The latest work by Greek author Auguste Corteau (Petros Hatzopoulos), “The Book of Katerina” is set to reach a wider audience as it will be his first novel to be translated into English. It has sold over 50,000 copies in Greece and has been adapted for the stage.
Mr Courtau has written 14 novels – some of which have been translated into French and Italian- short stories and plays. His latest work will be published in English by Parthian Books and launched in June. Parthian Books will also launch an audio book read by Greek actress Anna Savva, who plays the character of Lugaretzia in the TV series “The Durrells” that is currently showing on ABC.
In “The Book of Katerina”, published in Greece in 2013, Mr Courtau presents a fictionalised account of his mother’s life with her as narrator. Katerina battled with a bipolar disorder most of her turbulent life. While the books opens shockingly with her son’s discovery of her body following her suicide it is not a book that drags heavily.
“Although it’s an attempt to understand Katerina’s torments, it’s an unstoppably energetic and entertaining read as with earthy, no-holds-barred humour she observes the saga of her extended family’s ups and downs in the city of Thessaloniki over three generations,” the editor of the English edition, Jennifer Barclay, told Neos Kosmos.
Katerina’s poor Jewish mother marries a Greek merchant in the early years of the 20th Century in Turkey and she is asked to give up her true name and lineage.
Initially the young family prospers, but they have to drop everything and flee to Greece in the wake of the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1923. They settle penniless in Upper Town in Thessaloniki.
Katerina observes the family as it seeks to recover from the blow and embrace material acquisition above all other considerations, including love. This lack of love and signs of a hereditary illness is what will affect the family over the years. Her narration is honest as it is wryly humorous despite the hardness of the material.
It was several years before he felt he could write the book recreating his mother as a fictional character.
“I had to channel her, I suppose, or turn her into a ventriloquist’s dummy. I had to recall the exact timbre of her humour, the fieriness of her fury, her tenderness and her despair. It was indeed cathartic, but also painful – which is why I wrote the book in white heat, over a couple of frantic weeks.”
The author was the first, with his husband, to sign a Cohabitation Pact as soon as it became law in Greece in 2016.
“I was born and raised in the old Greece, the same that informed my parents’ worldview. Back then, being gay meant being alone, the target of contempt and hatred. So of course both my parents were homophobic – just as I was. Our education was hard and gradual – and sadly my mom never got to see the happy end life had in store for me. I was exceedingly lucky to meet my husband – he’s kept me loved and happy (he’s kept me alive) for the past seventeen years,” Mr Corteau said.
The Book of Katerina is published by Parhian Books with support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, the Books Council of Wales and the British Council.