of the skin below and the insects creeping all over it. Pelagia felt sickened where she knew that she should feel pity, and went indoors to look in her father's medicine cupboard. She realized with a small shock that she had learned enough from her father over the years to become a doctor herself. Hurrying outside, she told Drosoula which treatments to use on Mandras's face and head and where to use them. After a brief discussion about whether it was correct for a woman to see her fiance with nothing on, the two women decided that in these circumstances it was entirely acceptable.
They removed Mandras's rags, and after gazing sorrowfully at the parcel of skin and bones that sat before them, again under Pelagia's expert guidance, Drosoula began washing her son and rubbing healing oils and creams on him. Pelagia forced herself to remove the bandages from Mandras's feet, and despite the fact that at first sight they did not look as if they could be saved, on closer examination she realized that the flesh was quite dry. She fetched a bowl of clean water, salted it heavily, and as gently as she could, she washed and treated the terrible mess.
When Dr Iannis returned the following morning, he found not only a half-dead man asleep in his daughter's bed, but his daughter and an amazingly ugly woman asleep in his own. He listened to Pelagia's account of everything she had done, then examined the patient carefully, paying particular attention to the feet. Pelagia nervously waited for his anger. 'Well done, I have never been so proud,' he declared. Drosoula smiled at Pelagia, who was so relieved that her hands were shaking, and the two women made more plans for Mandras's recovery.
30 April 1941: Invasion
Though he said little, being almost incapable of speech due to his physical condition, Mandras was fully aware of the change in Pelagia's attitude towards him and he hated the way in which his mother and fiancee had undressed him, washed him and discussed him as if he were not present. But the horrors of war and starvation had taken away from him the will to live, so that he lay for weeks in bed in his mother's house, incapable of moving or even speaking, constantly revisiting in his mind the terrible experiences that had been his.
The brilliance of his Greek leaders had enabled him and many of his companions to survive the war against the Italians, but the freezing conditions in the mountains and lack of food meant that his body aged more in a few months than it would normally do in sixty years. Then, when the Germans had attacked from the south, Mandras's unit had marched back down into Greece and had fought bravely but uselessly against their enemy, leaving Mandras the only survivor in his unit. With a vision of a loving, smiling Pelagia constantly before him, Mandras had found the strength to struggle home, wearing bandages instead of boots, through the wild hills, mountains and forests that made up the greater part of Greece.
For much of his journey he had met very few people and had consequently almost died from starvation. If he had been met on his return to Cephallonia by the loving Pelagia of his dreams, Mandras's recovery might have been faster. But as week followed week, Pelagia, though she tried hard to love Mandras, felt only coldness towards him, coldness and the growing conviction that Mandras was remaining ill in order to punish her for her lack of warmth towards him.
'He thinks that nobody wants him,' said Dr Iannis, 'and he's doing this in order to force us to show him that we do.'
'But I don't want him,' thought Pelagia, again and again, as she sat making the bedcover that had never grown beyond the size of a towel. But although she spent a lot of time either with or thinking about Mandras, there were other matters that occupied her mind just as much. By April 1941, the German army had reached Athens, and the royal palace there was occupied not by King George of Greece but by German soldiers. On the 28th of the month, the Italian army, claiming that the Ionian islands belonged to them by right, invaded the island of Corfu, making it inevitable that Cephallonia would be next on the list.
For the islanders, the waiting was painful. Every last moment of freedom and security was rolled about on the tongue, tasted and remembered. Fathers who expected to be beaten to death stroked the hair of pretty daughters who expected to be raped. Sons sat with their mothers on doorsteps and talked gently of their memories. Father Arsenios knelt in his church, attempting to find words to a prayer, puzzled by an odd sensation of having been abandoned by God instead of the other way round.
