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Dimitris Liberopoulos book "NIARCHOS"

1.  Niarchos ´s  cemise

NIARXbook September of 1995 was at its end and winter was  approaching Saint Moritz, with its inhabitants getting their winter coats out of the closet as usual. The middle-aged man wearing a striped vest and dark pants sat at his small desk organizing certain accounts. When he finished, he placed them in the top drawer, and then he opened a lower one, and admired the well-organized dossiers and files. The contents of these files represented the foundation of an enormously suc cessful financial future. This man moved like a shadow through the corridors and rooms of Stavros Niarchos's house. He was the butler of the last Golden Greek who sat immobilized as though nailed to his wheel chair. The great shipowner himself was un¬aware that his end was approaching because he firmly believed that money alone would be sufficient to buy out Death.

Three years ago, when he had occupied - along with his es¬corts - the two top floors of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he asked the Harvard professor of professors, Dr. Nicholas Zerva, to tell him the truth. Niarchos ordered everyone out of the room (even his sons), and asked the Greek-American professor to explain the aim of the operation he would perform on him. "Doctor, I want you to tell me about it in Greek," he begged. Who? The man who had never begged anyone? Professor Zervas told him that he would perform a petalectome on him, meaning he would space out the bones in his back so that his spine could "breath". "This means that you will cut me to pieces, doctor," said Niarchos, yellowed by fear. But his fellow countryman appeased him by saying they would give him anesthesia, and when he woke up, he would not have any stiffness and feel as light and agile as a little bird.

The Magnate shook his head in disbelief and said to him: "Doctor, it doesn't matter whether I feel like a bird if I can't also fly." Indeed, after the operation, Niarchos walked, but he never flew, neither like an eagle as in the past, nor even like an ostrich.

 His children, his relatives, his collaborators, his financial advi¬sors, everybody had made up their minds that the Big Boss no longer belonged with the living, but with the moribund, those living in death. However, it was not quite so simple for this great shipping magnate to die. Even though he sensed everyone hang¬ing around him like vultures, he still had a hope deeply rooted in his mind that very soon science would discover the elixir to pro¬long life and, why not, even ensure immortality, as he had read in a Greek science fiction novel, Immortal. His cunning butler had given him the book, thus reinforcing his boss's expectations, pounding on his brain, that - any time now - scientists would an¬nounce this earth-shattering discovery. However, the Magnate -who had lost his speech many months before - wrote to him on the notebook one day: "Even if the elixir is discovered and life is prolonged, how could so many people fit on the Earth?" Tom, the  butler, who had been born, Thomas, on the island of Cephalonia, bent over and whispered to Niarchos, "But, sir, the medicine will be so expensive that only a few people will be able to acquire it."

During old Niarchos's rare moments of clarity, he sometimes wondered whether Tom was a creature of his imagination. Two Cephalonians he had previously had in his service did not tell him such nonsense: neither his trusted cook, Thrasyvoulos Galiatsos, (who died in 1984) who used to prepare the most delicious meals Niarchos had ever eaten; nor his butler, Alekos Gasparatos, his confidant and general duties man. Both Cephalonians, they had been devoted and dependable. But this flighty person, who some¬times appeared like a ghost in front of him, not only did he make cocktails that tickled his palate, but even tried to give him hope that his life would be prolonged. For this reason, the old man with nine-lives, who had come close to death many times and es¬caped, wondered how fantastical Tom really was.

 Sometimes as I wrote this book, lying in an armchair, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine and feel like the Stolarchos himself during his final days. I wondered about the same thing: whether Tom-Thomas is a real person or a fantastical voice, an imaginary extension of Niarchos's two faithful subordinates. All those close to the Magnate agree that Galiatsatos's death and Gasparatos's retirement had made him feel dejected. Previously, Niarchos had only worn such a heavy face when a ship of his sank or was put out of commission.

 Bent over his papers, Tom organized clippings, photocopies and notes, everything that was useful for his memoirs. For this endeavor, he wished that the Lord should give Sir his final rest,  that Sir should remember him in his will, and then, undistracted, he could undertake the writing of his best seller. The old man, however, did indeed have nine lives. Despite his infirmity, the fact that he was almost blind, deaf and mute, was resisting and reacting, roaring like a hurt animal, until finally the shadow would appear, the one that provided for his every small enjoy¬ment, even his hope - a Utopia - for the prolongation of his life. The disabled Magnate wondered: Could it be that Tom is my guardian angel in the world of daemons that surround me lately?

Whether the good angel of the dying man or the cunning ghost of the house, Tom bent over a clipping and began reading si¬lently:

 Niarchos has disappeared from all places, social meetings, clubs, VIP ski resorts at Gstaad and Saint Moritz, Paris, London, Monaco, Scan10153Spetsopoula, where he has not been in years, perhaps since his wife, Eugenia, died. He only appeared at the great Arc de Triumph horse-race two years ago, supported, however, by his nurse. His name has been forgotten and will remain with the unwanted until his death will be announced and the media will refer to the life of one of our century's richest men in the past tense. The Greek Magnate has withdrawn himself since May 1991, when he suffered his first heart attack on his yacht "Atlantis IF and was taken to Innsbruck.

Later he regained some of his lost vitality at clinics in Houston and Boston. It is said that heart, spine and eye surgery has all been performed on him.

 Niarchos had appeared publicly, for the last time, at his son's wedding and at the Lonsan horse races supported and accompanied by a nurse and doctor.

 During the past two years, the last "Golden Greek" lives isolated from the outside world at his villa "Marguri" in Saint Moritz, confined to his bed and having lost his voice.... His skin resembles cigarette paper.... He is given cortisone....

