This novel won an award from the Greek Section of IBBY and is published by “Ecole des Loisirs” in France and also in Tayland
Two of them and another two
Thirteen-year-old Penelope lived with her father Mark who is 40 years old. Her mother Tina was killed in a car accident some years earlier. Penelope and her father together dealt with Tina’s death and the hardships of their new life, while Mark faced the problems of raising a child alone – especially a child on the brink of adolescence and womanhood, the concerns of all parents about their childen, and his own loneliness. Penelope had all the insecurities, difficulties and concerns of her age: friends, boys, the gradual changes in her and in the way in which she looks at life. The total picture included two grandmothers who also expressed their well-intentioned concern.
Penelope’s friendship with a dubious boy and the mood changes associated with adolescence caused her schoolwork to decline. Another contributing factor to her more general aggressiveness was Mark’s friendship – which would end up in a serious relationship – with a woman named Alice. Conflicting feelings, even jealousy overcame Penelope, who distanced herself from anything that affected her adversely. Then the summer came, with holidays in Corfu, where father and daughter found time to be together. There she met a classmate of hers, a boy named Alexis, with whom she developed an increasingly close friendship. At the same time she began to understand her father’s need and right to have a personal life and happiness. This change in Penelope was demonstrated by her initiative of calling Alice and inviting her to spend the vacation with them. This mature, conciliatory gesture had a redemptive effect on all.
Two of them and another two
A modern, cosmopolitan, novel
Manos Kondoleon, known to everybody who is interested in children’s literature, has been working for years in this interesting and, until recently, neglected field.
With short stories, lectures, fairy tales, novels for children, adaptations, and reviews, he has been constantly present among us, a gentleman, a discreet and hard working friend with many goals.
He has also written short stories for adults, of which the collection And the ironing board sliced the television set in half (1982) was outstanding, as well as the mystery novel One and one equal whatever you want (1980) in cooperation with Titina Danelli; and there were novels of confession, modern whisperings by young lonely, passionate people. And finally last year his novel for young adults that we now have in our hands, Two of them and another two.
This book talks about the truly difficult period a young father and his thirteen-year-old daughter are going through after the death of their wife/mother in a car accident. They are trying to stand on their own two feet, to get on with the rest of their lives, in as regular and painless a way possible, so as not to allow themselves to be totally overcome by the pain of the absence of the lovely young Tina, who nonetheless haunts their house, and then they understand that they cannot reject her, or erase her from their memory or silence her voice or her laughter. Father and daughter, hesitantly at the beginning, take each other’s hand and together look at the life to come, the life that continues, the joys that may await them, the sadness that they must overcome, the many major and minor problems besetting them that demand solutions; and then the father becomes mother and father too and the daughter, despite the fact that she’s having a difficult adolescence, due to the absence of her mother, makes a decisive effort in his direction. People appear more friendly to her and the pain of orphanhood is mitigated.
It is a modern, cosmopolitan, novel, written at a fast, cinematic pace, eminently readable and well structured.
Eleni Sarantiti (in the newspaper "Eleftherotypia)
Epilogi, p. 79-81
Reflections on the modern novel for young adults
MANOS KONDOLEON: Two of them and another two. Illustration: Yannis Dialynos, Illustration consultant: Dimitris Giannopoulos, Athens. Ammos, 1987, small format 8’,110 pages.
The conflicts and quarrel between the older and the younger generation is a timely issue at every age and in every society. It’s never new. But each time it appears in a different way, and each society handles it in a different way.
Each generation usually tries to impose its own ego on the other, and to apply its own moral standards, codes of behaviour and social beliefs. Frequently this sharp conflict between two or three generations can take on major dimensions and can reach the point that one generation does not acknowledge the other’s right to an individual identity. The old generation in particular insists on projecting its own out-dated world on the younger generation in an idealised form, since with the passage of time, they themselves have become distanced from it. It is through this refraction that they try to demarcate the potential of the young generation and to see the new, inevitable reality arising independently before them, as young people become more aware and demand their natural and inviolable rights in all directions.
