Vassa Solomou Xanthaki’s novella The Marriage is considered to be a small classic of Greek literature, a work that is distinguished by the immediacy and freshness of its language while retaining a deep sensibility to traditional life in rural Greece. First published in 1975, it has been reprinted in Greek numerous times and is included in the esteemed Apostolidis Anthology, a collection of the best Greek narrative writing from the 19th century until the present day. In 1994 it was staged as a play with enormous success by the Thessalian Theatre Company, and went on to be performed throughout Greece, with a two-year run in Athens and tours to Cyprus and in the Balkans. The Marriage has also been published in German, Spanish, and Polish, and shortly will appear in French.
The author writes: ‘The subject of this book is simple: the wedding customs and songs of the village of Ambelakia in Thessaly as lived and experienced in one particular marriage, that of Lenaki and Nikolas. But after the weeklong wedding ceremonies are over the magical bridal veil of those days is slowly drawn back and, in unadorned contrast to those customs and celebrations, the realities of life begin to impose themselves. This fading away of enchantment together with the role played by the nuptial mystery in the subsequent course of the couple's lives was my ultimate theme. Within the restraints imposed by the bonds of marriage I wanted to search again for the mystical veins of tradition, especially in the figure of the woman of the countryside, that “deep-set rock”, the pillar of the race.
‘It is not accidental that a book such as this was written in the second half of the 20th century, when inconsistency and instability have tended to be the norm. . . . That is why I wanted to return to the sources, to the essential world of Hellenism, not in order to write yet another edifying description of the customs and manners of a people—a so-called return to the roots—but so as to engender a sense of awe at the power of those roots. I also wanted to describe the simple and primeval wisdom which is born of need and which with compelling exactness legislates the daily demands of that need. Lenaki herself was horrified by the weight of what had been inflicted on her by the past, and also by her “licit” crime. But because of her innate nobility she was able to win through.’
This edition of The Marriage has an introduction to Ambelakia by Andonis Karkayiannis and includes the words of the Ambelakiote wedding songs in Greek.
The cover illustration is a scene from the theatrical performance of The Marriage with Anna Vayena as Lenaki.
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