These journalists amaze me, the butler thought; they learn everything, except the most important thing which interests me: that the Big One still has his mental faculties intact and his thinking process is crystal clear, which tortures him because he constantly remember and resurrects the whole of his earlier life. This is what I have to take advantage of: to steal his recollections, even if his memory often wanders in time and he confuses events, even peo¬ple - me for example - about whom he is not even certain whether I am real or the creation of his imagination.

5. the son of an imigrant

NIARXBbookCurled up in bed, he breathed with difficulty; once in a  while he coughed spiritlessly. His mind traveled back to  his childhood years; to Piraeus, to the subway bridge next to the George Karelias cigarette factory; to the flourmills of his uncles's company, Eurotas. Theodore, Nick, Panos, and Yannis, were brothers of his mother, Eugenia, and members of the renowned Koumantaros family, from the village of Voutianoi. They gave her in marriage to Spyros Niarchos from Vamvakou village. An immigrant from America, he had returned with a bit of money, became an olive-oil merchant, wore a wool suit with a vest, liked entertainment, and was a spendthrift, who entered the Koumantaros family to climb the social ladder.

 Stavros and his sister Maria were born in Athens, but in summers they vacationed at Vamvakou and there, on the slopes of Taygetos, the "American's" son hunted small birds with a sling shot and later turtledoves with a rifle. In his seventeenth year he acquired a carbine and the rural police-man, who had a singlebarrel shotgun, was jealous of him. A friend of his from the village owned a skirmish rifle and was an excellent shot. No bird escaped his fire. He boasted that he was a real Spartan and that his ancestors had routed the Messenian people. "Why, what am I?" Stavros asked him and the village-boy answered him: "Your one-half is from Laconia and the other from Piraeus." In order to irritate him, Stavros said: "Why is it significant that Spartans defeated the people from Calamata, since the victors remain poor and the losers are rich even today?"

How well did he remember the incident seventy years later. Perhaps it was for this reason that from the time of his childhood, he loathed poverty and coveted wealth. Living near his uncles, who belonged to a higher social class than his father, he wanted not only to reach them, but also to outdistance them. He could not forget that his "American" father - they said - had washed even dishes and to overcome his [inferiority] complex, he wore a gold watch with a chain and smoked cigars. His mother who could read his mind told him that even the ship owners he admired had descended from boatmen. She missed the point, he thought, as he shook his head: the children and grandchildren of those boatmen lived in London!

Therefore, as he grew older, he avoided visiting Vamvakou because he considered the sight of his father's humble home unbearable. Years later, his sister told him people who passed through Vamvakou stood with admiration in front of their house: "Here lived the mighty Niarchos!" This upset Niarchos. He said, "Maria, 'mighty' is a village word." She laughed: "All right, they said, 'the nobleman Magnate'."

His father also who bombarded him with letters: "My son, I'm ashamed that the community of Niarchos's father is lit with oil and kerosene, in the year 1962!" He sent him 300,000 drachmas and brought electricity to Vamvakou. However, his father asked for more. What could the famous son do? He sent him checks for the church, the school, the water system, and Spyros Niarchos was named a great benefactor of Vamvakou. The community council set up his bust at the village-square: "To Spyros Niarchos, his birth place remains grateful."

 His uncles built more classrooms for the school, and a stone clock tower was donated by his cousin Dolly, the daughter of Yannis Koumantaros, who had married shipowner Nikos Goulandris.

 Stavros Niarchos had many memories of Laconia and the times when his mother took him there for vacations with his sister. When he became a man, however, he forgot all about the place. After the war, he visited very few times, with a helicopter, gave some checks to the community president and the priest, but then, he was hardly even seen again. 

 Now in his final days, he remembered the last time he saw Vamvakou from the helicopter, pseudo-philosophizing as he was accustomed to do on his great magnitude compared to the insignificance of others. His fellow villagers looked like small dots from the air. They were little people, like snails stuck to their shells. When he was young, he also felt as a little snail, but his antennae scented things far away. Other creatures evolved so that they had greater abilities; they crawled and climbed a tree where they freed themselves of their shells and grew wings in their place. Then they flew over the earth while millions of snails, those still condemned to crawl on it. Proletariat of the World, Unite! a fellow law student used to say, and Niarchos was saddened because he understood the man had been born a snail, and a snail he would die. While he, on the other hand, had already gotten rid of his shell, the one of Vamvakou, and Voutianoi, even of Piraeus and Athens, and trained his wings to fly where only a few could.

Here again, he dreamt of his mother, young and authoritative. She was the family's steering wheel and made plans for her son. Old Niarchos thought of her in his fitful sleep.

"Mother, what do you want again?" he asked in his dream. "Can't you realize that I have already outdistanced both you and my father in age? Let me die peacefully, do not torment me." 

 "Stavros, my boy, I'm not tormenting you. I want you to study law, and to become legal consul to your uncles," she answered from the dream. "Mother, what are you saying? Do you aim so low for me? I shall have lawyers and law consultants and directors and head accountants and interpreters and secretaries in five large cities: Paris, London, Zurich, New York, Tokyo!"

She looked at him afraid and perplexed: "Is my boy insane?"

"No mother, I'm not insane," he answered. "Remember? since I was younger you promised me my uncles would hire me at their mills and would treat me as a prince? You were advising me, my darling mother, but I was already dreaming of bigger things." 

Scan10189Scan10188 Scan10190

Eugenia Koumadaros mother * Ioannis & Panagiotis Koumadaros uncles * Spyros Niarchos father

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προστέθηκε στις: Τετάρτη 08.06.2016


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