This is the basic theme, at first sight, that concerns the author of the book Two of them and another two. There are, however, two other equally serious issues that are dealt with in this book, which are: the loss of the mother and her replacement with some other woman, and the problem of relations with the opposite sex among children who quite suddenly reach adolescence. The second theme includes the problem of how adults deal with teenagers.
It is clear that Kondoleon, with what the publisher describes as a “cinematic” way of writing, has given us an enjoyable book, provides ready answers with brief solutions, and no beating about the bush. He took advantage of the opportunities provided by the subject, and set the stage attractively; here he was helped by the flexible characters of his heroes, whom he moves with great ease on the multiple levels on which the action takes place. The images are easy to understand, the situations easy to interpret, the difficulties tractable. There are no weighty burdens shouldered by the fragile protagonists. The difficulties come either as natural concomitants of unfortunate events, social prejudices and the generation gap, or as a result of makeshift or selfish assessments. Events pleasant and unpleasant follow each other in succession with cinematic speed, creating a varied atmosphere ranging between yesterday and today, within which the author looks toward the future “as through a mirror” and perceives the characters in a similar way, not person to person!
He appears to consider a gentle approach more suitable, being unwilling to torment his people, and this may be the reason for a certain inability of his heroes to stand their ground firmly, and why they frequently give the impression of being passers-by or that behind the screen there is no strong hand of the director. The sudden changes in the heroes look stage-managed. The third generation has no substantial role in the plot; even their backstage existence and action are either rudimentary or completely occasional. The author systematically avoids strong clashes, perhaps deliberately, in order to avoid melodramatics and this is a plus for the book. The same is true of the characters: they do not make their presence felt with their strengths or weaknesses, but even so, things work out well for everybody due to some coincidences or some favourable circumstances. This happens especially in the second part of the book where everything leads toward a resolution of the dramas experienced by the characters in this family tragedy, after the loss of the mother. This event coincides with the point of the daughter’s transition to adolescence, i.e. her entry into a new, unknown and magic world, the beginning of her path towards the search for an individual identity within a modern urban environment, but also in search of a partner in love.
This was certainly a difficult venture which, in the final analysis, was successful because the book as a whole is good and can be read easily, does not bring tears or lamentations, but sheds light on some problems, trying not to show preference for any one character, while constituting a pleasant, romantic, brief novel for young people.
We should point out that Kondoleon does well to touch upon the problem of the stepmother, because at some point the image of the evil stepmother must be eradicated from people’s minds, as it is an image that appeared strongly in fairy tales from earlier children’s literature, usually from other countries. This is something that started out in the schools. The elementary school books “My language” dealt with this issue in a serious and responsible way. Besides, haven’t there been “evil mothers”? Or who can be a child’s mother? The woman who gave it biological life or she who raised it with all the sacrifices this entails? The problem of the “other mother” has been seriously and responsibly analysed by I.D. Ioannidis in his book The girl with the two mothers and Eirene Marra in her book A story for two. In the school books, as well as in the two books cited above, it can be seen clearly that the “other mother” is and can be an equally good mother even if she did not play the biological role of giving birth to a child.
The theme in this book doesn’t lead in that direction, but is limited to the acceptance of an instance in which a woman, even out of coincidence, will cover the gap in the father’s life left by the loss of his wife, which is also another serious social problem. Here, too, the author leaves things to find their own way and with the intervention of some conjunctures and coincidences, there is a happy ending for all.
Certainly a happy and not painful ending is necessary for a book addressed to children and young adults, especially when it brings favourable prospects for the future of all the people involved: “It’s as though throughout the world there’s nothing but light!”
