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A noted classicist and Modern Greek scholar, Yeoryios Yatromanolakis has authored five novels during the last fifteen years or so, none of which repeats its predecessor in terms of style, narrative method, or range of themes. Such commendable originality and virtuosity are due to his diachronic mastery of the Greek language and his unlimited creativity.

Erotikon, meaning "Love Manual," superficially imitates those didactic and descriptive handbooks that were published two or three centuries ago for educational purposes in period diction when Greece was under foreign domination. Since Yatromanolakis hails from Crete, it is legitimate to assume that an old Portolanos or a geography treatise like Agapios Landos's manual were his philological models. To make everything appear dated, the author spells his name (on the cover) in late-Renaissance fashion and adds (on the title page also) his academic titles in Italian, whereas his descriptive subtitle constitutes a longish summary of contents - all features of printed matter produced in Crete while it was under Venetian rule.

This "Love Manual" consists of thirty-two short chapters. The first is titled "Preamble: Of the Tripartite Composition of Bodies," the last one "How to Lament a Lost Love." Apart from these quite innocent sections, we encounter saucy passages vying with the celebrated Kama Sutra of Vatsyana in erotic candor and anatomical straightforwardness, narrated with a disarming and refreshing nonchalance. Some chapters are so tongue-in-cheek comical that one begins to suspect the text is an imaginative parody meant to entertain rather than to instruct.

For instance, chapter 10 informs us "How to Copulate with a Lady Riding a Horse or Young Ass," another "How to Have a Woman in a Dream," and the most amusing one, "How to Have Intercourse with a Lady in Her Husband's Presence Without His Noticing You." Such instructions make us realize that the talented and inventive Yatromanolakis is not competing with good old Vatsyana but rather is staking a claim as an excellent comedian in prose, brilliantly parodying the lingo of the past whose legalistic and technical artificiality sounds utterly verbose and funny today.

M. Byron Raizis University of Athens
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Author:Raizis, M. Byron
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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