Elias Kulukundis started a cycle of memoirs when he was twenty-seven, taking Isaac Singer’s advice to young writers to write something that only they could write. Though his books take his own life as a point of departure, they incorporate Greek historical events of the 20th century including the unification of the Dodecanese Islands with Greece in 1948 and the Greek dictatorship of the 1960’s.
About the first memoir, «The Feasts of Memory», Mary Renault wrote, “I read it with delight and recognition and could hardly put it down.” Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, said Elias’s second book, «The Amorgos Conspiracy», was his “favorite kind of read, a stylish, globe-trotting adventure that teaches as much as it entertains.”
Completing the cycle, the much awaited third volume «Bold Coasts» is about to be published in Greek by Potamos Publishers with the sub-title, “A Life’s Adventure in a Greek Shipping Family”. It will be available in English later this year, and as the title suggests, the book describes Elias’ growing up in the kind of Greek family that people have fantasies about.
Isaac Singer would have approved of the choice of subject. There are many shipowners in the world, but none could have written this book. Nor does any other writer possess Elias’s intimate knowledge of the inner workings of a Greek shipping family.
With a wryly humorous writing style that has been described as “the best of mid-century noir,” (a description by Basic Books) he describes his passionate, adventurous, and at times heartbreaking life in a way that should affect every reader.
«Bold Coasts» opens a view into the closed world of Greek shipping and chronicles the fortunes of one of the oldest Greek shipping families through three generations. In the course of its plot, it dramatizes an intense rivalry between a Greek father and son that comes to an unexpected conclusion only in the final chapter.
Read here a first excerpt from «Bold Coasts» in English:
Chapter 26: The Mirror of the Sea
I had had my first experience of shipping long before I actually went into the business.
In 1966, I had just finished my first book, and being ready for new travels and adventures, I went out to Japan to meet a tanker belonging to Uncle Manuel and managed by R & K. I planned to board the m/t Proteus, a 27,000 ton (relatively small) tanker for a thirteen day journey down the South China Sea to Singapore. It would be my first voyage on one of our ships, and it would make a strong impression on me.
I took the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, and […] from there to the Central Pier. I looked out and saw the m/t Proteus, anchored in the roads, with the red, blue and yellow R & K markings on its funnel, and the letters Monrovia (Liberia) written on its stern.
In his memoir The Mirror of the Sea, Conrad says that while the ship is in port, seamen are often restless and discontent. Being neither at home nor properly at sea, they are in a never-never land, concerned about what is happening in their families but unable to affect it in any way. But as soon as the ship weighs anchor and the pilot has been put ashore, they are no longer connected to the land and thus they become peaceful again.
In that era before e-mail, once the ship was at sea, the crew would have no direct contact with the shore for the duration of the voyage, in this case for thirteen days. The night before, I saw the crew hastily writing letters for the pilot to post. The next morning, as the launch came alongside, I watched this energetic and meticulous man going swiftly down the ladder, carrying his briefcase, presumably also containing the ship’s mail. His solitary figure became smaller and smaller as the launch grew distant. The last connection with the land was severed, and the crew -I included- could now turn our full attention to the voyage ahead. […] I still consider those two weeks at sea as one of the most important elements in my education. […]
Find the complete bibliography of Elias Kulukundis here