The Greek House
The Story of a Painter's Love Affair with the Island of Sifnos
A richly rewarding narrative about a young painter's love affair with the Greek island of Sifnos
When Christian Brechneff first set foot on the Greek island of Sifnos, it was the spring of 1972 and he was a twenty-one-year-old painter searching for artistic inspiration and a quiet place to work. There, this Swiss child of Russian émigrés, adrift and confused about his sexuality, found something extraordinary. In Sifnos, he found a muse, a subject he was to paint for years, and a sanctuary.
In The Greek House, Brechneff tells a funny, touching narrative about his relationship to Sifnos, writing with warmth about its unforgettable residents and the house he bought in a hilltop farm village. This is the story of how he fell in love with Greece, and how it became a haven from the complexities of his life in Western Europe and New York. It is the story of his village and of the island during the thirty-odd years he owned the house—from a time when there were barely any roads, to the arrival of the modern world with its tourists and high-speed boats and the euro. And it is the story of the end of the love affair—how the island changed and he changed, how he discovered he had outgrown Sifnos, or couldn't grow there anymore.
The Greek House is a celebration of place and an honest narrative of self-discovery. In its pages, a naïve and inexperienced young man comes into his own. Weaving himself into the life of the island, painting it year after year, he finds a place he can call home.
This enchanting memoir by Swiss-born painter Brechneff illuminates the simple beauty of a remote Greek island where the painter found solace over a 35 year career. Stumbling upon the island in 1972 as a 21-year-old art student, Brechneff instantly took to the rough, sensual rhythms of Sifnos. He co-opted an old ruin near the beach at Platy Gialos and spent his leisure painting, reading, swimming, and walking the rural island; at six-four with long blonde hair, craving connection and still wrestling with his attractions to men and women alike, Brechneff was an anomaly on the island and was known local-ly as Christo. He endeared himself to the villagers, many of whom he describes in fond, vivid detail: the proprietor of the main caf in Apollonia, a beautiful goat shepherd, neighbors' wives, and aging farmers. In 1977, he bought a house in the village of Exambela which he lovingly fixed up and added to over the years. His quiet respect for the island and simple disposition caused the close-knit commu-nity to embrace him as one of their own. With occasional sketches of the landscape and bare-bones photographs, Brechneff's narrative is an unadorned yet sensuous tribute to the adopted land and people that inspired his work.
What an Adventure!
As the cold of fall amplifies into winter, the beautiful, bountiful, blues of Brechneff and Lovejoy's Sifnos will transport you to the Aegean. Part travel log, memoir, identity odyssey; Brechneff and Lovejoy capture an island community, a coming of age, and a calling. Filled with Brechneff's fine adventures and misadventures-"The Greek House" is a must read for anyone endeavoring to experience a culture, embrace a calling, or escape into a fascinating story. The perfect companion on a white sandy beach, in front of a winter fire, or on a plane, train or automobile.