Βar Flaubert»a novel byALEXIS STAMATIS Summary First Part KILL THE DEAD TIME
In Athens, on the evening of 19th April 1998 Yiannis Loukas, an Athenian free-lance journalist working for life-style magazines, who will be forty in July, is at bed with Mania, an actress of second order. The whole story that follows is recounted by Yiannis in the first person. During the act of love his mind wanders, he is detached although present, nevertheless his partner, strangely enough, finds the love-making "all right"... The evening comes to an end indifferently at a bar, where Yiannis meets Kostas, a friend of his from the press, a cynical fellow who, as opposed to him, does not move in the perimeter, but right into the heart of the beast, the Fourth Power. Yiannis is up next morning, in low spirits. Following the morning ritual - shower, shaving, coffee, breakfast - his is lost in thoughts. Thoughts leading to the fact that he is living a pre-determined life, a life devoid of any variety.Yiannis is the son of a famous writer, Markos Loukas, who after the collapse of the colonels' junta was one of those who guided the destinies of Greek Literature. His mother, Lydia, an Art historian, is in charge of a small art gallery in the neighbourhood of Psyrri. Yiannis, a graduate of Philosophy, went afterwards to New York for two years for post-graduate studies in Comparative Literature. His real passion is writing, he has not been able yet, however, to write the novel he wants, he has run out of imagination and he jumps each time from one fragmentary story to another. He has only published without success a collection of short stories, the whole lot of which has been finally piled up on his shelves since it is he who covered the expense of the edition. Yiannis is a fairly good looking man but with a problem which pursues him since the age of ten when he became aware of it: His right hand is shorter than the left by eight centimetres. He realises that most people do not notice it at all, but as each defect is for sure an indelible tattoo on its possessor, so is it that he cannot remember a day in those past twenty and something years that he has not been preoccupied, even fleetingly, by this clownish gene encroached upon an otherwise able-bodied and well-built figure.He has to finish next morning an article for a life-style magazine. With a heavy heart he writes a typical modish piece. He is not satisfied with his work, he is fed up with writing articles on command and in the well-known style necessitated for this kind of stuff. He manages with his financial needs by delivering some private lessons. Same as his career, his relationship with women is going through a crisis, he is looking for the one and only love, but for the past six years he is maintaining an affair with Anna, an affair that just keeps carrying on and which he adorns with ephemeral adventures.Yiannis remembers how he met Anna at the National Gallery, at the opening of a painting exhibition of his beloved French impressionist, the name of which, however, is not being mentioned. Anna was the one who came to him and the affair started with a surge of passion which went on for a year or so. What was left since then, was a sweet memory, a tender remembrance which, at least as far as he was concerned, maintained a kind of chemical kinship, an acceptance. An acceptance which started to spread out in all the other sections of his life and to become an essence of life, a manner of living. He was by now living bound with habit.He is being called next day from the magazine to be told that his article had been rejected. They say his style is considered now outdated, the new-comers have gone ahead with new fleeting codes. Upon that Yiannis visits the magazine's "Law 2000" headquarters and meets Daniel Triandafyllidis, an old classmate of his who is running it. Daniel reminds him that when he started his style writing for magazines he was innovative, entirely original, his vision of things was totally unexpected, it was all that a magazine editor would dream having. But now he is dried up. According to Daniel we live at a time when anything that is being decoded dies instantly out. Everything is galloping, new aspects continuously pop up, the visual angle constantly changes its position. If you dismember the script, you have to play with the syntax. Just as one decomposes the images, so one should break up the words. While he, Yiannis, has, on the contrary, started to stick them together...The next visit takes place at his father's house; Yiannis is taking care of his autobiography on behalf of the publisher Thanos Viliotis. His father is an orderly man, accustomed to piling up things, who owing to his temperament never throws anything away and the son has undertaken to put in order the innumerable texts he has accumulated through the years. Their conversation is inevitably led, at a certain moment, to literature. The father's view regarding novels is that everything must fall in line. It has to be a perfect, flawless construction, it should be like a building, must have its structural frame, its bearing elements, its openings, even its expansion joints. Otherwise it collapses and falls apart. Sometime during their talk, the father accidentally mentions the case of a writer by the name of Matthaiou who in '75 had sent him a book of an almost disorderly structure and a totally novel way of expression. Markos Loukas had rejected it cum laude. Irritated, he denounces those texts which are lacking a solid structure, well-built characters and chronological order, to end up saying that writing prose is definitely not jumping here and there. "Prose is to be taking steps one after the other... Taking steps with a steady footstep and open eyes...".On the same evening, the 22nd day of the month, Yiannis is going in the basement through his father's files looking for useful details regarding the autobiography. Among the texts rejected by his father he finds the manuscript of a novel titled "Bar Flaubert". The text had been sent to his father in 1975 by a young novelist, Loukas Matthaiou, about whom there is no other information. Yiannis remembers his father's mentioning the writer and intrigued, starts reading it. Once proves not to be enough. He stays in the basement, utterly thrilled, almost throughout the whole night. He feels he has found himself before something which is not simply a story, it is as if someone had plunged a needle in his blood and had drawn out the components of his most private universe, things the