An extract from ‘The Fair Frontier’ (Queer Ink, 2018)
By Annie Simati
Translated from the Greek by Erin Maniatopoulou
To this day the scenery remained the same, only with fewer people. Lucy remembers the boats going back and forth between nearby ports, carrying trade and personal goods. The sea graced everybody with plenty of fish and luckily fruit still grew on the hilltops beyond the mountains. Meat was rare and whenever there was any, they’d eat it collectively during the two main festivities in Windmill: the Flower Festival in springtime and the New Year in the middle of winter. Lucy’s favourite celebration was that of summer solstice. It was not as big or spectacular as the other festivals, but at that time people would take to the hills just before sunrise, and cross over to the other side of the lagoon. At its shores rooted dark green toadflax with red berries – sweet and salty at the same time. They’d take Lucy by surprise every time she bit into them. On the day of summer solstice, the berries acquired their strongest taste. The villagers would harvest them then to make marmalade and other condiments or dehydrate them and mix into alcohol to create their New Year’s beverages for winter. After every return home from the lagoon, everyone’s lips and fingers carried the rich red colour of toadflax berries.
She loved following her mother and other women around during their long walks around Windmill. As the weather was getting cooler cancelling out the intense humidity, they’d gather at the rocks to collect shellfish and seaweed for their family dinners. During those walks the village women talked to each other about all sorts of things, from personal to communal matters. Without knowing it, Lucy was uncovering the meaning of politics, witnessing in action the ways of communal problem solving. She was also absorbing the secrets of those unspoken hierarchies underpinning their existence even in that tiny village. Above all, she was learning about the necessity for change and the struggle needed to alter something in the lives of people who are so deeply connected with their fates.
So intrinsic were the values of gender and race to the lives of those women and men that they had grown to regard them as eternal truths of nature, without ever having to question the origins of the tales they called tradition. Lucy had struggled to understand the tendency of people to accept their lived injustices as inevitable. This is the way things are, the way things have always been, or at least so were they told, whenever someone began to wonder how things could be different. And yet from time to time there would be a woman or two who would allow themselves the freedom to imagine; different structures for life, newfound emotions. But once they’d get back to their floating households and close the doors behind them, imagination dissipated into the ordinary and normality prevailed again.
This extract is taken from ‘Voices from the Outside: UEA MA Translation Anthology’. The full anthology can be purchased from Egg Box Publishing.