Mata Kastrisiou, Greece
Giorgos Romanos: The Irishman and the Judean
Europe’s beauty springs from the spikes, the trauma and the memory that every country carries, finds Mata Kastrisiou, and introduces this allegorical song.
By Mata Kastrisiou
In the late 90s, the choir teacher brought us this song ("Ο Ιρλανδός κι ο Ιουδαίος", The Irishman and the Judean) that tells the story of an Irishman and a Judaean who began walking wishing to reach the place where a marriage was happening. How exactly they ended up moving together we will never know, what vow they had to deliver, who invited them, we will never know. We had just been taught the history of Europe, in our mind things were shaky, we had also drawn the map on paper, in our mind this strange couple crossed the continent and cut the paper in two.
I imagined two friends who started to walk when they were young and we now meet them in this song, deeply aged, dried saliva around their mouths, hump-backed, wandering in a vast land with an enormous sun over their heads.
At some point when the time of the history is ruptured, the strange couple arrives in front of a gate standing in the middle of the desert inscribing “End – Beginning”. The two friends pass and they find a big marketplace waiting for them, dozens of languages, the jewellery are sold in Spanish and the fishes in Greek and here it is a dapper monkey and the lullabies are sung in French and in Polish, the stars.
The Irishman and the Judaean, somehow lost in the music and the smells and somehow dazed, stop a passer-by and finally ask him where the famous wedding is taking place, how much further they will need to walk and how exactly they will show up in front of the guests in such a dirty appearance and so tired and so aged with their hair upset and glued by sweat.
And then the passer-by – his identity, we will never know, what prophecy he had to deliver, we will never know - stretches out his hands and shows them a few meters away, two dead pigeons lying on the ground. Skin warm, silky feathers, closed eyelids, lull of death, the throe ends, every marriage takes place where the shots no longer stave us. And the passer-by says “lo and behold the bride, lo and behold the groom”.
And the poet of the verses, Nikos Gatsos writes “Then the eyes of the Irishman tear, the eyes of the Judaean tear too”.
In the chorus, there was a moment of pause. We couldn’t say much. The altos said “pigeons symbolize peace” and the sopranos said “they killed the pigeons” and the basses said “they killed peace”.
And the composer of the song, Manos Hadjidakis made a jolly melody with unsuspectingly windy instruments, in a rhythmic mood, how else could it be possible for the children to sing this lament, the same lament that has been happening for centuries.
Today, years after the age of school and choir, the allegory of this song has received various transformations within my mind. The allegory of peace and war that is obvious inside the lyrics has another interpretation for me and the recent history of my country has contributed to this. In the last decade, Greece has been called upon to account for the work done so far as a country and to “fit” its identity in a context that defines not only its economic status but also the way it manages culture, land, habits and even the extroversion of its people.
Today, the two pigeons, the bride and the groom are not threatened to be shot but they are urged to keep tightly in the beak, the memory and the imprint of their history against the tendency that homogenize the countries of Europe in the name of unity, common route and prosperity.
Europe, is also called to bow its head, has to admit that we do not have to be identical exhibits of a perfect zoological garden in order to maintain the right to exist. On the contrary, we can walk together even if some of us look like the tall Irishman and some others to the fleshy Judaean, full of passions and deviations and mistakes and old wounds.
Even if we all agree that our wish is the coexistence of the peoples, it takes courage and faith to defeat the fear that this diversity creates. Let’s not be perfect, it does not matter, Europe’s beauty springs from the spikes, the trauma and the memory that every country carries. Around a big table we drink and sing and love each other and then we start fighting for stupid reasons and then someone cuts his finger with a broken glass and then we love each other again.