Panayotis Cacoyannis (I challenge you to say that three times fast) is a native Cyprian now living in London. He spent some time painting, and now writing fiction. This is his second work, the first being The Dead of August.
Tightly plotted, the tale spans the life of an odd 40-year-old man, now living in London. What a coinkydink. But in actuality, it takes place in the space of a little over 24 hours.
Jack Faro changed his name and is now Leon Cream. And here are all the odd things about him. As a young kid, he began painting, and his paintings were Picasso’s. Not replicas, and not forgeries, he never signed them with anything but his own name, but
I painted my first Picasso. I remember it like it was right in front of me. It was a bowl of fruit, a still life, an early example of Picasso’s work, and not a copy of any painting I had seen. It was an original Picasso, not painted by Picasso but by me — by me as Picasso.
…now I was seeing it with the eyes of Picasso, and that extraneous intervention enabled me to anticipate Picasso, or rather to give shape to his vision. Once I had understood that, and really it’s more accurate to say that I had grasped its significance in a ready surrender of reason, I had no further need for faux Picasso props: I had discovered, in effect, that my optical freak — a kind of visual schizophrenia — could tap directly into the man’s imagination.
I would say that Bowl of Fruit (1907), which I painted in 1989, had been a recent precursor to Nude with Raised Arms, which Picasso painted in 1907.
He became terribly famous, couldn’t stand the unreality of his reality, and quit painting, changed his name and living on the wealth he had earned as a painter, tried his hand at being a writer. He bought a house in London with a large double lounge, (that’s living room to you Yanks), and now being obsessed with Kafka and his work, had built into the living room a replica of Gregor’s room in The Metamorphosis, with great attention to authentic detail. Well, as authentic you can get when replicating a fictional room that doesn’t actually exist. He writes a story, submits it to a publisher, who is stunned by it. It is a story by Kafka. But she is assured that it is not a long lost manuscript, but actually written by Leon-as-Kafka, just like he painted as Jack-as-Picasso.
Into this comes a phone call one evening from a woman who says she is a ghostwriter who wants to write his story. Turns out she knows quite a bit about him and his background and his family. They agree to meet the next day, he to tell his story,
or a mixture of my story and the truth, or the several truths that in every combination are still some way short of the whole truth. Is there ever such a thing as the whole truth? And if it can be attained, and then verified and measured by some quasi-scientific and dispassionate method, even then (or perhaps particularly then) is the whole truth necessarily a desirable goal?
and the revelations take place over a 24 hour day when they meet, and fall in love.
It is an intricate story, gentle, strange, examining the notions of reality, lies, memory, history, and the role of memory in creating our personal stories. As he says,
I know very well that outside the periphery of their own narrow lives, as a rule men are interested in each other only as stories.
Imagine you could write yourself into a book of fiction. You hate the way the story goes so you just walk right into it and do your best to change the plotline.
A work of fiction the way I like them: erudite, interesting, and with a good story.