Translated from Greek by Irene Noel-Baker.
After the ambulances and the Fire Brigade, the louts from the Department of Public Safety and the crooks from the Local Police, it was the turn of the water truck and municipal cleaners, who set about soaking and rubbing the ash, burnt fat and blood which had blended into a thick stain of mud on the floor of the old depot. Three rubbish trucks had parked themselves at the entrance to the enclosure and the drivers were smoking lethargically beside the cabins, while six men in orange uniforms were feeding the returning bins with cardboard boxes, faded tarpaulins, rags and wooden crates which in our opinion weren’t in the least for chucking. Two others, dressed in green and armed with heavy wire brushes, scrubbed at the stain, bored already by the vanity of the attempt, since at heart they knew it needed time, a few rains and plenty of sun to rub out the traces left by our friend. All they succeeded in doing with their scrubbing was to revive the smell which had settled into the cement, an angry heavy stench that made our eyes water and obliged the cleaners every so often to stand and hurl out bitter gobs of spit. Meanwhile the water lorry sent intermittent jets of water in every
direction spraying at the rusty sheet iron like a garden sprinkler and the few people in rags remaining in the abandoned caravans hid under their blankets, hoping for the jamboree to end before they were soaked to the bone. Before the cleaning operation was complete, thick snowflakes began to fall and by the evening the entire Port was covered in a layer of snow which reached to the sea and when the vehicles and men from the municipality had departed, the homeless people poked out of their metal cabins looking for a warm corner to spend the winter and the depot was deserted for forty days, for as long as that unprecedented wave of cold lasted which paralysed a town used to gentle
mediterranean winters, mild north-easterlies, tentative mistrals and brief north winds.
All that time people limited their movements, so much so that crammed in the entrance of the old bourgeois apartment blocks of the A sector - the ‘old people’s caves’, as they were generally known - we rarely had to make way for a bold elderly person disdaining the cold either to enter or leave, and when they did they never shooed us away or looked at us oddly as they usually do. Small drops slid along the wires and just before they splashed onto the tarmac they froze, one beneath the other, forming long crystal ribbons which shone like jewels until a sudden gust of wind shattered them. Hundreds of such sharp protrusions hung over our heads and yet we mourned their every fall, inexplicably. The snow-
covered town had lost its rhythm, and this intensified the sense of disorientation that suddenly came over us. The sounds were hushed as if our ears as well as our eyes had been painted white; only a susurration to be heard in the mornings and a soft whistling sound, we might have been inside a giant deflating balloon.
European Union Prize for Literature, 2019
National Book Award for a work that promotes social awareness, 2019
Greek Literary Phrase Award of the Year 2019 of "Literature.gr"
Prose Award of Klepsydra magazine, 2019