Devil Is Dead—Part 4
Then there was Messina, whence they jumped to Zakinthos, a Greek thing and thus within the sphere of Anastasia.
We were in Messina, on Sicily.
Not being millionaires like Saxon X. Seaworthy, we made the smallest possible jump—on a speedboat passenger ferry—to Reggio di Calabria. We rode the rails to Taranto, then to Brindisi.
And then, under a fading sun, we set sail for Greece.
Just after sunrise we passed Zakinthos, threading the Ionian islands for the seemingly safe water between the mainland and the Peloponnese.
Overnight the world changed.
There was a blue haze in the air that was not a cloud, but only something to filter the sun.
That haze Lafferty describes is so close you can almost touch it. Yet it does not dim the sun. Rather, it tints everything: the colors are more rich, the water blue, not green. Peaks rise steeply just behind the shore. White snow shines from the highest peaks. A red ferry to our port is the most cardinal ship I have ever laid eyes upon. My eyes are dazzled.
No wonder the Romans wanted Greece so badly, to embody its aesthetic, to know its inner secrets.
Papa Devil was at home here; for though the Devil himself is of unknown nationality and is a true cosmopolitan, Cosmopolis itself is the Greek ideal.
And now—afloat in waters off Patras, almost 40 years after I started reading this book—I understand better why Lafferty chose to set the novel’s catastrophe in Greece.
This place is closer than almost everywhere else to the center of things.
(Funny, I think, “the center of things” to myself when we are sailing through the saltwater approach to Delphi, where Zeus determined the center of the world with two eagles and a rock.)
In this novel, people are simultaneously of the now and of ancient times. Wouldn’t you make that shadowy clockwork the greatest in Greece? In this novel, people are simultaneously themselves and mythical beings. Wouldn’t that duality be greatest in Greece? In this novel, a racial conflict between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens plays out. Wouldn’t you set such a combat in the place where West and East have contested for thousands and thousands of years? In this novel, the protagonist is painter as well as an able seaman. If you’re going to put blood on your canvas, wouldn’t you do it in the land where colors are most vivid? In this novel, people die but don’t stay dead (Or do they?). Wouldn’t you prefer to start your second life on a sun-drenched Greek isle?
You and I and Lafferty and the Devil, we are similar.
Now in the land of blood, bronze, and blue,