Erotic Writing In The Greek Islands

short story by Willard Manus

“Write down your sexual fantasies,” Azul urged. “One fantasy per chapter. Embellish seven of them and you will have your book.”

Silence as everyone in the class made notes. Then Ursula piped up: “Azul, it’s not zat easy. Suppose you’re someone who has no sexual fantasies?”

“Impossible,” Azul said. “Everyone has sexual fantasies.”

“I don’t,” Ursula replied. “I guess zat’s why I’m finding it zo difficult to write anything for you to criticize.”

Azul, who was sitting cross-legged on the beach and facing a semi-circle of students, shifted around uncomfortably. His jellaba was hiked up and revealed his bare legs and feet–-which were being burned red by the caustic Greek sun.

“What should we do about Ursula?” he asked. “How can we help her?”

Another silence. Then Rollo raised his hand. “Why don’t each of us supply Ursula with a fantasy?”

“Excellent idea. Please start.”

Rollo looked out at the deep-blue Aegean Sea, which was lapping gently at the shore. The water was so inviting, so calm and clear, that he could barely keep from throwing himself into it.

“Okay,” he said finally. “Here’s one for you, Ursula. You’re a woman who’s been locked up in a Nazi prison. You’re in a cell, lying naked and alone, when a procession of guards visits you. They take turns fucking you, one after another, for about an hour.”

“Zat’s a disgusting idea,” Ursula shouted. “How could you even imagine zat I’d be turned on by it?”

“Your heroine might be.”

“My heroine would not be into zado-masochism!”

“Wait a minute,” Azul interrupted. “There’s a sizable market for sado-masochism, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ being a case in point. It sold tens of millions of copies world-wide.”

“Fifty Shades of Grey was a piece of shit!” Ursula cried. “It was scheisse! I’m not interested in writing anything like it!”

“Okay, then. What are you interested in writing?” Rollo asked. “Give us a clue.”

“I wish to write about sex that comes out of love. Is made beautiful and holy by love!”

“Then what in hell are you doing in an erotic-writing workshop? You should be writing romance novels.”

“They’re pure shit as well!”

“But they also sell like mad,” Azul pointed out. “There’s a whole publishing industry devoted to romance literature.”

“You should be raising our literary values, not lowering zem.”

“If you’ve got to write junk to survive, then do it! You can always write good stuff on the side, the way I do with my poetry.”

“Speaking of your poetry,” said Emma the Dutch girl. “How about reading us your latest work?”

“You’re not paying money to hear my poetry,” Azul said.

“But we look forward to hearing it nonetheless.”

“Emma’s right, we do like your stuff,” Rollo said. “Anyway, it’s too hot to continue with this lesson.”

Azul stood up. “Okay, you asked for it,” he said, scrunching up his face as he tried to recall the words to his latest verse. Then:

“The way is empty

it cannot be drained.

The way profound

you cannot touch bottom.

Blue is the key.

It untangles knots

Softens the glare

Passes the sharpness

of day

Follow the way

Move to your own step

You were born of heaven

Be the way

Deep, obvious,


A silence. Then Emma said, “What do you call the poem?”


“Like your name.”


“It’s beautiful,” Emma decided. Then she ripped off the top of her bikini and flung it aside as she raced into the sea, crying, “It’s time to cool off, everyone!”

* * *

It was a two-week course during which they studied together, swam together, and lived together, in an old two-story house in the center of the village. Each had a room to himself, with a sleeping platform and a chunk of plastic foam for a mattress. A chair, a night-table and a plywood dresser completed the decor, which included a picture of Jesus smiling down from a pink cloud in the heavens.

The first hour after returning from the beach was reserved for showers, with the four women going first. By the time they finished washing their hair, all the hot water was gone, a situation that annoyed the two males greatly. Then Rollo discovered, when he slipped out back, that the house had a cistern. He dropped a bucket down the shaft, coming up with some cold, bracing water that he dumped on himself.

He was drying his balls when he heard a female voice. “So ziss is vere you clean yourself.”

It was Ursula. The stocky, sturdy German woman had a towel wrapped round her head and a glass of ouzo in her hand. “I vondered vere you did it,” she said, taking a quick look at his genitals.

“I hope you can keep my secret,” he said, slipping into his shorts.

She took a sip of her drink and said, “You should apologize for vot you zaid to me before.”

“I was only trying to help you.”

“You brought in zee Third Reich, implied zat being fokked by a bunch of Nazis vould turn me on.”

“Well it’s possible, isn’t it? You are a German, aren’t you?”

