born in Chania, Crete, in 1952. After studying Law, she initially made a name for herself as a cartoonist and screenplay writer. It was not until the 90’s that she decided to publish prose. She made her debut in 1995 with the collection of stories ‘I kyria Kataki’, which was quickly followed by her first novel ‘Mikra Anglia’, published in Germany in 2001 under the title ‘Die Frauen von Andros’ (Engl: The Women of Andros), and then by her most recent work ‘Koustoumi sto choma’. In addition to her literary work, Karystiani is also intensely involved in film. In the summer of 2002 she worked on the production of her screenplay ‘The Brides’ with Martin Scorcese in Athens and Crete. Ioanna Karystiani’s work has earned her widespread recognition; she received the Greek state prize for literature and the prize of the Athenian Academy for her first novel, and the Diavaso literature prize for her second. She is married to the renowned film director Pantelis Voulgaris, has two children and lives in Athens and on the island of Andros.
Karystiani writes about the small, seemingly only circumstantial details in the lives of her characters. It was the photos of drowned sailors in the Kafenions and in people’s homes on Andros that provided the impetus for researching the stories behind the pictures and describing the world of the women whose lives centre more than ever on the men after they have died. ‘Die Frauen von Andros’ is a family story, which alternates between the confines of island life and the expanse of the ocean. As the ‘Neue Züricher Zeitung’ has aptly written, “Karystiani avoids any inconsequentialities that could detract from the substance of her writing, above all those that one-sidedly identify with a character. In her writing, perspectives continuously change to create a panorama of life on Andros that seems all the more natural because the author portrays many protagonists without exhaustively focusing on just one.”
The situation is similar for the women of Crete, who make public the death of family members killed in a feud by wearing the victims’ black shirts. In ‘Schattenhochzeit’ (Engl: Shadow Wedding), Karystiani tells the story of the distinguished scholar Kyriakos Roussias, who has remained away from his native Crete for almost 30 years and suddenly has to face his cousin of the same name, his alter ego – and his father’s murderer. The author formulates questions concerning the dialectics of the civilising processes central to her work as follows: “How can one deal with forgetting? How can one kill? Why do we avoid an encounter with our actual self? Why is reconciliation more difficult than confrontation?”
© international literature festival berlin