Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas
There is no doubt Christos Tsiolkas is a master of the written word. He tickles and seduces us with the innocence and excitement of a new lover leading you to places we wouldn’t often dare to go, before plunging you into the harshest and darkest of nightmares.
In the first of the stories in Merciless Gods, Tsiolkas eases you into a world of bravado and elation at a gathering of a group of young professional friends, only to be left alone for some self-reflection as the friends share their darkest fears and shame. Tsiolkas then lands you in a world of incarceration where abuse and hardship is rife in ‘Petal’. Originally written in Greek and translated into English by Tsiolkas himself, it’s completely shocking and the suffering is almost incomprehensible. It’s like a bad trip. He gets under your skin and stays there.
Speaking of bad trips, ‘Tourists’ is so visceral in its dissection of a decaying relationship, that it sent shivers down my spine. For anyone who has travelled with a partner as the relationship is slowly unravelling, it just takes you right there.
All throughout, Tsiolkas somehow manages to guide you through the extreme emotions of joy, frustration, love and shock with such a gentle, comforting hand.
But never fear, all the trademark Tsiolkas themes – those of love, sex, death, family, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, sacrifice and revelation – are alive and kicking in these short stories.
Tsiolkas’s work is highly addictive. Once you start, you just can’t stop! But of course, like all quintessential Tsiolkas, these stories aren’t for the faint hearted!
Emily Harms is the head of marketing and communications.