"Prologue" from Kostas Zouraris' "MESA STO SAMALI I ACHEIROPOIITOS"
(as translated by N. Nicholas)
Once upon a time, there was this town. Sometimes it was small, and sometimes
it was big. And when it had gotten big, hey presto! it was all small again;
and it got all big again when it left off wolfing down steaks, and started
loafing about. In this town, a strong wind kept blowing, and people had
given it some name or other. But the wind just made fun of them and told
them "You guys are so clueless, giving winds and breezes any old name you
can think up. Can't you hear how much fairer my sound is than my name? You
lot should just mind your own business, and watch how much better I make
your town look, when I blast my way through it."
The strong wind was right, because this town was soft, and a bit slack, and
hazy all the time because it got damp; it got all plump down in the city
centre, and it was full of mud, Sunday schools, and stoolies. It was nothing
like Crete, shining through its grapes and deep-shaded carob trees, with its
boastful leaping men and laughing women dancing.
This windy city only got a bit pretty towards the waterfront. Down there,
in the imposing high-rise buildings with the silent rich girls with bodies
like tall golden candles, who'd never set foot in Sunday school. And it'd
also become pretty up towards the Fortress, where a gang of ne'er-do-wells,
a throng of kids would bum around, with nothing but enormous eyes of
near-starvation and legs like skinny reeds. And from all around the shacks
you'd hear slow-turning sounds, a rigid and stern song, which the proud girls
down at the waterfront could never sing on their pianos.
The strong wind was right to make fun of the lot of them. Because their town
got a bit of backbone into it, and stood up as tall and playful as its small
tiled churches, only when he, mighty as he was, blew.
Then the mud would set; the stoolies would draw back; and the gendarmes with
their moustaches, their twisted bodies and their black-and-yellow nails would
rivet their eyeballs straight up at the roof of the Transfers Department,
Poland Street. No, Crete was one thing this windy town would never turn into,
this town of mud and stoolies doing their rounds with their yellowing nails,
by its playful terracotta churches, in its cafes and outside its houses.
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