submitted by Kiriaki Orfanos on 15.09.2013
Available: Tzeli Hadjidimitriou
In Search of Kythera and Antikythera,
Venturing to the Island of Aphrodite
Available through the Kytherian Association of Australia
Along with detailing the Western notion of Kythera as the ideal, but unattainable landscape of love, Tzeli Hadjidimitriou also issues a challenge. Do not expect, she says, the usual sun-kissed, sea-washed Mediterranean R&R, when you come to Kythera. If that’s what you want, then close this book and choose another destination. Kythera is not for you. If, on the other hand, you relish the hidden pleasures of a subtle landscape, a clear, but ambiguous light, time to think, the opportunity to find your own creative spirit, then read on.
Your first challenge is to get there. With crotchety weather patterns causing sudden cancellations or delays, you may leave for the fabled island of love and never arrive. Kythera, it seems, makes choices of its own. Hadjidimitriou points to the goddess Aphrodite’s capricious nature and finds the same quality present in Kythera’s light, in its winds and unaccountable mists. Kythera is full of mystery; full of ghosts.
With insights like this, Tzeli Hadjidimitriou’s In Search of Kythera and Antikythera, Venturing to the Island of Aphrodite, is more than a travel guide. It is an insider’s view of a place she loves. It feels protective, perhaps even a little defensive. You get the sense that only someone with the sensibilities of a Verlaine, a Hesiod, or a Watteau is capable of truly appreciating it.
Hadjidimitriou is an acclaimed cinematographer and photographer and she regularly holds photography workshops in Kythera. Framing the landscape with man-made structures, capturing the roiling energy of storm clouds or portraying a misty Logothetianika, she brings out Kythera’s ethereal beauty. Her intimate images of Kythera give the sense that she too has encountered Tsirigo.
Her text does the photos justice. Hadjidimitriou writes energetically about Kythera’s tetchy history with its inhabitants. There is, and always has been, a cost to living there - a cost she gives a full historical accounting for.
For those who prefer to get to know a place by walking everywhere, Hadjidimitriou steers you well. Her directions - precise and detailed - criss-cross the island.
Similarly, Hadjidimitriou gives a comprehensive overview of Antikythera. If you’ve been to Kythera, but have never been to Antikythera, her descriptions have you wondering why you have neglected to visit such an interesting place.
A glance at the table of contents shows the usual information you would find in any guide. But it also includes an interesting nod to the vast majority of Kytherians who live away from the island, as well as contact details for Kytherian organizations in Greece, Australia and the USA.
This is a densely written, thickly illustrated book. It is full of information, and the photographs capture the essence of the island. However, the font is too small, particularly on the coloured pages, making it frustratingly difficult to read at night. It is a book I would very much like to have with me when I visit Kythera. It would be wonderful to be able to read it in the evening, to learn more about the places I’ve been to and to plan other experiences, but its current layout is not all that reader-friendly.
That being said though, it really is such a rewarding, interesting, and indeed beautiful publication, that any library would be the poorer without it.
Kiriaki Orfanos is a Sydney-based editor and the author of the text of Kythera from Above, by James Prineas.
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