The Hole, Hiroko Oyamda & Litani Dry White Begleri
The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada & Litani dry white Begleri by Afianes Wines
by Kim Kent
2 years ago
To dream is to inhabit a separate state—one that moves with its own logic and propulsion. Sometimes we know when we’re in it, sometimes, it takes waking up to figure it out. Hiroko Oyamda’s novel The Hole is not a dreamy novel; reading it will not leave you feeling rested, but, like a jolt of electricity down your spine, it will give you much to puzzle over as if waking in the night to a dream that’s already bending and breaking away from you.
With qualities of the telepathic, The Hole is a dream populated by messages, sharp teeth, strange animals, and a “terrible clarity” of detail. Not unlike the sound you make when you run a damp finger along the edge of a glass, everything strikes a “strange balance.” Oyamda’s book unfurls like an insect about to “unleash its pink tongue” and, when it does, the reader—perfectly balanced on the shore of Oyamada’s imagination—has no other choice but to chase after her.
Ikaria is a small island in the Aegean sea that takes its name from Greek mythology—the place where Icarus fell from the sky. One travel site I scrolled calls it “the island where people forget to die,” a fact that seems difficult to confirm and hard to dispute, but equally intriguing. The island’s wine making history, and land, is storied, ancient—with vines dating back to the 15th century—and sculpted by meddling gods. These days, it’s also where the Alfanie family makes wine from the indigenous varieties Begleri and Fokiano. The old vines are self-rooting, burrowing perfect vine-sized holes into the ground to propagate themselves seasonally. The Litani dry white (100% Begleri) is a delightfully wild wine. Foot trodden in a granite trough and aged in stainless steel, it’s intensely aromatic, full-bodied, but balanced by a gripping acidity. It tastes truly inhabited—a bit like swallowing a humming insect, lively, or almost as if you dreamed it.
I suggest drinking this wine just slightly chilled. Perhaps even room temperature, if you keep your wine in a cool place. Otherwise, pop it in the fridge thirty minutes before diving in.
Hiroko Oyamada is a Japanese fiction writer. She was born in Hiroshima in 1983, and her first novel The Factory won the Shincho Prize for New Writers. The Hole, won the Akutagawa Prize in 2020. Both of her novels feature disquieting human relationships with the natural world, strange animals, and the ideals of work as it relates to society. Both novels were published in the U.S. by New Directions Press and translated by David Boyd, an assistant professor of Japanese.
Afianes wines is a family affair. Founded by husband and wife Nikos and Maria, and now joined by their two children Konstantinos and Eftychia, they make wine with a vested interest in the history of place and land. Rumored to be the only place where the ancient varietals of Begleri and Fokiano are cultivated, their vines are up to 500 years old. Most of the wine is aged in buried amphora, and their ethos of traditional methods, and sustainability runs through their entire way of life and community on the island.