existence of which he himself had not even suspected or that he had unconsciously buried in the innermost hiding places of his soul.Back home he tries to find some information about the writer; there is nothing at all. Later on, discussing with his father, he hears that Matthaiou was a strange person who had been back from abroad after the collapse of the colonels' junta and had tried to pursue a career in letters. Markos Loukas had flown into a passion with the book, he had even sent Matthaiou a letter in which he ironically suggested to him to abandon any involvement with writing. From what Yiannis senses, his father had employed his prestige to shut off an eventual career of Matthaiou's in letters, considering his style of writing more or less as a menace. Markos Loukas seems to react rather too aggressively against the unknown writer and tries to avoid any further discussion about the subject. The matter becomes complicated when Yiannis senses his mother reacting somewhat uncomfortably on hearing the name of Matthaiou.The novel is the story of a passionate love affair. The narrator's love affair with a woman called Leto. The style is dreamlike, poetical, it is an inner monologue which takes light, a type of writing entirely innovative, considering, particularly, the case of Greece at that time. Yiannis feeling positive that he has a vein of gold before him and being at the same time conscious of a deep attraction of his for the actual text, decides to set out for a more systematic search.In his attempt to find some more information about Matthaiou he turns for help to a poet, Vassilis, a friend of his, who sometime in the seventies had heard something about the author and his text. Vassilis arranges a meeting of his with Arnold Hansen, an elderly and original man of letters who belonged to the milieu of the beat generation in America and who at the time had met, in the late fifties, the eighteen-year old Matthaiou in New York. Matthaiou was then studying biology in the States and was associated with all the big names of that generation: Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac... He was an extremely good-looking boy, of particular intelligence, with a very original psyche which rendered him from irresistibly attractive to disturbingly dangerous. Hansen informs Yiannis that Matthaiou took in '67 refuge in Barcelona following the colonels' coup. He shows him a postcard sent to him by Matthaiou himself in which the names of a certain Jorge Esnaider and of a poet called Fernando as well as the address of a literary meeting place by the name of "London Bar", are being mentioned.Following this meeting Yiannis decides to interrupt for the time being his occupation with his father's autobiography and start the search for Loukas Matthaiou on the basis of the information originating from the text, assuming that what he has in hands is in fact a disguised autobiography. There is an unintelligible code within the book's motto which he manages to break; however the words that result - "Omen, Rave, Area, Lent" - do not have any logical contiguity.Yiannis is by now well involved in the story. He decides to find the issue and ignoring Anna's low spirits - Anna, who for quite some time has been sensing that their relationship is breathing its last - he leaves for Barcelona, telling his father that he is supposedly on a travel assignment for a magazine.Part Two DEEP INSIDE THE ZERZUELA
Yiannis arrives at Barcelona on the 3 May 1998. He settles down at the Hotel Oriente on Las Ramblas, the city's main pedestrian thoroughfare. He walks around Barcelona next morning and he finds "London Bar". He meets there Tina Burusaga, a very pretty Spanish young woman of about thirty who is in charge of the literary activities taking place in the establishment. He explains to her the reason of his visit. She has no idea about Matthaiou, she informs him, however, there is a certain Jorge Esnaider, an elderly millionaire who had been a patron of the arts in the city during the decade of the sixties. For the past 25 years he has been confined to a invalid's wheel-chair after a certain accident. Tina offers to bring Yiannis in contact with Esnaider. She arranges for a meeting at Esnaider's house on Wednesday. Moreover, luckily enough, a poetry reading is scheduled for next Thursday at the "London Bar" with the participation of a certain Fernando Salinas, a well-known poet of about sixty... As far as Tina is concerned, an imperceptible air of erotism is hanging out in the atmosphere between them.Esnaider lives at the "Perdera", the apartment building designed by the famous Spanish architect Gaudi, on the terraced roof of which the motion picture "Il passagero" ("Occupation Reporter") was filmed by Antonioni. André, Esnaider's butler shows in Yiannis and lead him to his master through a number of rooms crammed with paintings of rare value. Among them Yiannis recognizes a pastel painting by his beloved impressionist.Esnaider welcomes him, sitting on his high-tech wheel-chair. He is a seventy-year old homosexual loaded with a profusion of plastic surgery marks and a heap of arrogance. Yiannis explains the reason of his visit and Esnaider tries to make out of him what he really knows, apart from what he actually says. During the conversation the old man often becomes offensive, he does not even omit to sneer at Yiannis' minor bodily defect. As for Matthaiou, Esnaider presents him as a superbly beautiful man, extremely clever and dangerous. When Yiannis drops the name of Salinas, Esnaider flies into a passion and threatens not to interest himself any more in the discovery of Matthaiou's whereabouts. It is evident that the old man does not nourish the best of feelings for the poet. Upon leaving Yiannis perceives, protruding behind a hanging, a small part of a Picasso painting of the blue period.Next day Yiannis goes to "London Bar" for Fernando Salinas' reading of poetry. He sits at a table with Tina along with fellow who seems to be her escort. At the next table a lonely woman of about fifty looks touched, she is Salinas' wife. Salinas' poetry is superb, the poet makes a most impressive comeback after years of absence. His verse is replete, ripe, carrying off the public. Later on, in the midst of quite a number of helpings of whisky, Yiannis and the poet start a long talk which is later on continued in Yiannis' room at the Oriente. Salinas confesses to him there that Matthaiou had been an intimate friend of his, he asserts that he indeed was an extremely good-looking man but