In these last weeks before the invasion, Dr Iannis wrote what he believed to be the final part of his 'History of Cephallonia':
'Among those who invaded and occupied our island — the Romans, the Turks, the Russians, the French, the British' — he began, 'the Italians made the greatest impression upon us, because we spent the period from 1194 to 1797 under Italian rule. This explains a great many things that may puzzle the foreigner, for example, the numerous Italian words that exist in our vocabulary, and the architecture of the island, which is almost entirely Italian.' He continued on this subject for a number of pages, then, when it seemed that the Italian invasion was due at any moment, he wrote:
'I wait in the knowledge that this may be the last thing I ever write. I beg that whoever finds these papers should preserve and not destroy them.'
Placing the papers in a black tin box, the doctor lifted the old carpet beneath the table and opened a trapdoor, revealing the large hole that had been made in 1849 in order to hide island rebels sought by the British, who then governed the island. He placed his work safely inside the hole, then went outside to listen for the sound of approaching aeroplanes.
On 30 April foreign aircraft and ships were seen approaching from the horizon. Drosoula ran inside to Pelagia shouting, 'Italians, Italians. It's the invasion,'
Pelagia's immediate reaction was to run up the hill to be with her father, whom she found standing in his doorway, as everyone else stood in theirs, protecting his eyes against the sun as he watched the planes. Out of breath, she flew into his arms and felt him tremble, then realized with a small shock that he shook, not from fear, but from excitement.
'History,' he cried, 'all this time I have been writing history, and now history is happening before my eyes.'
The Italian soldiers stepped apologetically out of their aircraft and ships and waved cheerfully but hesitantly to the people in their doorways. In the village, Pelagia and her father watched the Italian units go by, their leaders consulting maps with puzzled faces. A line of men marched by, led by Captain Antonio Corelli, with the mandolin that he had named Antonia hanging on his back. When he saw Pelagia he shouted, 'Bella bambina eyes left!'
The heads of the soldiers turned in her direction, and for one unbelievable minute Pelagia was forced to watch the most ridiculous behaviour. There was a soldier who crossed his eyes and folded down his lower lip, another who pushed his lips out and blew her a kiss, another who pretended at each step to stumble over his own feet. Pelagia put her hand to her mouth. 'Don't laugh,' ordered the doctor. 'It's our duty to hate them.'
All over Cephallonia the islanders painted rude remarks about the invaders in huge letters on all available walls. The men related Italian jokes. What is the shortest book in the world? The Italian Book of War Heroes. Why do Italians wear moustaches? To be reminded of their mothers. A decision was made that the local population should provide Italian officers with accommodation. So one day the doctor came home and found a round Italian officer standing in the kitchen.
'Buon giorno,' said the officer.
'Buon giorno,' the doctor replied. 'Perhaps you could tell me why you are here.'
'Ah,' said the man uncomfortably, 'I am sorry to say, you are going to have to provide accommodation for an officer.'
'Impossible,' said the doctor angrily. Then an interesting thought occurred to him and he asked, 'Do you have a supply of medicines?'
'Naturally,' replied the officer. The two men exchanged glances, understanding perfectly what the other was thinking.
'There are many things I need,' said the doctor.
'And I need accommodation. So?'
'So it's a deal,' said the doctor.
'A deal,' repeated the officer. 'Anything you want, send me a message through Captain Corelli. You will find him charming.'
In the early evening Captain Corelli arrived, driven by another soldier, Carlo Piero Guercio. The captain looked around, appreciating the signs of a quiet domestic life. There was a goat tied to a tree, and a young woman with dark eyes at a table, with a scarf tied round her head and a large cooking knife in her hand. The captain fell to his knees before her and exclaimed dramatically, 'Please don't kill me, I am innocent.'
Pelagia smiled, against her will, and glanced at Carlo, amazed to see that he was as big as Velisarios. The captain leapt up. 'I am Captain Antonio Corelli and this...' he took Carlo by the arm, '… is one of our heroes. He rescued a fallen friend under fire.'
'It's nothing,' said Carlo with a shy smile, and Pelagia knew immediately that, despite his size, he was a soft and saddened man. 'This...' Corelli continued, tapping a case in his hand, '… is Antonia. By what name do men know you, may I ask?' Pelagia looked at Corelli properly for the first time and realized that this was the same officer who had commanded his men to march past at 'eyes left'. At the same moment Corelli recognized her. 'Ah,' he exclaimed and smacked himself on the wrist, then fell to his knees once more and said softly, 'Forgive me, I have sinned.'
