Maria's Outlook (Panorea_

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pimping of Panorea, abridged and translated by Maria Strani-Potts

This is an abridged version of the Greek novella, as published in ISLAND magazine, Summer/Autumn 2008. Translated from the Greek by the author.


By Maria Strani-Potts

Somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the East joins the West, where Christianity walks in parallel with Islam and the deep blue sea is full of grey froth, oil and sewage, there happened to live a beautiful woman whose real name has been forgotten.

Many years ago a passionate admirer, enchanted by her charm and beauty, decided to call her Panorea.[1] This was thought to be most appropriate and so it was decided that this would be her name from then on.

People speculated that Panorea had come down to the seacoast from Olympus, like most exceptional creatures in that part of the world. She was beautiful, with long silk green hair and deep blue eyes. Her body was soft and well shaped, her face angelic. She was kind and loving like no other, but above all else she had a unique quality: she was seemingly eternal.
Panorea had been created in the infinity of the past and had been blessed, it was said, by some supreme power, which had contrived to make her superhuman and immortal.
Everybody around her was born and then perished, but Panorea was always present, always alive, always there, full of beauty and goodness.
By an accident of fate she was surrounded by an enormous clan or tribe of relatives.
The members of the clan, although closely related to Panorea, bore no resemblance to her. They were mortals. They had emerged from wombs and ended up in graves. They needed food to survive. They fornicated, bore children and died as soon as they had lived their allotted spans of time, only to be replaced by others, almost identical to them.
Panorea’s background and qualities had made the clan proud of its connection with her. Members of the extended family or tribe boasted of their kinship with her, and kept declaring that they adored her; they claimed that her history was their history, and more often than not they were reluctant to move away from her, or to travel to see the rest of the world. The idyllic connection they retained with Panorea had made them complacent, idle of thought, self-satisfied. Having an Olympian as a relative gave them the impression that they too were God’s gift to the world. Their hearts filled with pride every time her name was mentioned. They believed that their fate was intertwined with hers, in spite of their difference in nature. While close to Panorea, they loved to laze around smoking, philosophising, drinking coffee and gossiping.
For years they had hated hard work and had come to resent the fact that they had to work in the fields and on the sea in order to survive.
It is not known who had the idea first, but the notion that the time was ripe to exploit Panorea and to benefit from her eternal qualities sprang up suddenly and quickly spread widely amongst them.
They decided that if they turned Panorea into a prostitute, they would benefit enormously. Panorea was so well known in the world, so popular, that they would have no problem in selling her charms at any price; so one morning members of the clan woke up, determined to take the lead in becoming her pimps. This would be beneficial to all, they proclaimed.

It was such an easy thing to do. Panorea had been a muse to poets, painters, and writers. Kings, Emperors, and Empresses adored her and visited her often, and many scholars studied her history.
Pimping appealed to them; it was neither burdensome, demanding, nor did it need careful planning. They needed neither a substantial capital investment nor much in the way of hard work.

In a very short space of time Panorea was turned into a commodity.

In the beginning, fresh and wonderful as she was, she brought vast profits and satisfaction to her clients. Money poured into the pockets of the members of the clan. No longer did they have concerns about the future. They could behave like the old aristocrats and landlords whom they despised and yet aspired to emulate all their lives. No more heartache about how to put bread on their tables. No more hard labour or tilling the earth for the sake of their offspring. No more relatives perishing whilst fishing in the rough seas.
The pimping of Panorea became the most profitable enterprise of their lives, but an enterprise without mercy, without a semblance of fellow feeling or consideration for others.
Opportunistic and lacking in perspicacity and wisdom, they came up with superficially ingenious and expedient ways to embellish Panorea’s selling points. They invited equally opportunistic strangers to help them out with the commodification and touting of Panorea. Nobody had real feelings for her, only cunning and duplicitous words. When parts of her body were worn out from too much use, they even performed amateur plastic surgery operations, adding bits and pieces, according to the customers’ needs. They expanded her hips, enriched her lips and enlarged her breasts. They also added a couple of extra vaginas to her exquisite body so that she could accommodate a number of demanding clients at the same time.
Excessive use, perverse demands and amateur marketing methods started to turn her into a cheap, pitiful, diseased woman of the streets.
In spite of her plight, Panorea continued to inspire. Books continued to be written about her, talented artists immortalised her on canvas. Many mighty people from around the world, blind to her misfortunes, continued to desire to be near her, adding to the strain.
While drinking their cocktails in the evenings, they all discussed Panorea’s plight ad nauseam, but none of them was wiling to act.
“How is Panorea these days?” admirers would ask from time to time.
“Hmm…she’s changed.”
“She’s seen better days”, said others, with nostalgia.

