THE QUEST, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis

The Quest cover

ROMANIA — EARLY YEARS

From early childhood Pericles listened to the stories his grandfather told, stories of a far-away island called Crete and the heroic people and mythological beings that inhabited it.

He was influenced by his grandfather even before he went to the Hellenic Community School to learn Greek. Although his Greek-born parents sometimes spoke of Crete, it was his grandfather who undertook the role of tutor seriously. Pericles’ life in Romania was very different from the one his grandfather described, but as he grew older he began to love this other world and was determined that one day he would travel there.

Pericles’ grandfather was a huge man, almost two meters tall, with wide shoulders like the walls of a house and gigantic hairy arms and hands. He had jet-black hair and eyes that were equally dark but with an undying fire and a power that scared anyone who came near him. Every day he wore the traditional Cretan attire of dark blue breeches and black boots that went up almost to his knees. On his stubborn forehead, which one could think was made of steel, a springboard of thunder and lightning, he always displayed the traditional black scarf with fringes falling forward.

He was an inexhaustible source of information, a brook endlessly babbling, a wise owl always advising, a fresh spring flowing in the heart of summer. He was the old oak on the hillside, overlooking a vast valley of experience, telling the young boy stories of grandeur and everlasting pride.

When the old man talked, his voice, deep, almost subterranean, as if it came from the bowels of earth, seemed to shake the house to its foundations, as if the building was answering his grandfather’s call. They were like two beasts in a duel.

No one could stand up to this huge man, and everyone who knew him did their best to stay clear of the big man as they called him. Above all, they avoided arguing with him. Even Alexander, his son, was no exception. Every time he heard the old man yell, he would walk away like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Whenever his grandfather was angry, he would stay up all night and pace his room from one side to the other, with a regular stop by the window. Here he would focus on the south, where his Crete was located. He would stare into the void for a long time, as if in the darkness of the night he could discern his village, smell his roots, and see the relatives he had left behind when he emigrated to this forsaken place in Romania. He would stand at the window motionless, as if frozen by the cold he felt in his heart, unable to resist the power exerted over him by the image of his island, even though it existed only in his imagination…..

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