by Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson
jewel of a collection is firmly located in the author's native Cyprus
and, more specifically, in Nicosia, “the last divided capital in the
world”. Yet as well as a vividly realised sense of place, Nadjarian
brings the weight of history, both recent and ancient, to bear on her
writing. These stories are political without being polemical; they
observe without pretending to know a solution.
the title story the narrator dwells on her involvement in the small
tragedy of a coffee shop owner's death, which is cast against the
larger political backdrop of the division of Nicosia in the 1960s.
“Behind a wall, behind a checkpoint, looking for my father's shop,
looking for my childhood, dismissing a man's death, mourning the
division of a city. Counting the steps to the other side. Wondering
where unimportance ends and importance begins.” Unpacking her
family's history and the impact of the city's division on it, the
narrator imagines the dead man's lover searching for him on the night
he died, leaving the reader with a tale of loss and missed
has a poet's love of language, a playful exuberance at the
possibilities of form. In Veronica
Ha Ha Ha the laughter of the dead Veronica, whose mirth
is “a shiny mask to hide the darkness beneath”, almost becomes a
character itself. “And Veronica would laugh. Very, very Onica.
Veronique. Nique. Nica.” In the single sentence Amour fou, words
and meanings tumble against one another to create a compelling fever
dream of desire.
collection packs in 35 stories and if I have a criticism it is that
perhaps one can feel overwhelmed by all the different voices; however,
this is perhaps a symptom of Nadjarian's success. These voices do not
blend into one harmonious, tedious whole, but remain distinct, jaggedly
individual: an old man dreading a reconciliation with his estranged son
(A Man of Principle),
a nameless refugee who sells wristbands “two for a euro, to strange
white people in cafes” (Papers)
and even Aphrodite, goddess of love (Mediterranean Blue).
And this slight edginess and complete lack of a comfort zone in which
to relax sums up the collection for me. Nadjarian makes her readers
work hard, and this reader appreciated the workout. Certainly there is
little danger of complacency, as Nadjarian whisks readers from
political satire – The
Cyprus Problem is a deliciously withering snapshot of
politicians solving nothing – to an almost fairytale – Spoon Sweet is a
tiny, perfectly formed love story, which shows the possibility of a
meeting of minds, of happiness instead of distress and decay.
personal favourite was Dinner
Party. A longer piece by the standards of the collection,
it is tricky and beguiling, swimming in and out of the consciousness of
three of the four characters on a warm April evening where the air “is
like an invisible hand made of silk”. It's not an easy read, but the
unusual third person address - “they will think back to what was eaten,
what was drunk, said, try to remember who said what, in what order.” -
gives a sense of fatalism to Helen's upset edginess and lends magic to
the moment of suspended time when she kisses her best friend's husband,
“an affair has begun”.
there is something to be taken out of Ledra Street it is
that there is always more than one way to tell a story and that there
are never, ever easy answers. It brings Cyprus to life in all its
complications and contradictions and deserves to be read far beyond
those Mediterranean shores.
Read one of the stories
from this collection on X.com.
lives in London, where she is trying to find a balance between writing,
motherhood and having a life. Her short fiction has appeared in
Mslexia, LITRO, The New Writer and www.pulp.net, among others.
bio: Born in Limassol, Cyprus, Nora
Nadjarian is an award-winning poet with
three published collections. This is her first collection of short
with Nora Nadjarian
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