Panorea’s immortality somehow enabled her to rejuvenate herself, in spite of all the hardships. Just when it was thought that she had come to her end, her natural beauty, gentleness and tranquil countenance would reappear, a little damaged but not without some power of attraction. With ingenuity, Panorea managed to camouflage the effects of the constant ravishments involved in her profession.
She was not worth as much as before, but customers still continued to come, attracted by her cheapness.
“The new clientele isn’t as sensitive and aristocratic as in the past, but it doesn’t matter. As long as customers still want her and seek to enjoy her- and are prepared to leave their money behind, who cares? It’s money we care about, that’s all. There’s no doubt that Panorea has some problems at present, but she’s survived for so many years, she’s not going to perish from all the hard wear- and- tear now,” agreed the members of the clan.
The naturally optimistic would say,
“Everything changes and even if Panorea is divine she also has to adapt to today’s demands. She may be somewhat macabre but with plenty of cheap make-up and some other rough-and-ready interventions we can maintain her saleability for centuries to come. Anyway, who cares about the distant future? Cheap sex and bargains are always attractive.” The conspiracy to exploit Panorea continued unrelentingly.

For her part, Panorea continued her existence with unflagging compassion. Hospitable by nature, she remained uncomplaining and in her supernatural way she maintained her ability to enchant. Her simple nature gave her strength. She continued to give bread and olives to those who were hungry; she offered a home to the traveller, relief to the tormented. She was not a common mortal and within her heart, which remained full of love for her kith and kin, there was no room for doubting them. She loved them all. It simply wasn’t possible that they might wish her ill. She was like a mother who, in spite of the pain her children inflict upon her, remains loving, loyal, and a provider for their essential needs.
Her sweet blue eyes were sad and tearful now. Her long silky green hair had started falling out as the wind stroked it with a whispering sound, but her embrace remained warm, her kisses unforgettable.
Like most people who frequent brothels or whorehouses, Panorea’s clients had no idea who she actually was. Her ancient past, her immortal Olympian status, her kindness, hospitality, internal beauty, compassion and charity were unknown to them. Panorea was simply a woman for the provision of temporary pleasure and gratification.

There is no justice in this world. The arrogant, the greedy, the selfish thrive: they float. The good, the altruistic, the modest, are destroyed: they sink. And so the clan, in spite of the mistreatment of Panorea, went from strength to strength. The members became rich and the richer they became the more money they wanted. ‘Money for money’s sake’ became their motto. Their lust was unquenchable.
Latterly, the money had not been pouring in so easily. The wealthy customers who sought something more exclusive had abandoned Panorea, whose appearance was becoming truly pitiful. New ways were always being dreamt up to advertise her wares and to promote her remaining selling points.
“God will forgive them. They’re of the same flesh and blood. How is it possible for them not to care for me?”
Hypocritically, they might have claimed to share Panorea’s sentiment, but they acted very differently. They only did what was expedient and beneficial to them.
In the whirlpool of their greed they forgot what really mattered in life. They ignored the fact that the sustainability of their own way of life depended on Panorea. They spent the pimping money to satisfy their passing whims. Not once did they stop to think what they could do for the common good or how to improve their quality of life collectively.