a genius as well, an exceptional mind, but with an extravagant however behaviour. Matthaiou had arrived to Barcelona following the colonels' coup in Athens, he was being hunted down by the junta's regime. His real name was Pateras and he was called in Spain Loukas Padre. He stayed as a guest in the house of Jorge Esnaider who fell in love with him. Loukas, however, did never give in. But Esnaider was a greedy man, he could not stand not having whatever he wanted. Thus, Esnaider decided to implicate Matthaiou in a deadly game. He offered him a million dollars, half in advance and the other half after, for steling four small Picasso paintings of the blue period from the Picasso Museum at Barri Gótic, the Gothic quarter. It was of course a trap. As soon as Loukas would deliver the stolen articles he would be put out of the way... Nevertheless he, being exceptionally clever, understood everything from the beginning. Taking the decision of playing with Esnaider on his own field he accepted and carried out the theft flawlessly. Upon meeting Esnaider's henchman, to whom he was to deliver the stolen paintings, and as the guy tried to kill him, Loukas ready in advance, knocked him out and took refuge in Salinas' house. The two men had already arranged for his escape to Italy, having rightfully calculated that Esnaider's plan was nothing more than a trap. During the fight with Esnaider's henchman, Loukas had to leave one of the paintings behind, the "Omen". Salinas supplied him with a fake passport bearing the name of Matthaiou and Loukas left for Florence at daybreak. On his return home, Salinas found one of the stolen paintings, the "Rave". It was left to him behind by Loukas, in gratitude. In Barcelona, Esnaider vows vengeance... The names of the paintings "Omen", "Rave" remind Yiannis of the motto in "Bar Flaubert". The suggestion is explicit. Matthaiou chose the names of the four paintings he had stolen, as the motto of his book... Codified of course. Yiannis feels he has got well enough into the heart of the story.Salinas tells him then about the next contact he had with Matthaiou on the phone, in '72. He was living by now in Florence under the name Luca Matteo, married to an actress, Magdalena, who had appeared in films by De Sica and Antonioni. They also had a child, Caterina, born in '69. Matthaiou had called Salinas to inform him about a tragic happening: Esnaider and his henchmen had discovered him in Florence and during an ambush they had set up for him out of the city, a friend of Matthaiou and two of Esnaider's henchmen got killed. But Esnaider was also badly wounded and was left an invalid ever since. Now Salinas, at the end of the conversation, by now quite drunk, becomes more intimate and confides to Yiannis that he is just about to abandon a relationship with a woman much younger than he and return to his wife.All this time Yiannis keeps coming back continuously to "Bar Flaubert" reading excerpts, which render faithfully, but in the poetic, almost transgressive speech of Matthaiou, those episodes from the author's life he sees unfolding before him. It is as if Yiannis lives the story twice, once in reality, in the search for the bits and pieces of the story and once more through the dreamlike text, by decoding Loukas Matthaiou's poetic speech, something that goes on almost throughout the whole development of the story.Next to this Yiannis goes out with Tina. They visit Sagrada Familia, a gothic church designed by Gaudi at the centre of the city's extension. Yiannis tries to kiss her there. Tina does not give in, insinuating that she is going through a relationship with another man who cannot love her. At a certain moment, in the course of the conversation, Yiannis inadvertently drops some hint about the robbery. Tina gives the impression of not having understood. The following day Yiannis receives at the hotel an anonymous telephone call from a man who asks him to meet him at Güell Park to let him have some information about Matthaiou.Yiannis goes to the park and as he is waiting at an isolated place, at the end of a circular colonnade he hears a smothered sound, a shot from a gun equipped with a silencer. He hides behind a bench and he finally manages to escape and take refuse at the hotel, arranging to leave for Athens first thing the next day. Recovering later on from the shock, he wonders in what sort of a dangerous game he has got himself involved. Trying to trace the motive of the attempt he concludes that it has been staged by Esnaider. The old man had got wind that he knows quite a lot. This information could not have been given by anybody else but Tina. As for Tina's lover, the one who is not able to love, this cannot be anyone else but Fernando Salinas, who tired out because of the excesses he has indulged in throughout his life and having decided to let himself get old in peace, returns to his wife, abandoning his younger mistress. Yiannis speculates that Tina, in order to revenge herself on her faint-hearted lover, betrays to Esnaider Salinas' involvement in the theft and the assistance provided by him to Matthaiou. At the same time she informs the old man that Yiannis himself, is aware of the event.This theory proves gruesomely correct when on the plane to Athens, on the morning of Monday, 10th May, Yiannis reads in the newspaper about the supposed double suicide of the poet Fernando Salinas and Tina Burusaga who have been found together in bed, dead. He naturally estimates that it is Esnaider's doing...The first thing Yiannis does in his return to Athens is to book a ticket for the flight to Florence on Sunday. Until then he spends the time with his parents and carries on with the tale about traveling assignments, saying to his father that he has to go on a mission to Florence. His father even urges him to meet there a friend of his, Theodoros Skylakis, a history of Art professor who teaches at the University.On the eve of his departure, Yiannis wakes up at dawn and looks at his image in the mirror. He feels he knows this image as much as anything. In reality as nothing at all. As much as he knows nothingness.Part Three THE GARDEN OF MATTHAIOU
