Author: Geórgeos C. Awgerinøs
Author: Geórgeos C. Awgerinøs
Geórgeos C. Awgerinøs was born and raised in Athens, Greece and now lives in New York City. At the age of ten, he wrote his first short novel and during his teens he kept writing passionately short stories, theatrical plays and essays. Eugenia Destiny and Choice is his first novel in English which is not his first language, a challenge that as he claims today, he vastly underestimated.
The novel stretches across a handful of geographical locations from New York, South Africa, Rhodesia and Germany and explores several complex themes that are partially based on history. The story essentially features two young characters, Eugenia (Jenny) Corais, a student activist as well as an idealist and Dietrich Neuendorf, a German with a haunting past. The couple first meet at Columbia University during the turbulent years of the 1960's and campus unrest against the war in Vietnam.
The opening pages transports us back to South Africa to September of 1966 when Prime Minister, Dr. Henrik Frensch Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, has just been stabbed to death by Dimitri Tsafendas, the son of a Greek immigrant and an African woman from Mozambique. Verwoerd, prior to his assassination, was determined to put an end to the takeover of the country by the South African Development Concession, a shadow government with its own private paramilitary security police. The Concession yielded a great deal of power and wanted ironclad legislation that would guaranty its several monopolies in the country.
Shifting to New York City and Columbia University, we become acquainted with Jenny and her soon to become boyfriend, Dietrich, who is the university's soccer coach and is involved with college politics and the law school committee.
As the tale further takes shape, Awgerinøs moves his readers back to Rhodesia, a society literally rotten to its core during the era of Ian Smith and its aftermath of the unilateral declaration of independence where we encounter Alec Burnham, the newly appointed Minister of Defence and National Security as well as Desmond Henderson, a powerful shady uncouth character with ties to the Concession who will be playing an unforeseen role in the future life of Jenny. The two discuss some very unsavory action that is about to take place where there would be a forced transfer of inhabitants living in the fictional village of Wadzi to another area by the detestable Regional Armée-Gendarmerie, the symbol of oppression and exploitation in South Africa and Rhodesia. Their primary mission was to protect the interests of the Concession no matter their methods or actions.
Once again the action reverts to the USA where we learn more about Jenny and her parents' experiences during World War ll with the Nazi war machine. You can well imagine the reaction and frosty reception Dietrich receives from her father when he is introduced to the family. Eventually Jenny and Dietrich graduate from university, she in journalism and he a civil liberties attorney. Dietrich is offered a position as member of a UN Committee for violations of human rights in Rhodesia on special assignment and takes up residence in Rhodesia with Jenny soon after graduation. Initially, the couple appear to be quite happy until the protective walls of university life are removed and they entered the real jungle of life with its many challenges and temptations.
Up until this point in the story we don't know much about Dietrich until Awgerinøs draws on another theme, the Holocaust and its connection to him and his family-something extremely unpleasant that he will have to face involving his mother and a Luftwaffe pilot.
As you can see from this brief description, we have quite an ambitious saga where there is never a dull moment with a full-steam-ahead adventure involving characters caught up in their own self-discovery struggle. In addition, Awgerinøs has created a portrait of Rhodesian society in the 1960's as vivid and powerful as it is chilling that addresses several issues including the costs of apartheid.
On the whole I enjoyed the read, however, there were some distracting weaknesses such as unconvincing plot developments, underdeveloped characters, too many digressions, and lack of smooth transitions between scenes and themes. On the other hand, Awgerinøs is an artful storyteller who has produced a novel with an emotional impact that includes betrayal and trust, as well as one's capacity for self-deception, particularly when it comes to choosing the wrong spouse. Leaving aside these shortcoming, the story did keep me reading until the final chapter to see how it would all end with its final plot twist that begs for a sequel.