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Literature

Christos Ikonomou’s Good Will Come from the Sea

March 30, 2019

The upheaval and turmoil caused by the economic and refugee crises in Greece have inspired many artists and writers in recent years. With the crises affecting so many people at all levels of society, it would be more shocking if artists and writers had nothing to say at all. In many respects, seeing the crisis through the lens of the visual arts, drama, poetry, and fiction, helps put it into perspective in ways the statistics and the news media cannot.

Good Will Come from the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated by Karen Emmerich, recently garnered the attention of the New York Times and Harper’s Magazine, among other venerable publications, for review.

The book was originally published in Greek in 2014 and now the English translation is available, published by Archipelago Books.

The collection of blistering, darkly humorous stories that upend the idyllic image of the Greek holiday island follows a group of Athenian friends seeking to escape the paralyzing effects of the Greek economic crisis by moving to an Aegean island in the hopes of starting over. Viewed with suspicion and disdain by the locals, they soon find themselves enmeshed in the same vicious cycle of money, power, and violence they thought they had left behind.

Fani Papageorgiou in her review in The New York Times said that Ikonomou “approaches the grimness and desperation of his characters’ lives with lightness and humor, in an idiomatic Greek seamlessly translated by Karen Emmerich.”

The Times review also noted that “Good Will Come from the Sea follows Ikonomou’s Something Will Happen, You’ll See, another story collection about the lives of working-class Athenians, which won a prestigious national award. Together, these books make a persuasive case for regarding Ikonomou as Greece’s most original and perceptive chronicler of his country’s fears and yearnings.”

American author and critic Francine Prose wrote in Harper’s Magazine, “Ikonomou’s style veers between flights of incantatory lyricism and volleys of funny lines and tough street talk. Again one wants to praise Karen Emmerich’s translation…The rhapsodic lyricism and dry gallows humor, the speed and nimbleness of the tonal shifts, drew me in to these books. The sympathy of Ikonomou’s characterization, the humanity he captures on the page, made me keep reading.”

Ikonomou was born in Athens in 1970. He has published three collections of short stories, The Woman on the Rails (2003); Something Will Happen, You’ll See (Greek edition 2010; Archipelago Books, 2016); and Good Will Come From the Sea (Greek edition 2014, Archipelago Books 2018).

Something Will Happen, You’ll See won Greece’s prestigious Best Short-Story Collection State Award and became the most reviewed Greek book of 2011. Ikonomou’s work has been translated into six languages. Italy’s La Repubblica has called him the “Greek Faulkner.”

About the translator: Karen Emmerich’s translations from the Greek include books by Margarita Karapanou, Amanda Michalopoulou, Sophia Nikolaidou, Ersi Sotiropoulos, and Vassilis Vassilikos. Her translation of Miltos Sachtouris’s Poems (1941-1971) for Archipelago was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and her translation of Yannis Ritsos’ Diaries of Exile with Edmund Keeley won the 2014 PEN Literary Award. Emmerich teaches in the Comparative Literature Department at Princeton University.

Good Will Come from the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated by Karen Emmerich, is available online and in bookstores.

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