Friday, July 27: Little Infamies is a book of short stories published in 2002 by Panos Karnezis; it is set in a nameless Greek village in some unknown time. These are stories of mythical realism; in each story I’m taken aback by the magical, and often dark and sinister, feel to them. In the stories we meet the villagers, including the priest (ubiquitous in every Greek village), a doctor, a seamstress, a mayor, and a coffee-shop proprietor called Whale because of his immense size. Animals also make appearances, including a horse named History, a centaur, and a parrot that recites Homer.
In the story, “A Funeral of Stones,” we find a man who keeps his twin daughters tied up in the basement like animals because he blames them for his wife’s death in childbirth. The twins eventually escape and take off with a bird-fancier woman. The village priest, who believes the girls died many years ago, finds out otherwise when, after an earthquake, he discovers their graves filled with stones. He goes in search of the story only to find they escaped many years earlier. Their escape had been covered up by the villagers, making them parties to the father’s crimes against his daughters.
The stories involve neighbors complicit in each others’ wrongdoings, or, alternatively, neighbors turn too easily on neighbors. From the book’s inside cover: “Their lives intersect and they know each other’s secrets: the hidden crimes, the mysteries, the little infamies that all of us commit.”
I enjoyed the stories, but I’m not a big fan of magical realism, so for me that detracted from my pleasure. After reading Eleni, which showed the Greeks at their worst, and this story, which certainly doesn’t make them attractive, I’m now a little leery about what kinds of characters I will encounter in Greece!
Panagiotis (Panos) Karnezis is a Greek writer. Born in Greece in 1967, he moved to England in 1992 to study engineering. He was later awarded a M.A. in Creative Writing by the University of East Anglia. He now lives in London. In 2004 he published The Maze, a novel set during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. He also published a novel called The Convent in 2010.