"Unexpected, rare, and a revelation . . . Sarah Kafatou has given us a gentle-paced, keen-eyed lesson, day by day, in how to live as we get older.”―Rachel Hadas, author of Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry and Poems for Camilla
Pomegranate Years, an intimate account of three years lived on the island of Crete, documents a turbulent, stressful time of economic and political crisis in Greece. It is also deeply concerned with illness and death, as the author's husband Fotis Kafatos, a distinguished scientist, is increasingly affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Fotis remains a full human being, authentic and resilient despite his impairments. Sarah reflects on his situation, as well as on the vicissitudes of daily life, the practice of art, and current events in Greece, Europe, and the US. She takes long walks in the Cretan mountains and discovers hidden aspects of the island. Talks with friends, and her own historical awareness, provide her with a rich sense of belonging.
As an account of a solitude, a couple, a family, and a culture, Pomegranate Years is concerned with the question of how to live well at any age, but especially as one grows older and a beloved life draws almost imperceptibly nearer to its end.
"Pomegranate Years is full of the deepest questions: How should we live? How do we choose what to do—in our hours, in our lives, and in the days when the one we love is dying? What should we learn? (At this point in the author’s life, Beethoven and Arabic, among many other things.) Gorgeous descriptions of hiking in Crete interweave with thoughts on painting, piano (both playing and composition), poetry, fiction, literary translation (particularly Pushkin), history, and politics. Kafatou’s voice is compelling, inviting one to read further, read again. And with each re-reading one sees new ways to think about one’s own life. This brilliant and evocative memoir is an inspiration."—Grace Dane Mazur, author of The Garden Party
"It is a serious joy to read this book. Every page is alive: measured and humane, perceptive, reflective, and upbeat in its compassionate and dignified approach to mortality. It speaks plainly, in a level, discerning voice, of the day-to-day art of living, and is as lucid and open to experience as the Greek light under which it was written."—George Kalogeris, author of Dialogos: Paired Poems in Translation and Guide to Greece
"When news that the exceptional scientist Fotis Kafatos had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease reached his many friends and colleagues, the only consolation was the devoted presence of his talented wife Sarah. In this diary, she recounts how she maintained his dignity and her own, as he set forth, an Odysseus destined not to return to his Penelope. It is a moving story, honestly told."—Harold Varmus, author of The Art and Politics of Science, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute
"Six weeks before the celebrated scientist Fotis Kafatos died of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife Sarah noted that the pomegranates in her Cretan garden ‘are ripe, and Persephone will be eating her handful of seeds.’ Whoever eats even a single pomegranate seed will overcome distress. Accordingly, Sarah Kafatou’s journal focuses less on loss than on coping. Recorded so well here, these three pomegranate years reveal their Persephone emulating Milton’s Eve who, hand in hand with Adam when expelled from Eden, wiped away her tears."—Peter Bien, Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Dartmouth College, and past President of the Modern Greek Studies Association