“Do you sink all Germans are Nazis at heart?”

“Of course not. But it wouldn’t surprise me if lots of Germans still had a thing for Adolf.”

“You are wrong about zat. Most Germans are anti-fascist today.” Then she turned away, found a seat beside the tool shed, and took another sip.

“What did you zink of Azul’s poem?” she asked finally.

“I was highly amused by it.”


“It’s quite funny, don’t you think, that we’re here taking a class in sex writing from a believer in Oriental mysticism.”

“I rather like zee idea. Zee mixture of sex and spirituality appeals to me.”
Rollo fell silent as he eyed Ursula, wondering if he should come on to her. She wasn’t really his type–-too German, too stolid–-but she was hetero, unlike the two American girls in the class, who were a couple and made it clear they had zero interest in men. That left Emma, the tall, slender, free-spirited Dutch girl. But she obviously was smitten with Azul.

Little did Emma know, though, that the object of her affections was lusting after a girl named Pelagia. A village girl, a Greek girl.

Rollo knew enough about Greece and its ways to realize the folly, the danger, of such an infatuation. Pelagia was young, innocent, and virginal. And was expected to remain that way until she got married in a Greek church to a Greek boy, not some bearded hippie who walked around in sandals and a robe, spouting Zen maxims.

Azul had first spotted Pelagia while she was heading to the square to fill her clay jug with water. Although running water had come to the village a decade ago, most Greeks still preferred to go to the square for their drinking water, which came down from the mountain in the center of the island.

There was a ritual to the event: Pelagia and her girlfriends met at six pm every night and sauntered to the square together, chatting and giggling as they passed by Shaky Costa’s café, where the young men of the village sat over drinks, watching them silently but hungrily. On his first night in the village, Azul sat down at a nearby table, ordered a cup of tea and began writing a haiku, only to slap his pen down when he first spotted Pelagia.

With her slender but oh so shapely body, her long shiny black hair and dazzling blue eyes, she reminded him of his fantasy girl: the young Elizabeth Taylor.
From that moment on he could not stop thinking about Pelagia, dreaming about her. He went out of his way to cross her path, engage her in conversation. That wasn’t possible when she was on a water run; tradition forbade her from speaking to a Greek boy, much less a foreigner. But Azul soon learned that Pelagia often ventured out on her own during the day, heading to the bakery for fresh bread or to the market for fruit and vegetables.

Azul tried to be at one of those places when she arrived and to exchange some words with her, banal things having to do with the weather or the price of cucumbers. Gradually a kind of friendship was formed. They managed to communicate in a mixture Greek, English and sign-language--and to laugh at the silliness of it all.

It took Pelagia quite a bit of time to get over her first impression of Azul, which had been formed when the tall, gaunt, bearded foreigner stepped off the bus in his robe and sandals.

“Christos Anestis!” she had thought. “Christ has arisen! He has returned from the dead!”

She wanted to drop to her knees and kiss Azul’s feet, but her father, a retired school-teacher and something of a sceptic, had taken hold of her and prevented her from making a fool of herself.

“This man is not Jesus Christ,” he said. “He is not even Greek Orthodox but believes in some strange, forbidden religion. Do not go near him.”

Pelagia did everything she could to obey her father, but that didn’t prevent Azul from following her, talking with her. Finally she got over her fear of him. She even began to find him interesting...and rather good looking. This upset Pelagia’s father, Kyriakos, so much that he immediately asked to meet with Rollo.

He had singled Rollo out because he spoke Greek fairly well, having spent a fair amount of time in the islands.

“How much do you know about this man who is trying to seduce my daughter?” Kyriakos wanted to know.

“I know very little about him,” Rollo replied. “I only met Azul about a week ago.”

“What brought you together?”

“I am studying writing with him.”

“What kind of writing?”

Rollo hesitated. If he told the truth and said “erotic writing,” Kyriakos would have assumed the worst and concluded that a bunch of pornographers had arrived in the village, purveyors of filth and wantonness. So Rollo simply said, “Mythistorima (mythic writing, fiction writing).”

“All right. That’s a worthwhile endeavor, I suppose. The village can live with that. But it cannot live with things like nude bathing on our beaches–-“

”We don’t go nude,” Rollo corrected. “It’s just topless, something that’s quite normal in France and Spain–-“

”This isn’t France or Spain. This is Greece, a poor but proud and pious country. I’m afraid that you people are insulting our values with your immoral behavior.”
“We have gone out of our way to swim where nobody can see us–-in a small cove on the uninhabited part of the island.”

