The Sapphire Elixir is the dramatic chronicle of a fictional village of exiles forced from their homes in Anatolia and repatriated to the mountains of Northern Greece. Refuges in their own land, a few clans stake a claim upon an ancient cliff‐top mooring appearing on no map and overlooking a mysterious lake. Lambros Lambrou, the first of the repatriated, obsesses over delivering water from the lake to his primitive village. The village leaders resist and resentment ensues. When a prodigal American arrives and offers his land as a conduit for the water, the tapestry of convergent lives unravels. Neither love’s amorphous lightning nor catastrophes of nature or foreign occupation can dissuade the politics of thirst and the boiling blood of feud. An ode to our pagan origins, The Sapphire Elixir unfolds amid the seminal events of the 20th Century as endured in a shrouded corner of the earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born to Greek immigrants, who survived the Nazi occupation and Greek Civil War, Frank Voutsakis describes Lake Vegoritis in Macedonia as having cast a spell over him as a young boy that a lifetime later led to the conjuring of his novel, The Sapphire Elixir. Having studied at Villanova and Widener Universities, he has taught philosophy and ethics at Rosemont College and practiced law. Voutsakis is also a composer and devotee of the western musical tradition. Music plays a recurring role in his storytelling and the euphonic realism that marks his prose.
Cosmos Philly: How would you describe the genre of your novel and why did you choose to write in that genre?
Frank Voutsakis: The Sapphire Elixir crisscrosses in and out of more than a few genres, not so much the way Bolãno skips through genres by changing the voice or identity of his narrator, but something akin to chromatic music. At times, it gives the impression of historical fiction or a parody of the family saga, perhaps in the vein of Nabokov’s Ada. At other times, it feigns being a crime story or a character study. There is a spattering of literary camp, and in the end, some might say it features a post‐modern unraveling of ideas. Mostly, it’s a story of intertwined fates, with an array of perplexing souls connected by their presence in a mysterious and isolated place.
Cosmos Philly: Did you choose the Greek American market as your intended audience and why should they read The Sapphire Elixir?
Frank Voutsakis: I did not specifically intend the novel for any specific market as I was writing. Even now, many of my readers have been non‐Greeks, but I think the work will appeal to Greeks. Most of the novel takes place in Greece and Eastern Europe and the complexity and nuance of the Greek character is perhaps the central thread in the tapestry of the tale.
Cosmos Philly: How did you become involved with the subjects or themes of your novel?
Frank Voutsakis: I’m glad that question is in the plural. The novel possesses nothing so grandiose as a central theme. There are multiple themes and sub‐themes and its subjects abound, from loyalty and fidelity to religion and philosophy, from high art and low art to culinary art and music.
Cosmos Philly: How did you come up with the title, “The Sapphire Elixir?”
Frank Voutsakis: After the fact, from a line halfway through the novel. It is a line that metaphorically ties into the Pre‐Socratic notion of the elements of the cosmos. Fire, water, earth, and air each play a physical and metaphorical role in the storytelling.
Cosmos Philly: What were your goals and intentions in this novel and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Frank Voutsakis: My goal was to create a work of art. I didn’t want to add to the plethora of fiction that simply motivates the reader to race to the end just to find out what happens and then forget a single line of what they read in a week. It is for others to decide if I achieved the goal.
Cosmos Philly: What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Frank Voutsakis: I would have to say the stylistic stresses and peculiar accents to the prose. I prefer a baroque or musical way of getting from point A to point B, to the straight and narrow way. I like to read prose with verve, literature where the reader may find a sentence worth rereading for its euphony and its meaning, and not just race to the end of the book. Racing to the end is what television writing does best. The Sapphire Elixir is not television.
Cosmos Philly: Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
Frank Voutsakis: My eldest daughter painted the work on paper and it hangs in my home. The title is Thalasino, which in Greek connotes the blue of the sea. The impression is twofold. Up‐close the brushstrokes mimic the commotion of waves and currents. Then, pulling back, you sense the harmony in a great body of water. I describe the painting in the novel and attribute it to a female character.
Cosmos Philly: What makes The Sapphire Elixir stand out from the crowd?
Frank Voutsakis: The prose. The lush detail, as one of my editors, called it, from the settings to the human motives, and the idiosyncrasies of its numerous characters that drive the tale to its various climaxes.
Cosmos Philly: What inspires you?
Frank Voutsakis: Art inspires art. Nature inspires art. Life inspires art. The Bartoks and Palestrinas, the Shakespeares and Nabokovs, the Goyas and Van Goghs, the Santorinis and Grand Canyons of the world.
Cosmos Philly: What can we expect from you in the future?
Frank Voutsakis: I have just finished a new novel set in the Mid‐Atlantic States. It features a cult whose enigmatic and baffling leader does not think he has made himself a cult. He thinks he is just collecting people in his house of hanker and desire. I’ve also been working on a collection of short stories, experimenting with structure and plot and American characters at least as diverse as those found in The Sapphire Elixir.
Cosmos Philly: Can you give us a snippet from your book that will intrigue and tantalize us?
Frank Voutsakis: With the city choking in the conflagration and the thunderous hammering of heavy guns shaking the resolve of its masses, Christos abandoned his home and business and with his adopted family barely arrived at the port in time. Panic‐stricken families jammed onto transport ships and tender boats from atop loading ramps possessing no rails or ropes to keep them from falling. The inability to control the swarm of refugees turned to chaos, the ramps withdrawn as the vessels reached capacity. Terrified mothers and children plummeted into the cold, clawing sea like discarded entrails of fish.
The decision of whether to risk escape transpired in an instant, without hand wringing, without words or will. Christo insisted that Thalia and the children take their place on one of the three ramps channeling passengers onto vessels. Minutes later, this second set of vessels again appeared full and his family was not yet on the tender boat. Christos cried out at the top of his lungs. The girls heard their uncle’s alarm, turned and looked back, but could not make him out in the surging throng on the docks. Suddenly, Thalia realized Avram was no longer by her side. Now well behind them, he wailed for his aunt. Instead of dissolving the heart with mercy, the cries of women and children fed the cruelty of panicked seamen and the crowd of passengers howling their frightful atonality like a pack of dogs devouring too miniscule a piece of meat. The desperate choice was theirs, risk of drowning or burning alive in the city or the searing slice of Turkish sabers. The crowd thrust forward. Thalia faced the possibility of submission, of falling onto the deck of the ramp. Unrelenting, she pulled the girls backwards, by the hands, the hair, whatever she could grab, tearing their clothes to keep them near as she reclaimed the boy. In the harried instant between life and death, against the movement of the mob, incising its fright, hurling toward the mass of limbs and heads visible at the heart of the ramp, Thalia collected Avram and moved the children to the very edge, placing her body between them and the plummet. Along this tightrope, she shuffled the remaining distance to the boat, seconds before the ropes were drawn and the gate lifted.
The Kindle version of Frank Voutsakis’ “The Sapphire Elixir” can be found on Amazon.