JR R. Fowles The
Nicholas Erfa was born in 1927 in the family of a brigadier general; after a brief service in the army in 1948, he entered Oxford, and a year later his parents were killed in a plane crash. He was left alone, with a small but independent annual income, bought a second-hand car – among the students this was not often met and very much contributed to his success with the girls. Nicholas considered himself a poet; read with friends the novels of French existentialists, “taking the metaphorical description of complex worldview systems for the self-instruction manual of correct behavior… not realizing that favorite anti-hero heroes act in literature, and not in reality”; created the club “Les Hommers Revokes” (Rebellious people) – vivid individualities rebelled against the gray routine of life; and eventually came into life, according to his own assessment, “
After graduating from Oxford, he was able to get only a teacher’s place in a small school in the east of England; having struggled to endure a year in the backwater, turned to the British Council, wishing to work abroad, and so was in Greece an English teacher at the school of Lord Byron on Fraxos, an island about eighty kilometers from Athens. On the day when he was offered this job, he met Alison, a girl from Australia, who rented a room one floor below. She’s twenty-three, he’s twenty-five; they fell in love, not wishing
The island of Fraxos was divinely beautiful and deserted. Nicholas did not get close to anyone; he wandered alone on the island, comprehending the previously unknown absolute beauty of the Greek landscape; wrote poems, but it was on this land where the true measure of things was becoming clear in some strange way, he suddenly realized irrefutably that he was not a poet, but his poems were mannered and pompous. After visiting the brothel in Athens fell ill, which finally plunged him into the deepest depression – right up to a suicide attempt.
But in May, miracles began. A deserted villa on the southern half of the island suddenly came to life: on the beach, he found a blue fin, a fragrant womanlike towel and an anthology of English poetry laid in several places. Under one of the tabs, Eliot’s poems were deleted red: We will wander in thought,
And at the end of the wanderings we will come
to where we came from,
and we will see our land for the first time.
Until next weekend, Nicholas makes inquiries in the village about the owner of the villa Burani. About him they say not very willingly, they consider him a collaborator: during the war he was a village headman, and with his name there is a contradictory story of the Germans shooting half of the village; he lives alone, very closed, does not communicate with anyone, and he does not have guests. This contradicts what Nicholas learned back in London from his predecessor, who told him how he had been at the Burani’s villa and had quarreled with her master-though, he told me, too, sparingly and reluctantly. The atmosphere of mystery, innuendo and contradictions that enveloped this man intrigues Nicholas, and he decides to meet with Mr. Konkhis.
Acquaintance took place; Conchis (as he asked to call himself English) seemed to be waiting for him; a tea table was set for two. Conchis showed Nicholas the house: a huge library in which he did not keep novels, the original Modigliani and Bonnard, ancient clavichord; and next – ancient sculptures and paintings on vases defiantly erotic properties… After tea, Conchis played Telemann – played great, but said he was not a musician, but a “very rich man” and a “spirit-bearer.” Materially educated Nicholas is wondering if he is not crazy when Conchis pointedly states that Nicholas is also “called.” Nicholas had never seen such people before; communication with Konchis promises him many fascinating riddles; Conchis says goodbye, throwing up his hands in an outlandish priestly gesture, as the master, as God is like a magician.
Now Nicholas lives from the weekend to the weekend, which he conducts in Burani; it does not leave “the desperate, magical, ancient feeling that he entered a fabulous labyrinth that was awarded unearthly bounty.” Conchis tells him stories from his life, and, as if as illustrations, their heroes materialize: then in the village of Nicholas will meet an old foreigner, introduced de Ducane (if you believe Conchis, in the thirties from de Ducane, he inherited the ancient clavichord and her huge fortune), then the ghost of the late bride of Conchisa Lilia, who died in 1916, comes out for dinner – of course, she is a lively young girl who only plays the role of Lily, but she refuses to tell Nicholas why and for whom this performance is started – for negligence or Konchisa? Nicholas is convinced and in the presence of other actors: before him appear ” live pictures “depicting the pursuit of a satyr for a nymph under Apollo, a trumpet in the horn, or the specter of Robert Fulks, the author of the book of 1679,” The edification of sinners. The immortal confession of Robert Fulks, the murderer, “given to him by Konchis” to read for a dream to come. “
Nicholas almost loses the sense of reality; the space of the Burani is permeated with many-valued metaphors, allusions, mystical meanings… He does not distinguish truth from fiction, but to get out of this incomprehensible game is beyond his strength. Having pinned Lily to the wall, he gets it from her that her real name is Julie (Julie) Holmes that she has a twin sister June and that they are young English actresses who came here on contract to shoot the film, but instead of filming they have to To take part in the “performances” of Konchis. Nicholas falls in love with the enticing and elusive Julie-Lily, and when a telegram comes from Alison, who was able to arrange a weekend in Athens, he renounces Alison. (“Her telegram has invaded my world with a boring call of a distant reality…”)
However, Conchis built the circumstances so that he went to meet Alison in Athens. They rise to Parnassus, and among the Greek nature, which seeks truth, surrendering to love with Alison, Nicholas tells her everything she did not want to tell – about Burani, about Julie, – says because he does not have a man closer, he tells how, confession, selfishly not separating it from oneself and without thinking what action this can have on it. Alison makes the only possible conclusion – he does not like her; she is in hysterics; she does not want to see him and the next morning disappears from the hotel and from his life.
