Athena G. Dallas-Damis. Akolouthondas ton Anemo.
BORN AND EDUCATED in the States, Athena G. Dallas-Damis returned to her parental island of Chios in 1985, where she continued her literary career as a perfectly bilingual author, translator, and journalist. Her third historical novel, Follow the Wind, appeared simultaneously in English and Greek, whereas the two earlier novels of her trilogy made their debut in New York in 1976 and 1981, titled Island of the Winds and Windswept, respectively. Their Greek versions appeared much later, in 1994 and 1996. Well-versed in the turbulent history of Chios during the tragic years of the Greek War of Independence (1821-30) and its fatal repercussions on the unfortunate Chiotes, the author describes with flair the struggle for survival of Helena, her central heroine and unifying character in the plot. The wind motif in all three titles functions as an objective correlative for the dramatic events that sweep Helena, her offspring, relatives, and friends through adventures and even violent changes in their lives, expertly reflecting the upheavals and holocaust of reality. The most significant event in her story is the abduction by the Turks of her small son Joseph and his methodical Ottoman upbringing to become a handsome Greek-hating Janissary, much trusted by Sultan Mahmud, whom he unwillingly betrayed with an alluring Serbian beauty in his harem.
Follow the Wind covers the period 1838-58 when, ironically, the long-suffering island had not become part of the small free Greece of inept King Otho but was still a cherished possession of Mahmud and his benign mother. Quite objectively, Athena depicts the Sultan not as a barbarian or innately cruel ruler but as a man whose natural weaknesses and vices had grown and corrupted him in the Machiavellian intricacies of the Ottoman culture.
Sent by Mahmud on a diplomatic mission to Russia, Youssef (Joseph) meets enterprising Chiotes involved in trading and shipping activities that soon shift the novel's setting from Constantinople and Greece to England and back, thus enlarging its scope and gallery of international characters. Having the chance to meet his beloved mother, Helena, again, the Janissary eventually learns to tolerate, even like, his natural compatriots, marries the patriotic Katerina, and works hard to earn the affection of his son Jason, without ever forgetting his bond to Turkey.
The dichotomy in Youssef's loyalty to two traditionally opposed nations, religions, and lifestyles adds much flavor, tension, and suspense, to the story. Follow the Wind completes an epic saga in fiction that animates three successive generations of human beings of several nationalities and social backgrounds. Athena is at ease with all subplots and themes that emerge from its flow as she handles all details with commendable dexterity and succeeds in reducing coincidences and in creating plausible, even colorful, characters whose innate kindness and profound humanism and wisdom easily obliterate the evil caused by rascals and deprived persons. Her outstanding achievement, however, is Helena's admirable personality, whose natural resilience and triumph in the face of adversity are emblematic of the qualities of her precious and historic motherland.
M. Byron Raizis
University of Athens