In Florence Yiannis initially meets Theodoros Skylakis who has no idea about Loukas Matthaiou but is acquainted with Caterina Matteo through the local Hellenic Association. He gives her telephone number to Yiannis who leaves her a message.Yiannis takes a walk around Florence, the Duomo and the piazzas, with excerpts from "Bar Flaubert" coming back again to his mind and being associated all along with the area. A couple of days later Caterina gives him a call. Yiannis tells her he wishes to see her regarding her father, she gets upset but she arranges to meet him at the University the very evening. At the University, Caterina welcomes and introduces on its behalf a well-known architect who is delivering a lecture in the city. At the end of the lecture Yiannis and Caterina meet at the bar. Yiannis is much impressed by her beauty and also by something else. Caterina has a face on which two opposed psychological dispositions are imprinted: spontaneity and consciousness. Yiannis feels deeply communicating, he senses that there is something inmost binding them.At a centrally located café at Piazza della Signoria he explains her the whole story. Caterina is spellbound. Evidently moved, she tells him that her mother had been born in Germany, her father was German and her mother Italian. Magdalena Hardenberg, for that was the grandfather's family name, lived in Germany until '45, when by the end of the war she returned with her parents to Florence. Grandfather died in '65. Magdalena met Matthaiou in '68 after which they got married. Caterina did not remember anything from the three years up to '72, when she lived with her parents. She practically grew up with her grandmother who initially had told her that her parents had to go away for work and that they would be coming back. When she became older, however, she told her the truth, that much as she knew about the fight. Caterina wonders whether her parents are still alive and tells Yiannis that since they disappeared she is regularly receiving a rather high yearly income. The depositor is unknown. Caterina has by now, during all those years, become accustomed to live in the absence of her parents, it is something, however, she has never been able to explain. At a certain moment she shows Yiannis a picture of theirs. Matthaiou is a dazzling man with an absolutely impressive personality. Magdalena, a beautiful woman, seems to be overshadowed by his presence. Yiannis perceives in the photograph a certain embarrassment, a reticence. He hands to Caterina a copy of "Bar Flaubert" and he encourages her to start together with him searching for her parents. Initially Caterina reacts in a negative way, she begs for time, she feels that all this exacts too much pressure on her. She takes the manuscript to start reading it and tells Yiannis she will call him when she will feel ready to meet him again. Yiannis assures her that he proposes to stay in Florence waiting for her news.Yiannis starts now the search for Magdalena. He goes to the main theatre of the city, the "Theatro della Pergola" and finds out that Magdalena Matteo was born in Potsdam, Germany, in 1939. She played roles in the theatre but also in well-known films of that time such as "The Garden of the Fitzi-Contini" by De Sica. He picks up the film at a video club and they view it with Skylakis and a friend of his who remembers having seen Magdalena at the theatre in a play by Pirandello. Indeed Magdalena appears in the first scene of the film. The resemblance with Caterina is evident, as much as is evident a blockage, a nervousness emerging from that woman.Going again through the excerpts of the manuscript, Yiannis is now positive that Magdalena is the second woman whom the hero of "Bar Flaubert" meets. In those excerpts, Matthaiou's hero is trying to get Leto out of his mind... He has a child by now, but born from another body, from a "rival body". Only the child can cast a shadow on the love that has been lost. Leto, however, does not get out of his mind. He sees her here constantly, in that second woman, in that "second city". Yiannis is quite sure that the "second city" is none other than Florence. Nothing can keep here Matthaiou's hero, the real Matthaiou, any more; doors and windows are open, the piazzas and the churches are empty. Fate will not be late to come, in the form of Esnaider, to uproot him for good. Even before the child is born, he loves it dearly but feels unworthy of it... Yiannis thus discovers the first allusion, the first explanation to the flight, to the desertion...Yiannis is strolling at dawn on the Piazza della Signoria and scenes from the past appear before him as in a dream... Matthaiou's manuscript, his own wandering, Caterina, start penetrating into one another and upsetting his life.He slowly starts to compose the puzzle. Matthaiou returns to Greece after the junta's downfall, having divorced Magdalena. He keeps on sending money to his daughter without however giving any signs of life. In Athens, he writes a novel with another woman as the main character, the woman of his great youthful love of America, a love he is dreaming about during his wanderings in three major European cities. Up to now Yiannis knows only the two: Barcelona and Florence, he is missing the Third, the "Third city", as it is being mentioned in the manuscript, the city where Magdalena must be found. In "Bar Flaubert" there is another excerpt where Matthaiou is speaking about four villages with the initials L.D.S.K. Yiannis is at a loss with it.Caterina gives him a call and they meet again. They have lunch together and come closer to each other. Through the intimacy that develops Yiannis feels that they are now together in the search. Caterina invites him for a three-day vacation at her country house in Chianti. During the trip they pass near the place where the fight had taken place. Caterina remembers and is moved. At her home, they are awaited by Rosa, the family's housekeeper since the time it was a united one. Talkative by nature, she relates to Yiannis the whole bloody event of the fight with Esnaider. Yiannis and Caterina stay together late in the evening. They both feel they are plunging into something deeper than intimacy. They are trying however the utmost to delay the dive.On the next days they go on short excursions, to Sienna and to the tiny villages in the outskirts of the city and on the last evening they engage on a discussion about the Third City. They cannot find it, no evidence may be drawn from the text. At a certain moment Yiannis' look turns to the folded copy of the manuscript's cover featuring the book's title. What he sees is "Bar Flau..". He turns the folded cover to the other side... The title is now completed with "... bert". Something flashes up within him. The Third City is there, facing him.The novel's title in not accidental. Its original components "Bar", "Flau", "Bert", sound like the initials of the