“When we have money, lots of money, we need nobody.
Exploiting Panorea? Who says that? We adore her. Plastic surgery and marketing are a sign of progress. This is the 21st century! Can’t you see the number of restaurants we have now? Before, we had hardly anything to eat. In the past we didn’t even have shoes to wear. In the old days we used to simply stare at the sea from a distance or struggle with her for survival. Now we have pleasure boats that guarantee us a carefree time on the waves. Look around our villas; they’re as good as the Parthenon. Only fifty years ago, we had no lavatories in the houses, no bathrooms. Now we have Jacuzzis, marble bathtubs, and every luxury imaginable. Who cares if raw sewage pours straight into the sea? Have you ever heard of the Sea complaining? Now we are rich, aristocrats with privileges that only the very few could enjoy in the past. Look at our drawing rooms, full of expensive furniture, paintings, silver, brocades and gold. We’ve made our money through our own ingenuity. That’s progress. We have cars instead of donkeys, designer-label clothes, and our children are educated abroad. And of course we can afford to have slaves. In the past we broke our backs serving others, now we can bring in Filipinos and other Third World servants to clean up after us. They’re two a penny and they’re willing to work twenty-four hours a day. When they fall sick and are no longer of any use, they can go back to where they came from. So don’t talk nonsense. A temperate and modest way of life is only appropriate for those in monasteries and convents. Everything is better than before. In the old days Panorea’s admirers discussed, poetry, philosophy and art. Who needs such good-for-nothing, useless discussions? We want money.”
Panorea kept working overtime in the streets. Every visitor used her incessantly, and when they’d finished with her, they left their bodily fluids and money behind. But nobody considered spending money on hospitals, roads, and waste management, or on creating an adequate local infrastructure.
When they were sick they had to travel far away to find a cure. Every night they slept on silk sheets, but when taken ill they had to lie in their own vomit on dirty sheets, in overcrowded wards. Good doctors were available at a price. They only operated with bribes. Mutual bribery gave everyone a sense of security and false confidence. People possessed expensive cars, but had nowhere to park them. Day-in, day-out, the rubbish was piling up in the streets, poisoning the environment, the very air they breathed and the food they ate. Their water supply became contaminated so they bought imported water. Toxic waste created cancer clusters. Different cancers were aggressively attacking the clan. The sea became frothy from the raw sewage. The politicians, members of the same local useless breed, became notorious for their lack of expertise and intelligence and for their inability to do anything.
No long-term investments or provisions were made to take care of the future.
They spent fortunes on engineers and architects to build them their palaces, but all of them lacked creative imagination or any aesthetic sense, so they caused heartbreaking visual pollution. The untreated sewage from their Parthenons kept pouring into the innocent blue sea.

They did their best to mimic the aristocrats of old, the nobles who had tormented their forebears’ existence in times past. They had forgotten what it was like to be exploited and used.
And so they continued with the pimping of Panorea.
Some superficial critics based their optimism on their overseas-educated offspring. But this was in vain. As the children returned they continued to lead their parents’ life styles. With vultures’ eyes, they hovered over the customers, encouraging Panorea to sell everything she had to satisfy all-comers, all demands.
They invited foreigners and fair-weather friends, experts in the arts of prostitution, to assist them. From then on, not only did the locals act as Panorea’s pimps, but the British, French, Dutch, Germans Swedes, Russians and Chinese also participated in luring customers towards her. They all helped to dismember her in the name of Beauty, and then sold her piecemeal.
In their blind stupidity, they didn’t for once consider the possibility that once Panorea had become useless, their livelihoods and even her legendary immortality might be at stake.
Backbreaking agriculture, struggling on the sea, that was exploitation.
The pimping of Panorea was good, it put bread on their tables, it paid for the education of their children, it provided them with beautiful houses, enormous cars and a multitude of models of sailing boats and motor-launches.
“When Panorea was a virgin and beautiful, we were penniless.”
But the results of all this pimping were disastrous. Panoreas’ ability to regenerate herself was starting to fail. The time came when she began to go from bad to worse.
They inflicted more botched plastic surgery on her when some part of her body was failing. She was becoming sickly, and increasingly resembled a freak.
“The customers come first. They pay- we have to provide.”

