Stop the Olive Press

Last week I made what may be considered, in retrospect, a rather nebbishy attempt to analyse the life and work of the ever-controversial Greek novelist Alexis Pathenikolides. Truth be told, no sooner had I announced that I would be tackling this subject than I felt I had nothing special to say. Perhaps I ought to have concentrated on his book – The Twisted Olive Tree. I could have elaborated, for instance, on his much-discussed theory that life is, in many senses, much like an olive. Or else I could have scrutinized the various ways in which characters within that book wield bayonets; remarking succintly upon the symbolic significance of their respective styles. Instead, I flapped hither and thither, seeking needless permission from an invisible control tower before making any sort of landing on the helipad of simple good sense.

I can’t be the first, however, to have struggled with Pathenikolides. The truth is, no one really knows how to deal with him: thus the current fuss over his squirrel-smothering brother – but another in a long line of items brought forward in order to ‘explain away’ the perceived enigma that we call Alexis P.

What I might have been clearer about, yet, is that when all the snow has fallen, the foxes have hidden and the nuts have been gathered in a large muslin sack, one feels inclined to agree with Sebastien Cheraz regarding the pivotal riddle. As is often the case with people whom we find impenetrable, baffling and recondite, the real mystery probably lies in the lack of a real mystery. Which is to say, Alexis Pathenikolides is extraordinarily, unfathomably normal.


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