cities where Matthaiou lived during the rule of the junta. Of Barcelona, where the theft took place, of Florence where he took refuge and where he met Magdalena and of Berlin, the "Third City" where he went hiding in 1972 when Esnaider tracked down his trail in Florence. Caterina shows him a photograph of the Hardenberg's house at the centre of Berlin. The address is marked behind. Yiannis is now positive that Magdalena must be living in Berlin and decides to go there with Caterina, with whom he has started to fall in love. Indeed at her birthday party - she turns thirty - he kisses her on the lips. The matter however stays there. They both know, but they both hesitate...Going through the few things left back by her parents, Caterina finds a letter addressed to her mother by one Martin Speer, an actor from Berlin. Martin Speer must be well known, since as mentioned in it, he has played in films by Fassbinder. In the meantime, Yiannis comes face to face with danger when he recognizes Esnaider's henchman following them. They leave Florence in a hurry to locate the tracks of Caterina's mother. Yiannis feels he is following Matthaiou's footsteps.Part Four THE CHURCH OF MEMORY
Yiannis and Caterina arrive in Berlin on Sunday 6 June. They find themselves in a city looking like an immense building site, reconstructed to take over the role of the 21st century's major European metropolis. At the same time it is a refitted monument. Periods of history and styles interlace and the visitor finds himself before a living record of the latest years' European history. They take up lodging at the hotel "Funk" which was once the home of the silent movie star Asta Nielsen. Yiannis, alone with Caterina, is by now feeling positive about his love, seeing however that the girl is overwhelmed, he does not make any further move.The first visit takes place to the house of the Hardenberg family, in Motz - Strasse, which burned down during the war and was rebuilt. No sign of Magdalena, apart from a word by an aged tenant that a girl of the Hartnberg family visited the house in the early seventies. Together with her, she said, was a man, a good - looking man.Then Caterina finds Martin Speer's telephone number. They arrange to meet at the bar of a Greek, in Mitte, a neighbourhood of the former East Berlin. Martin Speer is a huge man over 8 feet 4 with a prodigious belly. He has a swollen face bearing the unmistakable signs of years of beer drinking. A homosexual, particularly clever, with an aggressive sense of humour, he slaps Yiannis in the first couple of minutes with a remark about his hand, saying that a disproportionate man does not suit Loukas' daughter. Martin gives his version of the story from his own standpoint, how he met Magdalena while the Berliner Ensemble was on tour in Italy, then how he met Loukas, how the four of them - including Roger, the long - time attachment of Martin who died a few years ago - were going about together, then about the refuge the couple took in Berlin and the splitting. When Loukas left Magdalena she fell in a state of depression and Martin went on to take care of her. She stayed with him for a while but the situation turned from bad to worse, she started drinking and lovemaking here and there, became an alcoholic, could work no more and squandered in one year the money Loukas had left her. Then he lost trace of her and when he called her again two years ago, Magdalena could barely manage to hardly speak on the telephone and from the inarticulate bits and pieces of her talk. Martin made out that Loukas had called her after twenty or so years but it was not for her, it was about Caterina, whose news he wanted to pick up. Martin declares that he was also terribly impressed by Matthaiou, he maintains that not only he was fascinating but that he was also a man of extremes. Matthaiou, says Martin, attracted people around him and when they would open up themselves, he brought them face to face with their innermost thoughts, their most hidden fears. Even for him, Matthaiou was the only person who had made him cry like a little child before him.From the bar, Martin calls once again the phone number where he had found Magdalena last time. The new tenant informs him Magdalena had left long ago. She does not know where she went. A neighbour from the apartment building, Max Elsner, had helped her pack, he perhaps might know something. The house is located in Prenzlauer Berg, a former East Berlin quanter. They arrange to visit it on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow.Martin invites them on the next evening to the theatre. He appears with the Berliner Ensemble in the role of Goering in "Arturo Ui" by Brecht. His last address to Yiannis is rather conciliatory and the latter starts to communicate with the German's unconventional codes. After the performance they all go out for dinner with the company's actors.On the next day Yiannis, Caterina and Martin visit Elsner who gives them Magdalena's new address, a few blocks away, on Knaack-Strasse. She has moved to the house of some friend of hers, Volker Eimer. Walking towards the house of Caterina's mother, Yiannis feels a pang. He has the feeling of being an intruder, a stranger in a foreign story.Caterina rings the bell. An elderly man answers, it is Volker Eimer, who seems somewhat afraid. Through the intervention of Martin whom Eimer recognizes from his roles in the cinema, they are being admitted into the apartment. A rather plump woman with the signs of drink and of abandonment quite apparent was lying on the sofa. Beside her a small table with a half empty bottle of vodka and a partly consumed pie. She had her birthday that day, she had become sixty. It was Magdalena Hardenberg, Magdalena Matteo...In a terribly charged atmosphere, Caterina introduces herself to her mother who does not recognize her. "I never had children" she says, and the scene from "Bar Flaubert" with Magdalena comes to Yiannis' mind, with her, only four years - old, at the big allied bombing, the day the Kaiser Wilhelm church was destroyed, trying to hide beneath a motor car. A maimed little girl is underneath, who before dying tells her its name... Caterina...Magdalena withdraws in something which looks like stupor and Caterina tells Eimer to let her sleep and that she will be coming back next day. Yiannis and Caterina slowly walk through the streets of Berlin. Caterina has decided to undertake herself the care of her mother.Next day Yiannis visits the museums and monuments of the city. On the plot of land where