Panorea suffered terrible pains in her overused body, but, stoical as she was, she never complained nor uttered a single word of displeasure.

Panorea had a dear and faithful friend. His name was Kalosinatos[2].

They shared many qualities. Like her, he was eternal; like her, he was good-natured, compassionate, forgiving. His life story was rooted in the depths of time, but unlike Panorea he was not a native. He had arrived hundreds of yeas before, from some far-away place.
He was clothed in a long black robe. On his feet he wore gold- embroidered velvet slippers. He was missing one arm, but nobody knew why and how he had lost it.

Kalosinatos adored Panorea, unconditionally. In her presence he found peace and tranquillity.
She too loved him deeply. He gave her courage and hope when times were dark.
Soon after his arrival, Panorea’s clan discovered that Kalosinatos also possessed extraordinary superhuman powers. They discovered that he was able to cure the sick, bring rain when drought dried up the land, save sailors in peril on the sea.
Ingenious as they were, they decided that he could also be exploited for money.

If Panorea was a prostitute, he should have a supermarket where the visitors could go and ask him for favours, after they had tasted Panorea’s body. In his premises, they could purchase blessed gifts and demand whatever fulfilment they wished. It was said that Kalosinatos had driven out the plague, numerous invaders and demons from people’s souls.
Panorea and Kalosinatos were close, full of love for all and everyone, and above harbouring any suspicion of evil. They helped all those who were in need or demanded favours, without reservation.
They often despaired, but they said nothing. They were saddened by the greed and lust that surrounded them, but it was not in their natures to criticise.
Kalosinatos and Panorea recognised that the reasons for their existence on this earth had not been understood. They had been put there to provide support, love, compassion, and to demonstrate the goodness of nature and the value of life, values that were unknown among the members of the clan.
Panorea and Kalosinatos had the habit of meeting after a day of hard work.
They met on a beach. There the Sea would join them, and she, in return, would whisper of her pain about her own predicament.
“I cannot digest any more sewage, plastic, oil, tar or rubbish. I feel polluted, heavy, neglected”, the Sea moaned.
“I get raped daily. I’m dirty. I have no water either to drink or with which to clean myself. I’m overused, abused, poisoned and sick”, Panorea would cry.
“Oh please do not despair, perhaps one day they’ll see the light. It can’t go on like this”, Kalosinatos would say, trying to offer some hope.
“I have lost my natural clarity, colour and self-respect”, cried the Sea.

It was a scorching day in the middle of May.
Panorea woke up early. Everything had been soaked by the dew of the night.
She was sweating and trembling. Two cruise ships with visitors from all around the world were due to arrive that day. She would have to serve them all in a short space of time. They were always in haste, as they had many other destinations in their programmes. After experiencing Panorea, they were scheduled to visit Kalosinatos. The vulture-like clan members had planned the visits in such a way that the visitors would have time to taste both Panorea and Kalosinatos.
Panorea hadn’t been able to wash for days. Water had become scarce because of the high temperatures. Her clothes were in rags. Her body was mouldy. Her hair was falling out. Her eyes were cloudy.
She looked down towards the harbour and saw the first ship approaching. She had to hurry.
The surrounding area was in a terrible state. The rubbish was piled up two metres high on both sides of the road. The main road was full of potholes. The traffic was horrendous. The smell of raw sewage pouring into the blue sea nauseated her, and rats were chasing passers-by along the broken pavements.
Spring flowers were in bloom, but nature’s efforts to conceal the dreadful state of the place went in vain. The entire landscape had been devastated, because of relentless greed.
She started with the first load of visitors. When she was half way through, the second cruise ship arrived. The queues became longer, the people were sweaty and breathless as they approached the spot where Panorea was selling her wares.
She worked hard, all through lunchtime. The tourists, after they’d deposited their bodily fluids in or on Panorea, left for Kalosinatos’s supermarket. Men and some women too found sexual satisfaction on Panorea’s body. They sucked her blood, they soiled her, they trod upon her while the men in charge of the transactions stood by, collecting the money and rubbing their hands in glee.
When they reached Kalosinatos’s, they fell on their knees in front of the Holy Man, making outrageous demands and expressing whimsical wishes.
When Panorea finished, she returned to her shack, which was well-hidden behind sickly oleanders, wild morning glory, and unattended olive groves. It was the only place on earth where she could find some peace and solace. She did not raise objections about her predicament but now she was feeling the heavy burden.

