The postcards have been written by a man to the woman who jilted him. Essentially, the message is: ‘look where I am, and where you are not’, but she never gets them, of course. The writer of the cards is on a long journey around Greece, attempting to come to terms with his loss.
Cartes Postales has been described as my love letter to Greece and this feels right. With the main character, Anthony, I take the reader round Greece visiting dozens of different places, in each of which he makes a discovery or learns something that brings him out of the emotional void into which he has been plunged.
I think most readers will discover places in Greece they did not even know existed – and they will see full colour pictures too. On my travels to research this book, I was accompanied by a Greek photographer who captured a series of unique and sometimes surprising images. From Meteora in North Greece (where monasteries sit on top of pinnacles of rock 1000 metres up in the sky), to Ikaria (an island where the average life expectancy is more than 90 years), to Andros (the island where many of Greece’s wealthy shipping families originated), I explored some less well-known corners of this country that fascinates me so much. Specific episodes in the book are set in Preveza, Patra, Kalamata, Nafplio, Messalonghi, Delphi and Thessaloniki (and many more).
The idea of life being a journey is an over-used cliché, but it is appropriate for this book. The main character spends nine months travelling and enters a new phase in his life. During the months when he is on the road, he learns and changes in a way that I believe is impossible if we are standing still in our familiar environment. Exposure to new places and people is always stimulating and invigorating. It opens our minds.
Everyone has a place where they feel most connected and for me, this is Greece. I am an outsider in this country, and it seems to me that everything is different here. The people themselves, the culture, the customs and the ‘νοοτροπία’ (the mentality). Sometimes, I find the latter exasperating but fascinating and, even now after years of visiting and even having a home here, I am often still amazed or even shocked by something I see or hear.
I have a sense that the more I uncover in Greece, the more layers lie beneath. It is a complex and contradictory country, a place where both the ancient and the modern fascinate me, somewhere with a magnificent ancient past, and a modern history the wounds from which have yet to heal.
The journey taken by Anthony, the fictional hero, comes to an end, but for me it continues still.