Nicholas returns to Fraxos: he needs Julie more than ever, but the villa is empty. Returning to the village at night, he becomes a spectator and participant of another performance: he is missing a group of German punishers of the 1943 model. The battered, with a dissected hand, he suffers in the absence of news from Julie and already does not know what to think. A letter from Julie, tender and inspiring, comes along with the news of Suicide Alison.
Rushing to the villa, Nicholas finds only Conchis there, who says to him dryly that he has failed his role and tomorrow he must leave his house forever, and today, on parting, he will hear the last chapter of his life, for only now is he ready to receive it. As an explanation for the villa created in the villa, Conchis proposes the idea of a global metatheater (“we are all actors here, a friend, everyone plays a role”), and again the explanation does not explain the main thing – why? And again Nicholas is afraid to understand that this question is not important, that it is much more important to break through pricks of self-love to truth, which is untrustworthy and ruthless, like the smile of Konchis, and to its true “I”, which is separated from his self-consciousness, and the role of Konchis in this, his goals and methods, in essence, are secondary.
The last story of Konchis – about the events of 1943, the shooting of villagers by the villains. Then the village headman Konhis was given the choice to shoot one partisan with his own hand, thus saving eighty lives, or, refusing to exterminate almost all the male population of the village. Then he realized that in reality there is no choice – he simply can not kill an individual organically, no matter what reason may bring reason.
In essence, all the stories of Konchis about one thing – the ability to distinguish between true and false, about fidelity to oneself, to their natural and human origin, about the rightness of living life to artificial institutions, such as loyalty to oath, duty, etc. And before leave the island, Conchis declares to Nicholas that he is not worthy of freedom.
Conchis sails, and Nicholas on the island is waiting for Julie, as promised in her letter. But before he had time to believe that the show was over, he was again trapped: literally: in an underground shelter with a hatch cover slammed over it; he did not get out right away. And in the evening, June comes to him, which replaces the “metatheater” with another explanation – “psychological experiment”; Conchis is the supposedly retired professor of psychiatry, the luminary of the Sorbonne medicine, the final and the apotheosis of the experiment – the procedure of the court: first the “psychologists” describe in their terms the person of Nicholas, and then he must deliver his verdict to the participants of the experiment, they are also actors of the metatheater (Lilia-Julie is now called Dr. Vanessa Maxwell, in it for Nicholas must concentrate all the evil that caused him an experiment, and in his hand they put a whip to hit it – or did not hit). He did not strike. And he began to understand.
Waking up after the “trial”, he found himself in Monemvasia, from where it was necessary to get to Fraksos by water. In the room among other letters found gratitude to his mother Alison for his condolences over the death of his daughter. He was fired from school. The villa in Burani stood nailed up. The summer season begins, resorts come to the island, and he moves to Athens, continuing to investigate what and how it actually happened. In Athens, he finds out that the real Konhis died four years ago, and visits his grave; it is decorated with a fresh bouquet: a lily, a rose and small nondescript flowers with a sweet honey aroma. (From the plant atlas, he learned that in English they are called “honey alison.”) The same day Alison is shown to him – she is posing under the window of the hotel, as Robert Fulks once did. Relief from the fact that she is alive,
Feeling still the object of the experiment, Nicholas returns to London, obsessed with the only desire – to see Alison. Waiting Alison became his main and, in fact, the only occupation. Over time, much of his soul clears up – he realized a simple thing: Alice needs him because he can not live without her, and not to unravel the mysteries of Konchis. And now he continues his investigation with a coolness, only to distract himself from longing for her. Suddenly, it is bearing fruit; he goes to the mother of the twins Lydia and Rosa (these are the real names of the girls) and understands the origins of “playing God” (as she calls it).
There comes a time when he finally realizes that he is surrounded by real life, and not by Konchis experiment, that the cruelty of the experiment was his own cruelty to his neighbors, revealed to him, as in a mirror…
And then Alison comes to him.