“There is no such thing as an uninhabited part of the island. There is always someone around–-in this case, a shepherd. He has observed you for a week now and is very upset by your behavior–-and so are his goats. They have stopped giving milk.”

“And he’s blaming us for that? He must be kidding!”

“The important thing is this. This writing teacher of yours is behaving dangerously. If he does not quit pursuing my daughter, he will be punished. Go and tell him that. Give him my warning. If he fails to heed it, blood will be spilled.”

* * *

Azul lived apart from his students, in a one-room, white-washed house in the hills beyond the village. It was easy to find, though, thanks to the smell of incense that hung in the air and to the sound of recorded Indian music.
He found Azul sitting naked in the lotus position, listening to the twangy music and smoking a joint. His portable typewriter and a stack of manuscript pages sat on a nearby table.

Azul didn’t flinch when Rollo conveyed Kyriakos’ warning. “The man doesn’t frighten me,” he said. ”He’s not going to stop me from courting his daughter.”

“Don’t talk like a fool. He will punish you if you don’t quit trying to seduce that girl.”

“I don’t just want to seduce her. I want to marry her!”

“What? Are you nuts? She’s a village girl...and half your age!”

“I don’t care. I’m in love with her, madly in love!”

“Azul, you’re making a terrible mistake. A family’s honor counts for everything in Greece. To besmirch it is to invite disaster.”

“Bah! That’s not going to stop me. I know how to defend myself,” Azul said, reaching for a pistol that he had hidden under a nearby pillow.

“What the-–? Where did you get that?” Rollo cried out.

“I’ve carried this piece with me ever since I got out of prison ten years ago. You better believe that I know how to use it.”

“Wait a minute. Prison? You were in prison?”

“That was in another life, long before I took the name of Azul and dedicated myself to the teachings of the Tao.”

“What were you in prison for?”

“It’s a long story. Let’s just say that I was in the porn business and ran afoul of the Mafia, which tried to take over the racket when it became hugely profitable.”

“Did you ever shoot anyone?”

“Yes, but I’d rather not talk about it. I’m a different man now, a man of the Tao, of peace and enlightenment.”

“How do you square that with trying to fuck a village girl?”

“Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m not trying to fuck Pelagia. I want to marry her. She’s a rare beauty, a jewel in a dung heap. I love her more than I’ve ever loved any woman in my life. I am going to make her mine, come hell or high water. You can tell Kyriakos that!”

“Azul, wise up. You have no chance of marrying Pelagia. You’re not Greek. You’re not of this village. And she’s underage.”

“Nonsense. Girls of fifteen often get married in Greece. It’s legal.”

“And it’s crazy. Really, how could you possibly be happy, married to a 15-year-old?”

“Oh, I’d be happy, all right. I’d be delirious! Think of the great sex we’d have! And of the great novels that would come out of being married to the girl of my dreams, the young Elizabeth Taylor!”

“The dream will turn to a nightmare of you’re not careful. Stay away from Pelagia! Don’t even so much as look sideways at her!”

“Spoken like the timid little fellow you are.”


“You are timid, you know. It’s in your writing, it’s why your previous novels have failed, why you’ve turned to erotic writing to find success. But it will never happen. Your timid nature will doom you to failure!”

“That’s bullshit! I’ve made a living as a writer. It hasn’t been a big living, I admit. That’s why I decided to give erotic fiction a try–-“

”Forget it. Timidity is incurable. Unteachable. You’ll never make it as an erotic novelist!”

* * *

Rollo left the island on the next ferry-boat out. Thus he wasn’t there when Azul suddenly stopped Pelagia outside the bakery and said, in carefully-practiced Greek,” S’agapo tora ke s’agapo pantote,” followed by the English translation.

“I love you now and I will love you always.”


He continued. “I want to marry you. Yes, you heard me right. Tell your father that. And tell him that I want nothing from him in return, no dowry, not a single penny. I want nothing more than to have you as my wife.”

Rollo heard, second hand, that Pelagia’s father reacted explosively when she told him this. He smacked her across the face and told her he would never give her permission to marry Azul. Soon after that she and Azul somehow escaped the island together and made it to the mainland, where they were married in Athens at a ceremony at the Buddhist Center.

Pelagia took on the Indian name that Azul gave her: Kumari, “the virgin goddess.”

Kumari served as the heroine of Azul’s next erotic novel, “Love Under Aegean Skies,” which became a best-seller and earned Azul upwards of a million dollars.

This also inspired him to sit down and write a new verse:

“Lakes resting, one on the other

the image of the joyous

Thus the superior man

joins with friends

for discussion and practice.”