TRAVELS IN ELYSIUM
Literature, (and therefore by implication mankind), has always seemed to have had a fascination with islands. Their being the ‘other’ – outcrops of land in the sea, solid amidst liquid – probably explains the interest. And of all islands, Atlantis probably holds prime rank; Atlantis, the island which sank beneath the waves. Azuski’s novel Travels in Elysium, takes up the ideas of islands, Atlantis and their interpretation in something of a unique way.
The tale is of Nicholas Pedrosa, a young man whose life seems adrift. We meet him working in a non-descript job, in non-descript England. We learn of his selection to join a curious archaeological expedition, working on the island of Santorini, and follow him there. Azuski’s setting is hardly in stark contrast to our protagonist’s starting point. The greys of concrete post-war England merge with the greys of the volcanic ash of Santorini. Spectacularly, the novel avoids any sentimentality over the Greek island setting – there are no incessant Mediterranean blue skies, Mamma-Mia-esque twee buildings, vacuously inane villagers. Instead we have functionality: a believably ‘real’ island with ‘real’ people, their lives and livelihoods, their hopes, fears, feuds and beliefs all exposed by masterful narration.
The structure of the novel is archipelagian. It almost seems to be diary entries, snippets of observation. The impetus of the urge to read on is checked, not by the novel but by its layout. The scenes are often as small as a pottery fragment and just as frustratingly tantalizing. Azuski’s skill lies in the creation of scenery, the painting of a wide canvas by the particular focus on a small aspect of the environment. The description of Santorini, the archaeological dig, a small ruined chapel perched precariously on the edge of the abyss, are all splendid examples of an author capable of evoking landscape and memory. It is undoubtedly here, in the observation of the setting, that Azuski’s talent lies. The characters are perhaps given to less depth – Hadrian, Huxley’s no.2; Sam, the sulking protégée scorned; Anna, the erotic interest; even Pedrosa himself. Perhaps, since Huxley looms large over them all, casting them into the shadow, as if he were the missing peak where now there is caldera. The tale seems unable to escape Huxley, the identifiable but dislikeable mentor; and as the tale cannot escape, neither can the reader.
It is a surprising novel, reminiscent in parts of Woolf’s Orlando. A hero who seems to be less appealing to the reader than the nemesis; a narrative journey more interesting than the actual denouement. It toys with the Atlantis myth, teetering on the edge of cliché, but somehow managing to stay clinging to originality, much like the inhabitants of Santorini clinging to the edge of the caldera’s cliffs.
University of Exeter, UK for Iridescent Publishing
Plato’s metaphysical Atlantis mystery plays out on an archaeological dig on the island of Santorini
It was the chance of a lifetime. A dream job in the southern Aegean. Apprentice to the great archaeologist Marcus Huxley, lifting a golden civilisation from the dead... Yet trading rural England for the scarred volcanic island of Santorini, 22‐year old Nicholas Pedrosa is about to blunder into an ancient mystery that will threaten his liberty, his life, even his most fundamental concepts of reality.
‘Then chalk it up to experience, Mr Pedrosa. Trust no one. Believe no one. Question everything. Remember, there is nothing here you can take at face value... No — not even yourself.’
An island that blew apart with the force of 100,000 atomic bombs... A civilisation prised out of the ash, its exquisite frescoes bearing a haunting resemblance to Plato’s lost island paradise, Atlantis... An archaeologist on a collision course with a brutal police state... A death that may have been murder... And a string of inexplicable events entwining past and present with bewildering intensity... Can this ancient conundrum be understood before it engulfs them all?
ISBN: 978-3-9524015-2-1 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-3-9524015-3-8 (Kindle)
ISBN: 978-3-9524015-4-5 (epub)