Swamped, a novel by Manolis Aligizakis


Eteo kept walking, immersed in his memories and absentmindedly looking at the passersby, tears slowly dripping down his face. Yet he felt relieved, he felt as warm as that night when in the wrath of the tempest ravaging just outside their home, he first met his father. The swells kept on coming, splashing against the shiny rocks of the seawall and Eteo knew there wasn’t any such beauty anywhere else in the world, this moment, this day of his life which had taken him from that cold, dirt floor of the house he was born in up on the small hill of a tiny village in Crete to Ambleside Park walking toward the 22nd Street dock past the houses and apartments of the wealthy residents of Dundarave, West Vancouver, where some of the most affluent Vancouverites lived. Too far away from the hovel he had been born in forty-seven years before.

Eteo smiled. Why shouldn’t he? He had been blessed. His luck and his choices had brought him to this beautiful city, incomparable in its natural beauty to any other Canadian city. A modern city with a thriving business section, a world-class port, an enormous variety of people and cultures from every part of the globe, East Asian, South Asians, every kind of European and Latin American, Africans, and of course the original First Nations people, the victims as Eteo considered them. The First Nations people whom the ruthless Europeans of two centuries ago, with their rifles and guns and chicken pox and diphtheria and polio and alcohol, almost exterminated, slowly and methodically. The Europeans who came with their tall ships ready to carry out whatever barbarisms suited their purposes, all while proselytizing, yes, the Europeans who wanted to turn the First Nations people into good Christians such as themselves only to exterminate them tribe after tribe, only to ostracize them clan after clan, only to enclose them at the peripheries, closely guarded by the always repressive word or sword, whichever worked best.

        Eteo kept walking, now with a fire in his chest. His steps led him to the familiar dock at the end of 22nd Street. He reached the edge of the dock and leaned against the framed barrier, letting his gaze travel over the shiny water. It at least reflected a natural balance, unlike the human world, a natural balance permeating everything, part of the balance cosmos has invented and into which even the unbalance of people blends and gets absorbed. His eyes encompassed the gleam of the water and the green background at the far side of English Bay in the neighbourhood towards the university where more rich Vancouverites lived, where houses sold in the millions and one wondered why. Who had induced such lunacy in the housing market while thousands in East Vancouver were homeless or paying half their meagre incomes on rent? Whose game was being played in the Lower Mainland housing market to favor one area against the unfavored other?

Eteo let his attention dive into the shallow water under the dock where small crabs went about their business on the sea floor and the small perch fed on the barnacles bunched up on the dock’s piles. A few starfish decorated the sandy floor while seaweed floated left and right like orchestra that a conductor directed its myriad violins in this naturally balanced world beyond human influence, a balance suddenly interrupted by his mobile phone. Yannis was ringing him.

       “Hello, John.”

       “Hi, how are you?” Yannis asked

       “All good. I got a few shares for you today, and I hear this one could be something serious, and not too long from now. Are we still good for tomorrow?”

      “That’s great, thank you. Yes, tomorrow; you’ll to come to the house?

      “Yes, I’ll see you there early afternoon.”


Eteo put away the phone while his eyes focused on a kid no older than ten years and his father, who looked Vietnamese, and were trying to throw a crab net over the deck into the water. With the boy holding the rope, his father tied a piece of chicken to the bottom of the trap with a string then he tossed the net as far as he could. Eteo heard the splash of the apparatus hitting the surface before sinking slowly to the bottom. The boy was happy, but his father looked even happier because he had managed to toss the net farther than ever before. There were lots of other people on the dock this afternoon, some chatting, others silently observing the beauty of the flashing water and the small swells rising and passing by the piles under them. Eteo started his walk back toward his car with his mind running back to his childhood years again. It was strange how often on his daily walk he thought about his early life in the village, as if this solitary walk was his allotted time to reconnect with his roots, to rediscover the young child who had become the adult he now was here in this far-off part of the globe thousands of kilometers away from that starting point in a village of no more than two hundred inhabitants, all of them small farmers looking after their olive groves and grape vines and summer vegetable fields. Their way to survive, to make ends meet, to raise their children, to school them, even to send some of them to high school or the rare exceptions, like Eteo, to university. In fact, Eteo was the only one of twenty or more cousins who had graduated from university. He owed that to his father, who while his children Eteocles and Nicolas were still in elementary school vowed to take the family to the city in the hope of educating them properly, and indeed Eteocles had been educated to the highest level one could attain in Hellas of the sixties and seventies.

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