Missing persons are a borderline issue, says Hari N. Spanou whose novel “The Outpost” received a European special mention

Missing persons are a borderline issue for Cypriot literature, says the author-doctor Hari N. Spanou, whose novel "The Outpost" recently received a special mention from the pan-European committee of the European Literature Prize. Referring to this honorary distinction, Spanou tells the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that she felt "happy and a little surprised", because she did not expect the impact of her novel in Europe. Books published in Cyprus are not widely known in Greece, while the reader can very easily find translated foreign literature, she points out. Replying to a question from CNA, Spanou states that it was not easy for her to deal with the issue of missing persons, which remains an open wound for Cyprus. She explains that it was something she hadn't decided beforehand, adding that she originally intended to deal with the first phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. 'My readings before writing the novel revolved around this theme,' she points out. "The missing are a borderline issue for Cypriot literature," she adds. "I realised that in addition to the humanitarian dimension and the fact that it constitutes a war crime, the issue of missing persons is complex and does not mainly concern those who have disappeared, but how it affects people today", the author emphasises, underlining that in essence "The Outpost" investigates the ignorance of the living about what happened then. Asked if anything has changed in her perspective on missing persons after dealing with the issue through her novel, Hari N. Spanou answers positively, adding that, on a personal level, the book was the trigger to search for the story of a cousin of her father, who was missing, and to look for further information. On a broader level, Spanou says that relatives of the missing feel embarrassed by the fact that the reports on the missing do not mention the circumstances of these people's deaths. "These stories are still shocking. Real reconciliation cannot be built if it is based on lies and if real justice is not delivered," she points out. Speaking about the way the state and society are handling the issue of the missing today, Spanou tells CNA that the state has a lot of information but the investigations have escalated due to the refusal of the Turkish army to allow exhumations. On a social level, the families of the missing come together and bond over the funerals and memorial services of those found, she notes. Even several years after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the testimonies of people who want to talk about the events before they die are increasing, she indicates. Referring to her relationship with writing, Hari N. Spanou says that she has been writing since she was a child. "For the last 20-25 years, writing has been for me a way of understanding, a way of observing and reflecting on the human condition," she tells CNA. Her engagement with writing begins with her need to understand, she adds.

Source: Cyprus News Agency