Stavroula Tsouprou: In its place

Stavroula Tsouprou

In its place

N HEIGTH and length, this flimsy piece of furniture, made from dozens of drawers, could have covered the entire wall of a large oblong drawing room. Its drawers, however, were not all the same. Some were small and others were large, some were locked and others unlocked, and in some the space inside gaped vacantly, yet ready to to be filled, like the scabbard that awaits the sword for peacetime. Some drawers among them were painted in vivid colours – to be precise, they had been painted, because now most of them had lost that old knack of capturing the bright light of the external source: the truth is that after a certain time this precious property disappeared and the drawers returned to their ordinary, indeterminate insipid colour, sometimes verging on grey, sometimes on beige and sometimes on leaden dullness. So, their outward differences were focused now on size or volume, and on the keyholes, and, of course, on whether or not they had managed to keep their shape after being placed in position; this last was fundamental.

        The larger drawers were at the base of the piece of furniture; but no one ever knew whether they were the heavier or the lighter ones (needless to say, the piece of furniture was not subject to the laws of nature and was therefore not in danger of toppling over), the richer ones or the most boring – their content was inaccessible, locked away for ever, kept safely away from prying eyes, but from well-intentioned ones too. The key of these drawers was nowhere to be found and their intellectual property rights were held by the Unknown, fragmented into pieces over the centuries. The higher the rows of drawers, the smaller they were; the composition of their contents varied, which is what differentiated them. This diversity was an internal difference, not visible to the outside observer, as was the case with their weight as well: only whoever opened them, one by one, could pass comment on these hidden contrasts or even hidden similarities, variations or fluctuations, and, then go on to judge (if he was interested in doing so) how much the composition of the content was expressed in the whole, in the behaviour of the piece of furniture during its movement in the space. Not even the key-holder himself must necessarily be involved with this laborious task, not least because he frequently left the keys hanging from their string outside the drawers, sometimes forgetting even to lock them, when their content was trivial or presented nothing reprehensible.

        So, the great external particularity was the state of the shape of the drawers, which, we forgot to say, were made of pliable material during the first phases of their life, which meant that the drawer could be compressed if it was bigger than its intended place, until it was finally wedged in there, before time rendered it rigid. However, these badly-formed drawers ruined the harmony of the whole (someone else might say, perhaps, that they simply enlivened its uniformity).

        The reason why some drawers lost their original shape, making them unsuitable for their predetermined place, was their essential dissonance with the animated heart of this particular macro-structure, which functioned from the outset on the basis of genetically-determined specifications. Foreseen, of course, in these specifications, was the possibility also of deviations, in much the same way as a statistical study takes into account the margin of error. But when the moment came for these deviations to go into the corresponding drawer, and for this in its turn to be put tidily in its place, the shape of the micro-structure, altered as it was, had to adapt as best it could. The wound – because deviations of this kind are wounds – suppurated, of course, but this happened inside the drawer and the unpleasant odours were trapped in its confined space, at least for as long as it stayed closed. What remained obvious was the clumsily neatened shape, indication that the flimsy piece of furniture was, once again, an unfinished and therefore tortured creation. In those cases in which the creation became aware of its suffering, the piece of furniture was often shaken by secret storms – but there were also the happy cases of obliviousness or of stoic forbearance; in these the shakings were rare and the piece of furniture continued its flimsy course, not harmonious, not perfect, but quite satisfied.

        In a final effort, the misshapen drawer was pushed into its place. The one next to it had already begun to fill up.

Translated by Alexandra Doumas


Source: And Tomorrow is Now (εκδ. Ρώμη, 2016)

Stavroula Tsouprou (Athens) holds a doctorate in Greek Literature from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, as well as language diplomas in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. Systematically involved with Literature Theory, she has published studies on earlier and contemporary prose-writers and poets. She is a regular contributor to the daily and periodical press. Three volumes of her essays have been published: Tasos Athanasiadis:”With the eyes of our generation”The “childis” stories of Cosmas Politis and Trial Readings. Her first fictional work is the collection of short stories They’re looking at you (Grigoris Editions 2013)


Stavroula Tsouprou: They’ re looking at you




Stavroula Tsouprou


They’re looking at you


02-BitaLACK AT THE CENTRE, jet black, like an empty dark room. White of the eye all around, not always shiny nor symmetrical. And in the middle a medley of colours, limited, of course, but not easy to define. They’re looking at you. They’re searching for you or they’re passing you by. They want to impose upon you or to tease you. They’re frightening you or they’re trying to appease you. They’re looking at you.

       Chaos between you. You’re looking at them too. You fix your gaze in the centre of them. What is there? You move on a little. Where are you going? Is there a way through? It seemed to be a dead end before. No, it passes through. Hesitantly at first, you fumble for supports. The environment familiar for the present. Cares. Pretences. Fear. You stop here. You meet yourself; fear. Better for you to go back. If you go on any further, you’ll be trapped. You meet yourself: now your image is there too. That interests you. Out of cowardice you put this in front of you, something familiar, in order to gain time. In the end? How do they see you? As you are? (How are you?) You don’t understand. You’re only you from the outside: your aspect as it is in the mirror. From the inside?

       I told you to leave. Now it’s too late. So, look. Enjoy it.

       A mass of mixed-up reactions, of behaviours tender and harsh, of ages from nought to mature, of actions meaningless to dangerous. But all of these, many you’d forgotten and others you remembered characteristically, it’s as if they’re illumined by their colour that is different, by the brown pupil of the eye, constant presence, protection usually and rarely punisher. So, you see yourself differently. Through the brown filter, filter of affection and pride, filter of sacrifice, filter of dignity, you’re not your familiar self. Foreign, strange, creation of someone else, prop of someone else. Imprisoned there, with obligations that must be discharged, with prices that, unbeknown to both sides, you have been charged.

       Go away, leave. You’ll see the future and you’ll be horrified. Better not to know. Go back. Swim with wide strokes in the brown and get out. Be careful not to fall into the hole, into the empty room. It’s not for now.

       Cling onto the white of the eye and jump outside. That’s it. Here we are. They’re looking at you still.




Source: They’re looking at you (Grigoris Editions, short stories, 2013).


Stavroula Tsouprou (Athens) holds a doctorate in Greek Literature from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, as well as language diplomas in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. Systematically involved with Literature Theory, she has published studies on earlier and contemporary prose-writers and poets. She is a regular contributor to the daily and periodical press. Three volumes of her essays have been published: Tasos Athanasiadis:”With the eyes of our generation”, The “childis” stories of Cosmas Politis and Trial Readings. Her first fictional work is the collection of short stories They’re looking at you (Grigoris Editions 2013).


Translated by Alexandra Douma

Alexandra Doumas studied Social Anthropology at University College London (UCL). Over the last forty years she has translated into English hundreds of Greek scholarly books and articles, mainly in the disciplines of archaeology, social anthropology-folklore studies, Byzantine art and Modern Greek history, as well as catalogues of major exhibitions and information panels for museums and archaeological sites. She collaborates with important cultural institutions in Greece and abroad, as well as with leading publishing houses in Athens.