Dr Iannis came out, saw the captain on his knees and said, 'Captain Corelli? I want a word with you. Now.'
Surprised by the authority in the older man's voice, Corelli stood up and held out his hand, but the doctor did not put out his own, instead saying sharply, 'I want an explanation please. Why has the teaching of Greek history been forbidden in schools? And why is everyone being forced to learn Italian?'
The captain felt himself wanting to run away like a little boy. 'I am not responsible for it,' he said.
The doctor frowned fiercely and shook his finger at the captain. 'There would be no wars, captain, if men like you took more responsibility.'
'I must protest,' the captain replied weakly.
'Fool,' said the doctor forcefully and returned inside, very satisfied with himself. Pelagia could not help feeling sorry for the captain. 'Your father is...' he said, and the words failed him.
'Yes, he is,' confirmed Pelagia.
'Where shall I sleep?' asked Corelli, eager to change the subject.
'You will have my bed,' said Pelagia.
Under normal circumstances Antonio Corelli would have asked brightly, 'Are we going to share it then? How kind,' but now, after the doctor's words, he received this information with horror. 'Impossible,' he said. 'Tonight I shall sleep in the yard and tomorrow I shall request alternative accommodation.'
Pelagia was shocked by the feelings of anxiety that rose in her. Could there be something inside her that wanted this foreigner, this invader, to stay? She went inside and told her father about the captain's decision. 'He can't go,' he said. 'How am I supposed to be nasty to him if he isn't here? And anyway, he seems like a pleasant boy.' He took his daughter's arm and went back out with her. 'Young man,' he said to the captain, 'you are staying here whether you like it or not. It is quite possible that we will be sent someone even worse.'
'Yes,' said the captain, overcome with embarrassment.
'Kyria Pelagia will bring water, some coffee and food. You will find we look after our guests, even those who do not deserve it. Your vast friend is welcome to join us.'
The captain went to call Carlo to the meal in a state of miserable obedience and utter defeat.
When the captain woke after his first night in the doctor's house, he went into the kitchen, saw Pelagia fast asleep and did not know what to do. He looked down upon her and realized he wanted to crawl in beside her — nothing could have seemed more natural — but instead he returned to his room and took his mandolin, Antonia, out of its case. After practising for five minutes or so, he began playing a very fast, complicated piece, forgetful of the sleeping girl next door, so that Pelagia woke to indescribably beautiful music coming from somewhere in the house. She lay listening, then went to dress in her father's room, and Corelli, realizing that she had risen at last, came out into the kitchen.
'That was lovely,' commented Pelagia.
He looked unhappy. 'I'm sorry, I woke you up.'
'That's very beautiful,' she said, gesturing towards the instrument. 'Why do you play the mandolin?'
'Why does one do anything? My uncle gave me Antonia and I discovered I could be a good musician. When the war's over, I'm going to become a professional concert player and composer.'
'You're going to be rich and famous, then,' Pelagia said jokingly. 'Why don't you play me something?'
The captain picked up the mandolin, and a stream of notes poured from it that made Pelagia's mouth fall open. She had never before heard such complex, lovely music. She realized for the first time that music was not just a sweet sound, but was, to those who understood it, an emotional and intellectual journey, a journey that she wanted to share. She leaned forward and put her hands together as if she were at prayer.
'There you are,' said the captain when he had finished.
In her excitement at the music, she wanted to dance and spin round, but she only said, 'I just don't understand why an artist like you would descend to being a soldier. It's a waste of time.'
'Of course it's a waste of time.' He rose and glanced at his watch. 'Carlo should have been here by now. I'll have to go and find him.' He looked at her with one eyebrow raised and said, 'By the way, Signorina, I couldn't help noticing that you have a gun in the pocket of your skirt.'
Pelagia began to tremble but the captain continued, 'I understand why you might want to have it, and in fact I haven't seen it at all, but you must realize what would happen if someone else saw it. Be more careful.'