the Gestapo headquarters were standing at the time, in an exhibition under the title "Topography of Terror", he sees Goering's photograph. In his smile he recognizes the perversion of power, the horror... Leaving the exhibition, he feels a shudder, walking in Berlin at the dawn of the year 2,000, only fifty - five years after the disaster, among young citizens to the grandfathers of whom, this smile might have belonged...Back to Knaack-Strasse, Magdalena under the care of her daughter starts slowly to recover. They have taken away the bottles and a specialist doctor is visiting her. She does not yet recognize her daughter but a certain intimacy is gradually starting to develop between them. Caterina speaks to her about places in Florence, she shows her a picture of Matthaiou. Magdalena still draws away from everything, Caterina however gets a glimpse of her mother, one day, looking at the photograph with her eyes in tears.In the search for Matthaiou, Yiannis manages to convince Eimer to let them have a look into the contents of a coffer where Magdalena is keeping under lock her only possessions. Yiannis and Caterina are back to the house an evening, after Magdalena has gone to bed. Eimer delivers to them the contents of the coffer. Photographs, letters and manuscripts. Magdalena has kept photographs of hers from Florence with her parents, others of a later period showing her first performances on stage, pictures from her films and finally of her acquaintance with Matthaiou, of the wedding, of walks in the country etc. Caterina is in tears as she reads the last letter left by her father before leaving which starts: "When you will be reading this I will be far away", to conclude: "What else can I say? From now on I do not exist, more than anytime before".Last, is a folder with art reviews by Matthaiou. Going through them Yiannis realizes that although they seemingly refer to entirely different subjects, Poussin, Goethe, Sanazzaro, Philip Sidney, there is something that binds them together. The explanation is the painting "The Shepherds of Arcadia" by Nicolas Poussin at the Louvre. It shows an idyllic landscape in Ancient Greece with two shepherds and a couple standing before a tomb bearing the latin inscription: "Et in Arcadia ego" - "I also in Arcadia (exist)"... What binds all the texts together is Arcadia. Reading through an essay on Goethe, Yiannis finds, at the point where the poet mentions the specific phrase, a footnote written with a pen of another colour: "I also come to Arcadia at the end of my journey. On the Mountain. At the Four Villages. L.D.S.K.".It is four in the morning. Yiannis finds himself before the solution to the riddle. He remembers Matthaiou's excerpt about the four villages. Arcadia, the Mountain, the Four Villages, L.D.S.K.... He takes a few photographs and the essays along and leaves for the hotel together with Caterina. There, on a map of Greece which is included in his filofax, he moves to the Peloponnese, to Arcadia, and starts looking for the villages. He finds them, the one above the other, at a distance of only 45 kilometres between the first and the last. "L.D.S.K." : Langadia, Dimitsana, Stemnitsa, Karytaina. Loukas Matthaiou is to be found in one of those four villages, in that small parcel of the Arcadian soil.Yiannis and Caterina are seated on the bed close to each other, with the small sheets of the map of the Peloponnese unfolded before them. Yiannis throws away the sheets from the bed with his left hand and with the right one - the defective one - draws Caterina to him, with the embarrassment and the expectation of all these past days overflowing.At noon, next day, Caterina takes her mother, Eimer and Martin along with Yiannis to a restaurant at Motz-Strasse, in the building where the house of the Hardenberg family was located. They all of them take afterwards a walk through the city. Passing before the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm church, the church of memory, where Caterina leads her mother on purpose. Magdalena stands abruptly still, as if thunderstruck. She asks her daughter for her name and when told, she silently embraces her for a long time. Then Caterina takes her mother away and they go back home alone.Yiannis decides to return to Greece and go to Arcadia to look for Matthaiou. Caterina wants to stay in Berlin with her mother with whom they come gradually closer to each other. As for their relationship, Yiannis sees that Caterina is under pressure. "All this is too much, much too much..." she says to him. These are the same words that Leto uses at the end of "Bar Flaubert"... On Wednesday 23 June, at dawn, Yiannis leaves for Greece to search for the father of the young woman whom he leaves asleep by his side in Berlin, the "Third City" of "Bar Flaubert", the book written by that same man, Loukas Matthaiou.Part Five THE SECRETS OF THE GODS
In Athens Yiannis contacts his father. He admits that he did not go to Barcelona and Florence on a reporting mission but on a personal errand, the nature of which he cannot yet disclose to him. His father is annoyed but Yiannis id adamant. He will go to Arcadia. Next day he meets Anna. They have a clear and sincere explanation, he tells her there is a new woman in his life. Anna had already understood it, she knew it was a matter of time; the relationship is over.On 29 June Yiannis arrives at the first village, Stemnitsa, a picturesque settlement built on the western slopes of Mount Mainalon. He takes up lodging at the "Tricolonion" Hotel and starts asking about Matthaiou. He does not find anything and no strange foreigner of that name has ever troubled the peace of this Arcadian village in the past twenty five years.The next stop is Karytaina, with its famous old bridge and medieval fortress. Having collected information from Stemnitsa he goes directly to the café at the main square, "Brenthe", where all the elderly village people meet. He shows them a photograph of young Matthaiou and for the first time a light shines at the end of the tunnel. An old man, a farmer mayor of the village, recognizes in the person of Matthaiou the man who nearly twenty five years ago came to the village and insisted on buying the "Matzouroyiannis Castle", a stone-built two-storey ruin right beneath the fortress. The edifice was naturally not for sale, it had been constructed in the mid 15th century, a remnant of the old Byzantine settlement of Karytaina and belonged to the Department of Antiquities.Yiannis visits the ruined building. The inside, although