Author Panayotis Cacoyannis took time out of his busy schedule to talk with The National Herald about his life and work. His latest book, Polk, Harper & Who is available wherever books are sold. Now based in London, Cacoyannis “was born and had a magical childhood in a small seaside town in Cyprus.”
According to his biography, after two years as an army conscript (during which time the island suffered first a military coup and then an invasion), he traveled to Britain where he studied law at Oxford and qualified to practice at the Bar. Having then decided against being a lawyer, he also graduated art school, and for many happy years he worked as a painter and sculptor, until a spell of artist’s block led to a very short course in creative writing.
He told TNH, “I served my time as a conscript in my home town of Limassol, out of harm’s way when Turkey invaded, unlike many young soldiers who fought on the front line and were wounded, taken prisoner, or lost their lives. The ugliest scenes I personally witnessed were in the short period between the coup and the invasion, when the Greek Cypriots had turned on each other.”
The Dead of August was his debut novel, a contemporary satire set in London. His own experiences while working in the city as an artist, together with the colorful relationships of many of his friends, provided a wealth of material to inspire the author. “Surprisingly all his friends are still talking to him, and none of them are planning to sue him. The Dead of August receiving a starred Kirkus review and was among Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Also set in modern-day London, Bowl of Fruit (1907) tells the story of a man with a fantastical talent, and of his epic, twenty-four hour journey with a beautiful ghost-writer who knows more about his past than he does.
When asked about the inspiration for his latest book, he said, “The original inspiration for Polk, Harper & Who came from the very special qualities and family history of a very dear friend of mine. The book is dedicated to him and his family.”
“I find it very hard to get started on a new novel,” Cacoyannis said of his writing process, “and I begin with just the core of an idea. The story then takes shape as the characters develop, and only then do I begin to think about an outline, shaped by the story’s momentum and also my peculiar sense of humor.”
Cacoyannis told TNH, “As for Cyprus, I think in their majority the people of Cyprus would like to see the island united again, and I haven’t lost all hope that one day this will happen. But there will be no solution without compromise from both sides, and although any solution will need to be viable and just, after so many years of division and mutual mistrust we will all need to make a leap of faith, which isn’t the same as making a leap in the dark. If Turkey insists on ‘guaranteeing’ any solution with a unilateral right to intervene, there will never be an agreed solution.”
He is currently working on his fourth novel.
More information about Panayotis Cacoyannis and his work is available online at: www.panayotiscacoyannis.com.