She looked up at him, appealing with her eyes, and he smiled, tapped the side of his nose and was gone.
Carlo had not arrived with the car to pick up Captain Corelli, because it had broken down some kilometres from the village. After kicking the car a number of times, Carlo had set off on foot towards the village. Velisarios passed him and the two men looked at one another with something like recognition, because both men had become accustomed to the sad suspicion that they were unique in a peculiar way. They were both amazed at the other's size and for a moment forgot that they were enemies. 'Hey!' said Velisarios, raising his hands in a gesture of pleasure. Carlo offered him one of his disgusting cigarettes, Velisarios accepted, and they made sour faces to each other as they smoked. They then went their separate ways, more content than before they had met.
As Carlo walked up the hill towards the house, his mind turned towards Captain Corelli. For the first time since the death of Francesco in the mountains of Albania, the soldier was experiencing a kind of happiness; in the captain he had once again found a man whom he could love and serve. In his eyes, Corelli was endlessly optimistic, a clear fountain, a kind of saint who remained a man of honour because he knew no other way to be. Carlo knew that some people thought that Corelli was a little mad, but for him, the captain was a man who loved life so much that he did not care what kind of an impression he made.
One of the pleasures of Carlo's life, at that time, was an opera group called La Scala that the captain had organized from among those of his men who could sing. Carlo, who had a fine singing voice, had been invited to join when the captain had heard him singing as he polished his boots. There was another more unusual member of the opera group, a young German soldier called Gunter Weber, part of a troop of three thousand German soldiers who had accompanied the Italian army on their invasion of the island. Although relations between the Germans and Italians appeared friendly, the Germans thought of the Italians as inferior, and the Italians were puzzled by German discipline and lack of humour.
But Captain Corelli had made friends with Gunter Weber, a boy who spoke some Italian and whom the captain liked because his face was open and friendly, and because when he got drunk he laughed and lost his German seriousness. Weber became a member of the opera club despite the fact that he could not sing a note. Neither Corelli nor Carlo knew that one day the German would betray his friends with a storm of bullets that would open red and bleeding wounds in the bodies of the companions he had grown to love.
The Freedom Fighter
After Captain Corelli had left, Pelagia did some household tasks, then went outside to brush her goat, thinking about the captain as she did so. Mandras caught her dreaming.
He had climbed out of bed, cursing and completely cured, on the day of the invasion, as if the arrival of the Italians was something so important that illness was a luxury to be left behind. He had gone down to the sea and swum as if he had never been away, and had returned with a smile on his face and a fish for Pelagia. But Pelagia only felt guilty now, whenever she saw him, and deeply uncomfortable.
She jumped when he tapped her on the shoulder and despite her effort to force a bright smile, he did not fail to see the look of alarm in her eyes. He ignored it but would remember it later. 'I'm going to join the freedom fighters,' he said. 'I'm leaving tomorrow.'
'Oh,' said Pelagia. There was a long silence, then she said, 'I won't be able to write.'
Pelagia shook her head slowly and sighed. 'Promise me one thing. Whenever you are planning to do something terrible, think of me and don't do it.'
'I'm a Greek,' he said gently. 'Not a Fascist. And I will think of you every minute.'
She heard the sincerity in his voice and felt herself wanting to cry. They embraced, like brother and sister, not people who were engaged to be married. 'God go with you,' said Pelagia, and he smiled sadly. 'And with you.'
'I shall always remember you swinging in the tree.'
They laughed, then he looked at her lovingly for one last moment, took a few steps, paused, turned and said softly, 'I shall always love you.'
Mandras joined a group of three men in the hills of the Peloponnisos in southern Greece. They had neither plan nor purpose. All they knew was that they were driven by something from the depths of the soul, something that commanded them to rid their land of strangers or die in the attempt. They set fire to lorries, and one of their number stabbed an enemy soldier and afterwards sat shaking with fear and disgust while the others comforted and praised him. They lived on the edge of a forest in a cave, living off supplies brought by the priest of a neighbouring village. There were several other groups of freedom fighters in the area, the most organized being a Communist group known as ELAS (although it did not declare itself as communist, preferring to disguise the fact).
