92 Acharnon Street. A Year in Athens by John Lucas

By John Lucas

Greece has constantly had its admirers, although none turns out to have loved the Athenian tavernas, the murderous site visitors and the jaded prostitutes, the petty bureaucratic tyrannies, the road noise and the heroic individualists with the irony and detachment of John Lucas. ninety two Acharnon highway is a gritty portrait of a grimy urban and a wayward kingdom. but Lucas's love for the realities of Greece triumphs – for the Homeric kindness of her humans in the direction of strangers, for the pleasures of her tavernas and for the proximity of islands in transparent blue water as a safe haven from the noise and toxins of her capital urban. this is often Greece because the Greeks might realize it, noticeable during the eyes of a poet.

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92 Acharnon Street. A Year in Athens

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Manolis began a careful descent of the ladders. He must have been all of eighteen stone, perhaps more, and his round face and near-bald head, to which wisps of grey hair clung damply, was pink and beaded with sweat. A pair of grey trousers had been let out at the sides to fit around his enormous belly and above them he wore a short-sleeved cotton vest. We shook hands – his hand was wet – and when he smiled his mouth opened to reveal pink, bare gums. ) But the smile was one of great sweetness and it reached up to his blue-grey eyes.

Well, but if you could find all this anywhere in Athens, what was so special about Acharnon Street? Simple. Acharnon Street had brothels. They’d arrived, so George later told me, during the period of the junta. In the early years of the century most brothels had been down at Piraeus, Athens’ port town. Although it now feels like a suburb of the city, Piraeus possessed for many years its own ‘wide-open’ identity, and in the ’20s and ’30s the brothels of Pireaus were notable for their association with rembetika and hashish.

It’s for you,’ she said accusingly. It was only when I’d climbed back upstairs to my flat that I allowed myself to wonder at her behaviour. Did she often open other people’s letters? Had she gone off with any? And why did she do it? Did she perhaps think that letters from England, even when not addressed to her, might ease the loneliness that stared from her eyes? I don’t suppose the men did. They never seemed to stay for more than an hour, although during that time there’d be noise aplenty: shrieks, shouts, doors slammed and, inevitably, what sounded like the thump of a pile driver and must have been the bed, tested to its limits.

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