While most of the creative people I feature in The Weekend Name Drop are writers, I aim to include artists, musicians, athletes … all sorts. This week’s installment from Whanganui ticks multiple boxes, and he ticks them well. Meet Christodoulos Moisa.
Name: Christodoulos Evangeli Georgiou Moisa
Creative fields: Writer, Artist, Publisher, Photographer, Teacher, Activist
Location: Whanganui, New Zealand
Best known for: Owner/Publisher of One Eyed Press, Author of Blood and Koka Kola and The Hour of the Grey Wolf, Art Teacher, awarded 1981 National Poetry Prize, 1983 Queen Elizabeth the II Arts Council Fellowship,
My connection: I met Chris at the Whanganui River Market in 2013 where I was promoting my first novel, Redeeming Brother Murrihy. It was a dreary day and my morning had not really gone as I had hoped. It turned out that meeting Chris was a most fortunate, luminous encounter. He recommended I submit my book for review to the River City Press. I did – and Chris ended up writing the review! Subsequently, we began corresponding via LinkedIn, and I have read some of his short stories in Blood and Koka Kola. I met Chris again two years later during the 2015 Whanganui Literary Festival at which I gave him a copy of my second novel, Te Kauhanga. We have continued to correspond and I have just finished reading his newly released debut novel, The Hour of the Grey Wolf.
Inspiration for this writer: I often quote from Chris’ review of Redeeming Brother Murrihy when marketing the book. While he gave me too much credit in some places, he was spot on in others and it was rewarding to be acknowledged in such an understanding way by someone with his experience in arts and letters, and with his experience living in the Whanganui region. I am discovering, in his writing and in our correspondence, that he and I share that sense of having two homelands, two tūrangawaewae (Chris’ parents were immigrant from Cyprus). It is a rich bedrock from which to write – one fraught with internal dilemmas, but which offers unique insights into both worlds from which we continue to live, physically, mentally and spiritually. I also admire anyone with the talent Chris has, moving in various creative fields. Good on him for venturing into novel writing.
Why you should check him out and share with others: We would expect that Chris’ success as a poet and short story writer would translate into novel writing, though this is not always the case with writers. In Chris’ case, it does translate. Cyprus is significant in his writing and he creates a genuine feel for this Mediterranean setting. Through the first person narrator, a New Zealand journalist who is recuperating in Cyprus after an injury received covering the Vietnam war, it starts out almost like a memoir, but then transitions into more traditional mystery/crime thriller. There’s even a poem and short story thrown in by the protagonist and, even as I describe this, it sounds like the narrative shouldn’t work -but it does. I kept turning the pages and am sure other readers will too, especially as more discover it through its inclusion in this year’s Ngaio Marsh awards for best first crime book in New Zealand. You ca read my full review of The Hour of the Grey Wolf over on Crimewatch, a blog devoted to New Zealand crime literature. Better still, Chris has more to come, just recently announcing that his second novel, Overcast Sunday, may be out by the end of this month.
Sample of work:
‘A young boy carried a lamp with a lit candle in front of the procession. The priest followed, looking straight ahead. One of the old women in the crowd told me later that if the priest looks back, someone in the crowd will soon die. At the cemetery, someone rang the Agiou Auxentiou chapel’s bell. Old Pitas, wrapped in a white cotton sheet was removed from the coffin and gently lowered into the grave. The boy who has been at the front of the procession brought forward a plate with a glass of water on it. The priest took a small brown bottle from under his robe and poured some olive oil onto the grave. He made the sign of the cross three times, broke the plate and dropped it into the grave. Again, he chanted Eternal his Memory three times. Then he nodded to the boy who came forward with an earthenware pitcher of water. He got the boy to pour some water and a little oil into the glass. He added a wick, that he withdrew from his pocket, which he lit and then placed the glass at the head of the grave. To protect the flame, one of the pallbearers built a shield around it from four pieces of flat rock. People then started taking handfuls of earth to spread over the body.
It was then that, on the opposite rise, I saw a man open his fly and urinate. He had short hair and a distinctive sinewy body. It seemed strange that someone would do that in open view, particularly at a funeral.
Then he just stood there looking at us. When finally it was my turn I grabbed a handful of earth and threw it on the body. Two men filled the grave, and then the small boy stood with the pitcher and poured water for us to wash our hands. When we finished, the pitcher was broken by the priest and placed on to the mound of the grave. The priest announced that there would be refreshments at the Muktar’s kafenio. This surprised me. It never occurred to me that Old Pitas might be right wing. Alternatively, maybe I was unfairly maligning the Muktar as it could have been simply an act of generosity. The son, a short balding man in a black suit and tie, stayed behind for a while and I waited for him. I looked back towards the rise but the sinewy figure had disappeared. When the son came out of the cemetery, I approached him and gave him my condolences. I told him that I was the one who found his father’s body.
“Oh, right,” he said. “Sorry, I’m a bit out of it.” It surprised me that he had a cockney accent.
“It’s all right. We can talk later,” I said.
He said his name was Leontios but in England they call him Leo.
“The plane journey is so long and then I had to get to the morgue. The police have been good about it. They explained what happened, but I can’t understand why anyone’d want to kill him. I feel bad about letting him come back.”
“I think he was very content here.”
“That’s why I didn’t fight him when he said he wanted to come back. All of that generation find it hard there. He was dying on his feet. I suppose in London he would’ve been long gone by now.”
“Come on, let’s get to the kafenio,” I said and started walking back to the village. The son stopped, looked briefly back towards the direction of the cemetery and then followed me.’
Here’s Chris himself in a fun video showcasing his cinematography skills and sense of humour:
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.