utterly destroyed, is fascinating, with an open view over the whole village. And in a lurking hole, Yiannis finds a black cigarette - case with a golden fringe. Back in Stemnitsa he calls Caterina. At the hotel in Berlin there is no answer...He then goes to Dimitsana, a village amphitheatrically built between two hilltops, on the Lousios river. Based on information he has had, he goes directly to the village library where all data regarding the village people are recorded. The librarian, the nice Mrs Dimitriou, cannot find anything connecting to Loukas Matthaiou. Yiannis and the librarian start a discussion about the source of the motto "et in Arcadia ego". She informs him that there are two basic interpretations of the motto.Their main difference, she explains, is in the determination of the nature of the assessing subject, and additionally, in the exact content of the saying itself. The vagueness is due to the absence of the verbal particle. According to the first hypothesis, the omnipotence and everlasting supremacy of Death is being clearly indicated. It is stressed, namely, that no area in the world is exempt from the dominant shadow of ever present Death, not even Arcadia itself. Specifically, it is maintained that Death says: "I exist even in Arcadia".On the other hand, the second position is the one where the subject is not Death, but some unlucky mortal who finds himself in the Great Beyond and recalls with regretful yearning the days of happiness and serenity that he lived in Arcadia's Paradise. The specific phrase denotes here the retrospective vision of a supreme happiness which someone has lived in the past.Yiannis tells the librarian that as far as he is concerned he interprets the phrase according to its second explanation, while correspondingly, he believes that his was the way in which Matthaiou used it.It is then that the librarian speaks to him about a Third explanation which holds that the absence of the verb is nothing else but an intentional action meant to secure the absolutely correct number of necessary letters. And that is because the specific explanation considers that the saying "et in Arcadia ego" is nothing else than an anagram, a "key", an operational tool easily learned by heart, set up for the decoding of a certain secret message, known only to the initiated.In the evening Yiannis has a couple of drinks with the local people and spends the night as a guest of the village taxi-driver. Next day he sets forth for Langadia, the last place where there is a chance he might find Loukas Matthaiou.Langadia is a village built almost perpendicularly on the hillside; the natural slope lends it the form of an ancient amphitheatre with the concave part situated at the foot of the hills where a stream flows by. Yiannis starts exploring the village. Climbing up the hillside in the burning heat he wonders about the utility of the whole enterprise. Reaching unsuccessfully the top building of the village he decides to try the lower part down to the stream in the afternoon. He reaches the last houses without any result. At the very last one a strange-looking young man with a dog, drives him violently away, hinting however that there is yet another building in the woods. Yiannis misleads him and manages to go ahead on his way through the vegetation. He walks for an hour amid an idyllic environment without coming across any sign of life. Eventually he contemplates with awe the dreadful ascent that awaits him on his return. He has just decided to finally make his way back when, at the end of a clearing, he spots an all-white surface far off.Coming closer, he finds himself before a marble slab which is like a tombstone. The whole environment brings something to his memory. The hilltops at a distance, the idyllic landscape, the tree, Arcadia, now the marble slab, the tomb, yes!, the landscape is the same, exactly the same, a duplicate of the landscape on the painting by Poussin! But this is not all... There is an inscription on the slab! Yiannis bending forward reads..."I Tego Arcana Dei" - "Go, I watch over the secrets of the Gods". The last two words "Arcana Dei" refer to him sound-wise to "Arcadia". He remembers the librarian in Dimitsana, the Third interpretation... "The saying ‘Et in Arcadia ego' is nothing else that an anagram, a ‘key', an operational tool easily learned by heart, set up for the decoding of a certain secret message"... Yiannis takes out pencil and paper...Indeed the phrase "I Tego Arcana Dei" is the exact anagram of "Et in Arcadia ego" ! Yiannis moves aside from a raw of trees growing behind the marble stone and finds himself face to face with what he was looking for so long: a three storey stone house with small openings, with a large glazed window surface on the last floor and a metal disc looking like a satellite dish on the roof.He suddenly hears a commanding feminine voice. A dark-complexioned woman in her forties, cladded in drooping clothes aims at him a shotgun. He explains who he is and that he wishes to meet Loukas Matthaiou. The woman reacts savagely and Yiannis begs her to convey to Matthaiou only two words: "Bar Flaubert". The woman returns to the house and when back says that the master agrees to meet him next day at six in the evening.Back to the hotel Yiannis reads through the last excerpts of the book."... Much, it is much, it is too much. How can so much be contained in a numerator..."
Next day is 4 July 1998, his birthday: Yiannis gets forty. At precisely six o'clock he is standing before the tombstone. The woman leads him into the house. Above the entrance door there is an escutcheon, same as the one on Caterina's country house in Sienna. Yiannis waits in a lobby on the upper floor of the house, outside a door through which when it opens, he will see alive before him, Loukas Matthaiou himself for the first time. He feels oddly, as if a shadow, a black veil, bears on him and crushes him.In a little while the door opens and Loukas Matthaiou appears before him in flesh and blood. He is still more impressive than on the photographs, a human being radiating an amount of energy, such as he has never known. But the large room also to which the master of the house leads him is not less imposing... Heavy wooden bookcases, a lengthy construction like a console with digital numbers switching on and off, terminal monitors, a big telescope, candlesticks and torches, make the room look as something between a medieval library and a space centre.Yiannis introduces himself as Yiannis Markou and brings directly the