She fell into a deep sleep.
She woke up at midnight, thirsty. Her body was aching.
There was a lot of noise, music, yelling and laughing. As always, the clan was eating and drinking the night away in the restaurants, cafés, bars and nightclubs with the fruits of their ill-gained spoils. They were in the habit of going out constantly; not once did they wish to stay indoors or to face up to the problems surrounding them. Money blinded them, gave them confidence and an appetite for senseless living. They kept their bodies draped in designer clothes and their faces hidden behind expensive masks to bury their fears of cancer, unsafe roads, rats, drought and all the demands of modern life.
Panorea could sleep no more. She knew where to find Kalosinatos, by the Sea, at their usual beach. Limping, and in tears, she set off to find her friends.
Kalosinatos was also exhausted. When he’d finished he took off his golden slippers. He couldn’t find his old black ones anywhere. His bosses had most probably thrown them away. They’d decided he was not presentable enough in his worn-out old black shoes.
He decided to go barefoot.
He found Panorea lying by the Sea. It was dark, the moonlight faint, the stars too high in the sky to give any light. The Sea and Panorea were consoling each other, as usual.
“Come and sit next to me”, Panorea called to Kalosinatos.
“Take me in your arms. I’m thirsty and in pain. Oh, look at the seaweed, how it embraces my worn-out feet.”
“The sewage smells so badly”, Kalosinatos cried out, in disgust.
“It’s not my fault”, the Sea protested. “Tons of raw sewage, chemicals, rubbish are thrown into my arms all the time.”
“Everywhere it’s the same. Please sit with me”, Panorea insisted.
“I am here, near both of you”.
“I’m sick. I think I could finally be dying. My whole body is disintegrating. I need water, fresh water, water that doesn’t turn my insides into rock. My hair is falling out. They’ve made such fortunes and yet they haven’t made provision for water supplies, for their well being, for the future of their children, let alone for caring for us. I’m thirsty, thirsty, so thirsty, Kolosinate, do something, Holy Man. I need a doctor, a hospital.”
“Panorea, you know that isn’t possible. The hospital collapsed years ago. I can’t do anything. My strength and powers are exhausted. I’m finished, too, Panorea.”
“Please stop crying Panorea. As long as we stick together, perhaps there’s a future,” the Sea gasped.
“Even the members of the clan are not well. They’re sick. They’re rotting. Can’t you see? In spite of all the money they have, they’re sick in mind and in body. They take drugs to alter their moods. Nobody cares about anything. They don’t seem to care that when they fall sick they have to travel long distances to find medical care. They die on the way, far from their own beds, in hotel rooms, in the presence of their despairing relatives. Of course they then beg me, day and night, to cure them by magic, using miraculous cures. They’ve forgotten, or most probably they never understood, why I am here. I did not come here to practise medicine, or to liberate them from slavery, or to satisfy all their whims. I came here to teach love, tolerance, hard and honest work, respect and dignity. What have they done?”
Kalosinatos’s voice was sad. His eyes were sorrowful. His voice was hoarse.
Suddenly the Sea roared.
Panorea grabbed Kalosinatos. She trembled.
A mighty wind whipped through the land. Mice that had gathered round and had been gently licking Panorea’s tears ran away in panic.
Petrified stray dogs looked towards the dark shadow of the mountains opposite.
Enormous mosquitoes were now flying above them. Their faces resembled those of humans. On their heads they had gold wreaths. Thick hair covered their bodies, and they had lions’ teeth. Human blood was dripping from their mouths.
