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The novel Scenes from the Life of Mathias Almossino is the story of a man, who could be the first European man. It is also the open palm of a hand that touches the map of Europe in the 17th century; every finger of the narrative is directed toward a different cardinal point: Newton’s England, England of the Royal Society, religiously tolerant Amsterdam of the merchants, icy Petersburg of the reformer Tsar, Venice of the carnival masks. The wrist of the hand touches the Ottoman wilderness, Salonica, Istanbul and Candia, the boundaries of Europe.
Mathias Almossino, a closeted Jew living in Basel, Switzerland, crosses at a tender age the Respublica Cristiana, a Christian territory. Orphaned in a Dickensian manner, imprisoned and oppressed by the theocracy of his time, he builds his adulthood through picaresque adventures changing masks of religious and racial identity, torn inside almost to the end by the great stakes launched during the century: the birth of scientific discourse and the explosion of rational thought against the nostalgia of miracles and all messianic expectations. Spinoza and the conflicts οf intolerance, Descartes and Sabbatai Zevi, the universe through the eyes of the new science that looks like a clockwork machine. It is an era of awaiting the end of the world in 1666 AD.
The places of journeys are changing rapidly in a rich scenography: a crossing of the Alps, the Jewish and Greek communities of Venice, Sabbatai Zevi’s Salonica, Padova with its famous university, Zante, the fall of Crete, Constantinople’s Wonderland, London of the groundbreaking science, landmarks of Germany, the Romanian Orthodox counties, the territory of Peter the Great in the steppes and overflowing rivers and finally Mount Athos, the holy mountain in Northern Greece that marks the beginning and the end of this mesmerizing journey…
The central hero of the book, Mathias Almossino, a charismatic child, lucky enough to survive in a hostile and dangerous environment, became a gifted man, who found in the wonders of medicine his own self. More than a famous doctor, Mathias is the homo universalis who straddles countries, languages, cultures, wandering through people and ideas.
Scenes from the Life of Mathias Almossino is a literary tour de force by one of the most beloved and acclaimed Greek authors, a novel on the origins of Europe itself, on the origins of our own identity. The history of medicine, the nostalgia for God, the clash of religions are the frames of this novel, that looks inside the soul of what we call humanity in the western world.
Isidoros Zourgos (born in Salonica in 1964) is one of contemporary Greece’s most successful and praised writers. He has written seven novels, among them In the Shade of the Butterfly (2005), that sold over 70.000 copies, The Nightingale Pie (2008), with more than 40.000 copies sold and The Way We Were (2011, National Book Center/Readers Award, more than 40.000 copies sold to date).