Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Loukia Borrel Author of Raping Aphrodite an interview by M.C.V. Egan

·         Raping Aphrodite is a powerful title how did you choose it? There were other titles I considered. One of them was “Killing Cyprus,” but I decided not to go with that, for a couple of reasons. One is that not everyone knows where Cyprus is and I thought it wouldn’t appeal to readers to have Cyprus in the title, if they have to spend a lot of time figuring out where it is. I knew I could explain that inside the book and with a map, which the paperback version has. The other reason I didn’t go with that title is because even though Cyprus was invaded and divided, and has been occupied by one country or another for most of its existence, the island has survived. It wasn’t “killed” by strife. I finally decided on “Raping Aphrodite” as the title because it is a meaningful  message. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the island was cut in two and was literally and figuratively raped. Women were raped, people were forced out of their homes and lived as refugees, there were mass killings and complete devastation across the island, not only for Greek-Cypriots, but for Turkish-Cypriots as well, not to mention their family members around the world.  Today, there are still about 2,000 Turkish and Greek Cypriots missing from that summer. As for Aphrodite, according to Greek mythology, she rose from the sea foam off the coast of Cyprus. Hence, the title. 

What if everything you know - or think you know- about your life is wrong? Tash Colgate is about to find out how that feels in Raping Aphrodite, a new work of fiction by first-time author Loukia Borrell.

Tash has the life she always wanted: a solid marriage to a man she loves and a successful art career. But when she agrees to display items in her gallery from the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus, her decision begins to unravel long-held secrets that were never expected to see the light of day. Set, in part, against the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, Raping Aphrodite is a story of unearthing truths and a haunted past.


·         Is your family from Cyprus? If not how did you choose the 1974 Turkish invasion? My parents sailed to the United States from Cyprus in 1952, well before the invasion. Many of my relatives were still in Cyprus and when the invasion occurred, all of them became refugees. There were about two dozen people from my mother’s village who went missing and were never located, my maternal grandparents among them. I was only 11 years old at the time, but that event has followed me through time and I felt responsible to tell their story.

·         As a journalist did you cover art and foreign Politics? I did a variety of stories, but not art or foreign politics. I covered obituaries, real estate, fashion, police, education, and other general assignment stories over a 20-year period for different newspapers in Virginia and Florida.

·         How do you balance the transition from fact to fiction? When you are a journalist, you are dealing with facts, but I also have a lively imagination (at least, Mr. Borrell tells me I do) so when I decided to write a book a few years ago, I tapped into both areas. I used my  personal experiences, facts from the invasion and my imagination to create the story lines for “Raping Aphrodite.” The book is based on true events, but it has a balance of fiction, too.

·         Is there more fact than fiction in your novel? I would say fiction. Both story lines contain fiction, but one is completely fiction while the other, about the invasion, mixes in the truth, too.

·         Art and conflict are a great combination as so much art has been removed from countries when invaded and it is such an intrinsic part of all cultural heritages.  Your choice of an  art gallery as a backdrop is very clever, did much research go into that or was art something you were familiar with before you wrote Raping Aphrodite? It is well-documented that churches and monasteries in North Cyprus were destroyed and stripped of their religious contents. One report I read said more than 15,000 icons are missing, as well as other artifacts like chalices, frescoes and Bibles. Here and there, since 1974, pieces have shown up and I have read about them, in particular, a late 1990s case in Munich that involved several hundred pieces. Coincidentally, after I finished “Raping Aphrodite” but before it was published, I read a story about English singer Boy George, who returned a Cypriot icon of Christ that had been looted from a church during the invasion. He bought it in the 1980s, I believe, and had no idea it was stolen. When I was writing the book, I remembered my parents talking about the church in my mother’s village. My great-grandfather was the priest there and had a major role in building that church. It was completely stripped and one relative told me it was being used as a stable for animals or to kick around soccer balls. Based on all of that, incorporating missing religious artifacts seemed natural to me, because I knew about that church and others like it for many years.     

·         Did your research include travel? I have always wanted to go to Turkey to visit the Topkapi museum. I did not travel for this book. I remembered stories my parents passed on to me, did some research with books and on the Internet.

·         Do you speak Greek or Turkish? I am fluent in Greek and have been bilingual since childhood. I am the only person in my immediate family who is 100 percent Greek-Cypriot. I am proud of that and grateful that, through this book, I have left something of my heritage for my children to have and to inform the public about Cypriot history.


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