Mandras joined ELAS at first because he had no choice. He and his companions were lying in a small leafy shelter that they had built, when they were suddenly surrounded by ten men with thick beards, pointing guns at them. Their leader, who wore a dirty red cap, said, 'Come out,' and the men slowly stood up and came out, fearing for their lives, their hands upon the backs of their heads.
'Who are you with?' demanded the man with the cap.
'With no one,' replied Mandras, confused.
'The deal is that either you go back to your villages and leave us your weapons,' said the leader commandingly, 'or you fight us and we kill you, or you join us under my command. This is my territory and no one else's. Which is it?'
'We came to fight,' explained Mandras. 'Who are you?'
'I am Hector, not my real name, and we are the local branch of ELAS.' Hector's men grinned in a very friendly fashion, and Mandras looked from one of his companions to the others. 'We stay?' he asked, and they nodded. They had been too long in the hills to give up the fight and it was good to have found a leader who might know what ought to be done.
'Good,' said Hector. 'Come with us, and let's see what you are made of.'
He led Mandras and his companions three kilometres to a tiny house guarded by one of Hector's men. 'Bring him out,' Hector said, and the man kicked and pushed a thin old man out into the sunlight, where he stood trembling and blinking. Hector handed Mandras a length of knotted rope and, pointing to the old man, said, 'Beat him.'
Mandras stared at Hector in disbelief and the latter stared fiercely back at him. 'If you want to be with us, you've got to learn to teach these people a lesson. This man has been found guilty. Now beat him.'
Mandras struck the man once with the rope, lightly, because of the man's age, and Hector impatiently exclaimed, 'Harder, harder. What are you? A woman?' Mandras struck the old man once more, a little harder. 'Again,' commanded Hector.
It was easier each time he hit him. In fact it became a pleasure. It was as if all the anger from the earliest years of his childhood rose in him and was given expression. The old man threw himself to the ground, screaming, and Mandras suddenly knew he could be a god. Hector stepped forward, took the rope from his hand, and placed a gun in his grasp. 'Now kill him.'
Mandras knelt down and placed the gun against the old man's head, but he could not do it. He closed his eyes tight and told himself that he had to be a man in front of other men. Anyway, he was only doing what Hector had ordered him to do. The man was going to die anyway. Mandras tightened the muscles of his face and shot the man in the head.
Afterwards he looked not at the bloody mess of bone and brain, but in disbelief at the smoking gun. Hector patted Mandras on the back and said, 'Well done'. Mandras tried to struggle to his feet but could not do so, and Hector helped him up. 'Revolutionary justice,' he said. 'Historical necessity.'
As they left the village, Mandras found that he could not look anyone in the face and he stared down into the dirt. 'What did he do?' he asked finally.
'He was a dirty old thief. He took a bottle of whisky from supplies that were meant for us. You have to be tough with these people or they start doing what they like. They're full of the wrong ideas and it's just something we have to get out of them.'
During his time with Hector, Mandras learnt a great many things. Hector taught Mandras to read and write, and taught him all about Communism. Mandras learnt that he was not a fisherman but a worker, and that he was as good as Dr Iannis and deserved the same pay. He learnt to take food and animals from hungry villagers without payment, since ELAS was working so hard on behalf of the Greek people. When villagers attempted to resist them, then Hector and his men punished them, not just by shooting them but by tearing out eyes and cutting mouths so that people died smiling. Hector explained to Mandras that the villagers were Fascists and loyal to the king, and that a good lesson would help them to change their ways.
Mandras also learnt to rape women and to enjoy their screams, since it was all in a good cause. A new and better Greece would be built, and you did what you liked with the inferior bricks that were going to be thrown away anyway. It was like making an omelette and throwing away the eggshells, said Hector, and Mandras drank in every word his leader said.
A Problem with Eyes
Pelagia treated the captain as badly as she could. If she served him food, she would deliberately spill it as she put it down, and eventually she noticed that he had acquired the habit of not pulling in his chair until she had already put the food on the table. His failure to protest at her