Sunday 4 March 2012
When Nikitas Perifanis is killed in a car crash in Athens, his English wife, Maud, tracks down the mother, Antigone, who had left him as a three-year-old. Antigone returns to Greece too late for her son, but in time to attempt a reconciliation with her family and her past: from youthful rebellion under the Nazi occupation, through the dark days of the Dekemvriana, to resistance under the military junta. Sofka Zinovieff’s debut novel is an engrossing saga of a family riven by ideological conflict and fractured by war. Antigone’s account of the bleak nightmare of war is interleaved with Maud’s experience of the vibrant, volatile atmosphere of contemporary Athens. Maud’s careful triangulations of national identity, history and politics enable Zinovieff – born in London to Russian grandparents, and now a Greek citizen – to weigh her native and adopted cultures. Whether in the spirited exchanges Maud remembers with Nikitas, or the implicit politics of Antigone’s story, Zinovieff’s historical gaze is scrupulously fair and does not shirk from uncomfortable truths.