God of Hunger
GOD OF HUNGER
John Konstantine Kokopoulos, otherwise known as KK, was blessed from an
early age with an inquiring mind, a great appetite for learning, a heightened
drive for adventure and the resilience of a peasant. His parents worked on the
Argenti estate, the richest in the fertile plain of Hios (Chios) known as the
Kamvo, famous for its Mastiha, a shrub whose sap produced a chewing gum
produced mainly for the harem market.
His father laboured on the land and his mother served as housemaid in the big
house. The spirit of the place was Tuscan; cultured, elegant and civilised and
ahead in every manner of life, though not in philosophy, to all other inhabitants
of the island of Hios.
Despite the material poverty of most Hiotes few could doubt the richness of
their identity; their intellectual heritage. Hios is the island of Omeeros and
Sapho. It is also the birth place of Christopher Columbus and many other
seafaring adventurers. And it is also the island from which Kolokotronis, so
named after a shot from a Turkish musket stung (kotroni) his posterior (kolos),
took on the might of the Ottoman fleet in the fight for modern Greek political
and religious freedom which came in hard fought stages between the first
quarters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries after centuries of Turkic
It was the Ottoman Turks who had shaped the third largest piece of intellectual
furniture in the Hiot mind; an oriental orientation in manners and music. The
first piece, alluded to above, was crafted by classical Hellenism and the second
by the Greek Orthodox Church.
To be a modern Greek is to be of the Greek orthodox faith. It goes without
saying until questioned when it becomes clear that whilst nation and faith are
one, the church hierarchy is rarely respected. Priests are tolerated,
Metropolitans and above barely so. And God and his saints and angels are best
understood as a Greek Testament gloss on the Animism of the Ancients. And
everywhere, the Evil Eye.
As a boy, KK had little time for religion but, like most islanders found the long
Sunday service a boon chance for the exchange of news and gossip.
Participation in the liturgy came naturally and automatically; everyone knew
the order of service by heart but not by mind. The Classics were another matter.