The wind was blowing from all directions. The Sea became wild.
“I’ve also had enough. We must save ourselves,” the Sea screamed, retreating rapidly from the shore and from her friends, and rushing away towards the far horizon.
The dogs barked. The mice ran and hid under mountains of rubbish.
Stars started falling from the sky. The earth shook.
Those among the young and old who were asleep at home awoke in horror. The rest of the clan, who were passing away the night having fun, abandoned their amusements and ran towards the shore.
“Panorea, what’s going on?” they shouted.
“I’m thirsty! Water, water!”
“Well, that’s not a reason for an earthquake. Calm down, come and drink a bottle of water.”
The roaring intensified.
The people couldn’t hear each other speak.
The moon vanished. Suddenly the sea changed direction. She turned back towards the shore. Although it was dark, She could be seen charging towards them. A bright beam emanating from Kalosinatos’ palm lit up the waves and the horizon, and broke the darkness of the night.
“Kalosinate, the sea is coming towards us. We’ll be drowned. Do something!” they all screamed.
A second earthquake shook the land. Mountains split in the middle. Houses collapsed. Chunks of cement, bricks, and iron bars fell on the heaps of rubbish scattered all around. The clan-members were yelling. They saw the swimming pools bursting. The water was pouring down towards the sea, taking with it dead cats, drowned rats, plastic and cars.
“Panorea, Kalosinate, Eternal Beings, save us!”
Twelve-feet-high waves were chasing in, one after another.
Thunder and lightning were followed by a hailstorm. Hail stones as big as rocks were landing everywhere, hitting everything.
The shore where Panorea and Kalosinatos were sitting broke away from the land. The great chasm thus created sucked in whatever was nearby. Panorea and Kalosinatos were nowhere to be seen.
The men in charge of the supermarket where Kalosinatos was forced to sell his wares were running away in despair, only to fall headlong into the chasm, still holding their huge bags full of money.
The Sea swallowed up whatever managed to escape the widening chasm.
The turmoil had brought the birds out of their nests; they were flying in crazed circles above the devastated land. Following the mysterious light, they saw a single majestic white wave travelling out to sea at an amazing speed, leaving all the devastation behind.
The birds suddenly saw Panorea and Kalosinatos lying peacefully upon the wave. They were holding hands. They, in turn, saw the birds and smiled.
“Come and join us!” they called.
The birds hovered above them a little and then sat on Panoreas’ lap. She stroked them gently and they grasped her torn skirt for safety.
The tempest lasted until daybreak.
Nobody could have predicted such a disaster in the Mediterranean. At dawn the Sun appeared, pinkish, warm, timid. He emerged from behind the grey mountains and looked around for Panorea. A rainbow had appeared. The Sea was now calm and had returned to her usual seductive shades of blue.
The Sun couldn’t see Panorea or Kalosinators anywhere.
“As soon as I warm the place they will come.”
He looked closely at the land, and saw ruins everywhere. Broken fridges, burnt-out cars, iron pipes, great chunks of cement and wrecked and capsized boats were scattered all around.
There was not a living soul to be seen.
Then the faint bleating of sheep was heard in the distance, mixed with the gentle cries of babies.
“Any minute now they’ll turn up. They must have gone somewhere, but they always come back”, said the Sun to himself, with a knowing smile.

© Maria Strani-Potts, 09/07/2008

Translated and condensed by Maria Strani-Potts from her original Greek book, Το πούλημα της Πανωραίας,, 2008

[1] A woman whose beauty is above compare
[2] Somebody who is intrinsically good.

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