Avyi tis Kyriakis
Family Civil wars
by Athena Papadaki
Two of them and another two
It appears that Manos Kondoleon’s main goal is to extend his subject matter into fields unknown in Greek literature for young adults. This bold effort in which great strides have been taken, mainly in human relations, started from his previous book Glove on a wooden hand. In it we can see the recreation of interpersonal contact through memory. In his new book Kondoleon touches upon some changes in the modern family, revealing the crisis in middle-class ethics. The author violates a social rule: the attribute of the female as the sole person capable of raising children. A father, a widower, decides to bring up his daughter alone. A difficult undertaking, but possible. One conflict starts over the different values of older relatives. It is a battle on two fronts. The second starts out with the healthy processes by which the daughter differentiates herself from the parent. The book is written in the familiar cinematic style of Kondoleon and is a diptych. Each section is a separate monologue indicative of each narrator’s human needs. The innermost thoughts of the adult show not only the loneliness of the minority, but also the impasse in the values of a specific generation. The father demands the parents’ rights to have their own guilt-free personal experiences in front of their children, a demand that frequently is held in check by personal conflict. The daughter in turn steps up her effort at self-knowledge, to conquer the secrets of the world. It is the bipolarism of adolescence, good/bad, with nothing in between to disturb the still waters of conventionality. It should be pointed out that in this special relationship, there is a latent element of eroticism, an indication of Freudianism on the part of the author.
This special family fabric is difficult as its weaving proceeds. The balance is threatened not only by the rigidity of the girl, but by the father’s certainty that he is the only person who understands the problems of life. The role of the oppressor has not lost its pedestal. And as time passes, the starting point of the conflicts appears. Miniature civil wars are presented through quarrels over details. A young woman who appears in the father’s life upsets the balance. The relationship requires new foundations that are being laid mainly by the daughter. The revelation and acceptance of the opposite sex lend her a subterranean understanding that brings dialogue with it. Love, the most ancient herb, is effective once more. And it becomes the first substantial secret link between parent and child. And this is where the book ends.
The book has been published with care as to its appearance. The optimistic ending as well as the small doses of conflicts - showing sensitive handling on the part of the author - raise some questions about the readership. If Kondoleon is addressing adolescents, why doesn’t he speak openly of the decisive conflict that draws the borders definitively between the generations, thereby facilitating the break, liberating some children with serious problems in their surroundings. It is either a lack of boldness or a conscious choice i.e. to make the focal point only the problems of the internal relations within a modern family.
Book of the Week
by Nikos Dokas
How the generation gap is bridged
All good stories and all tales can be distinguished at first glance by their simplicity. You read or hear them, and you can see the characters acting, suffering and being redeemed before your eyes. And you say “but it’s so easy and yet it delights me.” Yes, good stories are delightful tales whose simplicity surprises us.
This is the type of book I want to talk about and I have to restrain myself from shouting: “Now there’s an author”, because while I have just now discovered him, he has published 16 books since 1979. So I will confine myself to saying that MANOS KONDOLEON gave me a great deal of enjoyment with his novel Two of them and another two (Ammos), 110 pages, 700 drachmas.
The story: a man, a widower at 40, lives with his daughter who is going through adolescence. He has his work, and his only other concern – in the three years since his wife’s death – is raising his daughter. The girl does her homework and makes friends at schools and matures “beside the remains of a presence that had suddenly disappeared. Suddenly! As long as a crash lasts between a yellow deux-chevaux and a truck...”
The husband spends difficult nights with the ghost of his beloved wife, and for his daughter has become transformed into a “fathermother”. They refuse help from others, from the girl’s grandmothers, for example. All was going well in this little, deprived family: some minor problems in their relations did not seem capable of upsetting the compassion. But then the father finds a friend. The daughter doesn’t like her and the distancing starts. In an effort to bridge the gap, the father takes his daughter and the two of them go off on holidays. There the girl meets a classmate of hers and discovers suddenly not only her father’s loneliness but also the solution to the problem.
This is a story that could easily have deteriorated into melodrama. But Kondoleon keeps it on a high level, walking the thin line between sentimental romance and pure realism.
To achieve this, he uses a fast pace, alternating between the first, second and third person. He enhances the plot with cinematic flashbacks. He binds the story by eliminating details. He condenses his writing.
He is interested in drawing attention to certain social and emotional problems, recognising not only the individual needs of his characters but also those of their co-existence. Through the differences between the two generations he seeks and finds points of convergence.
The book is well illustrated by Yannis Dialynos.