The twenty-six stories (chapters with individually assigned headings) of Zyranna Zateli’s novel Under the Strange Name of Ramanthis Erevous take place in the late 1950’s somewhere in northern Greece with flashbacks going back to the early 20th century. They trace the history of five sisters and a brother who within twelve years all die in their prime of premature and cruel deaths, as mysterious as they were natural, leaving behind as their only offspring the thirteen-year-old boy of one of the sisters, a creature gifted with secret gifts and troubles, who before perishing from a lightning leaves his catalytic and indelible impact on the events of the novel.
Yet numberless more stories are interwoven with this central axis, and retrospect is much deeper and more cyclic than a mere flashback. They plunge into the human condition, and the complexity of truth, reality, and dream into the fears and the joys of our existence, the ones we love and the ones we mourn. Remarkably, children, animals, natural phenomena, along with the remains of pagan practices such as northern Greek customs of walking on live coals, acquire in this novel the central position and value of an archetypal view of the world.
The essence of the plot in Zyranna Zateli’s work is the incessant interweaving of writing itself, the unending give-and-take between the adventure of human soul in its innermost quivering and the conscious adventure of men and women articulating their fates; in other words between the ineffable and literature as an act of initiation and self-salvation.
Zyranna Zateli has been described as a sophisticated Oriental taleteller an apt description but one that fails to do full justice to her.