discussion to the subject, speaking about the book. Matthaiou answers that the fact that he is here now means that he has been before to Berlin and invites him to disclose his motive. Yiannis gives the manuscript to Matthaiou, speaks to him about the attraction exerted on him by the text and relates his own story in a few words. "This is my own ‘Bar Flaubert'", he concludes.Matthaiou expresses himself in a special way, full of codes, but which Yiannis by now is in position to interpret. The host gets him involved in a discussion about a fraction which equals life and has man as a denominator ‘Which is the numerator?' he asks himself and Yiannis considers it is probably ‘Love, Death, God'. This notion comes back continuously into the discussion and the fraction, in the sense of proportion, of speech, leads Matthaiou to refer to the Four Gospels and how four people give a different interpretation of the same story, with a different speech... The two men, Yiannis and Matthaiou realize that the names of all four evangelists are included in their own names and surnames...Further on, the talk become more personal, they talk about Magdalena and what she experienced when she was four years old in Berlin during the bombing - "... She never got over it... she ought to have reborne the mutilated little girl..." says Matthaiou.Yiannis drives skillfully the discussion to Leto, the girl in "Bar Flaubert". The host then reflects that he was made for a more congenial relationship with his fellow creatures. Only once did he come close to what would bring him back to his original destiny and it got lost. Matthaiou says that Leto was parts of himself, the harmony he was looking for. She was a real person, they were together for one year, when they were nineteen, in '58, in America,. When Yiannis hands him a photograph of Caterina, Matthaiou conceals with difficulty his emotion, and so does he upon hearing the news of Fernando Salinas' death. Yiannis informs him that he proposes to give a call to the Spanish police. After that the talk moves to the anagram of the motto on the slab. For Matthaiou it is a symbolical deviation, it gives a stir. How out of Death, which maintains that it still exists in a place like Arcadia, does one reach the point where the secrets of the Gods are kept, the secrets that regulate life? How, from the tomb, in one movement, one may reach the cradle? In order to succeed in this deviation, man must break the line, dissolve the letters and set up a new meaning. The matter, maintains Matthaiou, is how does one manage to bring about this at the bodily, the wordly level. Then and only then can one approach the meaning of the numerator.Finally Matthaiou speaks about Atalanti, the woman who showed in Yiannis, whom he found in '75, as an orphan little gypsy at the time he was building the house alone with only three craftsmen, under cover from the village.Night had fallen by now and Matthaiou before the end of their meeting, asks Yiannis how did he find the book. Yiannis tellis him the truth, omitting the fact that he is the son of Markos Loukas. Matthaiou speaks about the war undertaken against him by Loukas which he finds inexplicable. He adds that much later, after he had sent him the book, he learned that Loukas was married and had a child. Yiannis tells him that the son of Markos Loukas is of the same age as he, born in '59, just like himself.Matthaiou looks upset but tries to conceal it. He walks to his mechanical equipment and shows Yiannis some pictures of the universe. The first is the most remote picture of the universe, the other, one featuring the inner part of a carbon atom. The images are similar. A black background with a faint light in the middle... "This image could be that of the numerator", says Matthaiou.Yiannis decides to get back. As he gets up, he takes his shirt away, which not-withstanding the heat he was still wearing because of the tension of the discussion, and he remains clad with his undershirt. At the back, Matthaiou tells him to stand for a while in the light. He wants to have a look at him. After a few moments of embarrassment, standing up in the middle of the lobby, with Matthaiou watching him, Yiannis feels a numbness in his hand. His right hand. Matthaiou drops his glance and with manifest difficulty asks Yiannis to see him again. He answers that next day he will be returning to Athens. Atalanti escorts him to the outer door. Upon leaving Yiannis instructs her to tell Matthaiou that the numerator is Fate. "The numerator is Fate", repeats Atalanti, as Yiannis starts to climb back towards Langadia.Yiannis is back to Athens and abandons his father's autobiography: His father accepts the news with resignation and shuts himself up... His mother comes hurriedly to Yiannis' house and discloses to him that his father is not only the sort of man, the type of character he knows. She, was the one taking deviations, and Markos Loukas has tolerated quite a lot... "This academic, this man sure of himself...He has also taken his risks in life... and very serious risks indeed..."."There it is now, that my turn has come" replies Yiannis, deadly serious, and mother and son hug together for the first time with such tenderness.It is now five months later. A few days before the last Christmas of the second millenium Yiannis Loukas awakes form his midday siesta. He calls Caterina, who by now is staying in Florence with her mother, to announce the arrest of Jorge Esnaider. Maybe, he says, they will meet next Easter in Athens. No, replies Caterina, she has not tried to contact her father yet.Yiannis goes then to his PC. Facing him is a poster of a painting by Degas, his beloved impressionist. Next to hem, the manuscript of the novel he has been writing all that time. The title, of course : "Bar Flaubert".Out of the file with the documents from Berlin, he chooses a photograph of Matthaiou and he sets it up before his father's autobiography which has only recently been published to coincide with his nomination at the Academy. At this moment, another photograph falls down to the floor. He lifts it up. It shows Matthaiou, an adolescent, with an older man. Without paying to it any more attention he puts it back. Had he looked more closely at it he would have seen that the man on the photograph, Matthaiou's father, had one, at first sight, strange bodily particularity. His right hand was shorter than the left by the length of a palm... Yiannis Loukas presses the first key and a capital B, the first letter of his novel, appears on the screen.