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                                                    by Dr. Philip D. Dracodaidis

The fall of Constantinople in 1453        believers of Mohammed and rulers
marks the collapse and death of the       of the Islamic world, on the other
Byzantine Empire, a state that last-      side. These two systems tend to
ed for 1,200 years and extended, in       move in the same direction: to the
the period of its greater expansion,      West, Columbus leaves the shores
from Asia to the Atlantic and from        of the Iberian peninsula to reach the
the Russian south to the sands of         Indies navigating westwards; the
Northern Africa.1 This event consti-      Turkish sultans and armies move to
tutes a historical milestone as it cre-   the Northwest through the Balkans
ates once and for all a clear sepa-       to the Hungarian open fields and to
ration between two totally opposed        the outskirts of Vienna: the Ot-
systems of social and political or-       toman Empire’ s dominions include
ganization, between two different         the remote areas close to China, the
civilizations and cultures: Chris-        infertile lands of Arabia, part of
tendom in Western Europe on the           Africa, the Crimean peninsula, the
one side, the Ottoman Turks, true         Dalmatian cost south of Trieste.2

                                                               about GREECE        199

      Greece, due to its geographical         ing birth to original literary works
      position, is, as from the 12th centu-   such as the tragedy of Erofili by
      ry, a land of “passage”, a thorough-    Georgios Hortatzis (1637), the love,
      fare that links Europe to Asia, the     hate and war epic of Erotokritos by
      Aegean sea to the Mediterranean,        Vitsentzos Kornaros (written prob-
      the south of Europe to the Holy         ably in 1646 and published in
      Land and from there to the north of     1713), the comedies and dramas of
      Africa. Influences from all parts of    anonymous masters whose iden-
      Europe and Asia converge in this        tity is slowly emerging through
      land:3 Venice occupies the islands      arduous research that underlines
      along the Ionian sea as well as         the value of a “Cretan literary
      Crete and brings its culture to         school” that goes strong well into
      them; many islands of the Aegean        the 18th century.
      sea remain under the rule of Italian
      noblemen that had privileges on         If the cultural influences are suc-
      them dating back to the Byzantine       cessfully adapted and reworked to
      emperors; Rhodes is governed by         fit the Greek vision of the world and
      the Knights of Saint-John; the          of life as well as the aspirations of
      peninsula is under the Turks, while     the people to shake off the Turkish
      places like Mani in the south of the    rule, the Orthodox Church whose
      Peloponnese remain free and other       headquarters remain in Istanbul
      areas live under a quasi-au-            and the Patriarch of Constantino-
      tonomous government headed by           ple is considered the spiritual
      local Greek rulers. These disparities   leader of all orthodox laymen with-
      will wither away in the second half     in and outside the Ottoman Em-
      of 17th century as the Turkish Cres-    pire, tries to fix the dogma, to
      cent dismantles the Venetian out-       make it flexible in order to avoid
      posts in the Mediterranean and the      clashes with the authorities, to
      European diplomacy recognizes           clarify points of the Holy Scriptures
      the supremacy of le Grand Turc.         that refute the arguments of the
                                              Catholic Church, suspected to
      These historical events and polit-      work for the conversion of the
      ical changes leave layers of cultural   masses to the papal rule. If this
      marks in all areas inhabited by         standing strengthens the opposi-
      Greek populations. Some exam-           tion between the two Churches, it
      ples amongst a variety of others        promotes at the same time the
      prove that these marks have been        conservatism of the Orthodox
      the seeds for the growing up of the     priests and their strong desire to
      Greek cultural identity: the theatre    educate the “enslaved brothers”
      in the Ionian islands, in Zakynthos     so that by “science and knowl-
      mainly, is an adaptation of the Ital-   edge” they serve their true faith.
      ian comedia del’ arte; poetry in        The longing for education will be-
      Cyprus follows the stereotypes of       come a standard feature during the
      the Renaissance poets, such as Pe-      whole period of the Ottoman rule:
      trarca, succeeding however to pro-      the Patriarch of Constantinople
      mote a genuine love poems tradi-        will invest in printing machines as
      tion; in Crete, the Italian (and        early as the 17th century, an action
      quite often the French) heritage is     that infuriated the Sultan who or-
      molded within the local fabric giv-     dered his killing.

200   about GREECE

Printing moved to Venice and later
on to Vienna and Paris. Religious
books, historical memoirs, books
of comments on Ancient Greek
authors, propaganda material and
pamphlets on social and political
issues, manuals of conduct, works
on the modern Greek grammar, vo-
cabulary and even orthography, es-
says on philosophical concepts,
translations of literary works main-
ly from Latin, Italian and French
constitute an exceptionally rich
production that allows ideas and
innovative theories to circulate
widely. This production relies on a
broad basis of “wise” or “knowl-
edgeable” persons, educated in
Padua, Paris, Mount Athos and the                                 Rigas Feraios
Greek diaspora educational cen-
ters supported by the Orthodox           ed and implemented by the Sultan.
Church providing teachers and            In these territories will be active
curricula and by rich benefactors        Rigas Ferraios (1757-1798), preach-
providing lavish financial contribu-     ing the revolt against the Turks,
tions. As a consequence, this ed-        drawing up the map of Greece and
ucated elite will develop and con-       inviting the Balkan brothers to
solidate two main lines of thought,      unite and participate in the liber-
e.g. that Orthodox Greeks are the        ation cause for the creation of a
descendants of Ancient Greece            multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state.
and that this glorious heritage          Rigas will compose the famous
will be recovered and flourish           Anthem asking “brave men not to
once the Greek “nation” is liberat-      live any longer under the oppres-
ed from the Turkish slavery.             sion”. The activity of Rigas, trans-
                                         lator at the same time from Italian
In the second half of the 18th cen-      and French, will displease the Turk-
tury the message for the liberation      ish and European establishment:
of the country will spread through-      he will be arrested in Vienna and
out Europe thanks to this elite. In      given back to the Turkish authori-
the first quarter of the 19th century    ties in Belgrade which preferred to
the “philhellenic” movement,             strangle him together with some of
spreading from France and England        his supporters.
as far as the U.S.A., will give polit-
ical leverage to the aspiration for a    Adamantios Korais (1748-1833) has
liberation war against the Turkish       been luckier: born in Smyrna from
domination. The main centers for         a family of merchants having their
the planning and the organization        roots in the island of Chios, he lived
of the national rebirth are the          in Amsterdam, studied in Montpel-
Balkan territories governed by           lier, but established in Paris and has
Greeks under special status initiat-     been the witness of the French

                                                               about GREECE       201

                                                support from the Greek minority liv-
                                                ing in Constantinople around the
                                                Patriarchate in the area of Fanari
                                                (presently Fener) and, at the same
                                                time, offering its services to the Ot-
                                                toman Empire. Occupying diplo-
                                                matic and government highly re-
                                                garded posts, in close relation
                                                with Europe, eager to maintain
                                                and develop its privileges, this
                                                minority called “the Fanariots” has
                                                been in fact a mini-state within the
                                                Empire, a close collaborator of the
                                                authorities and simultaneously an
                                                independent group, open to ideals
                                                coming from Europe, adapting
      Adamantios Korais                         them to the reality of the Empire,
                                                giving them a Greek content that
                                                helped in putting them quickly
      Revolution. He was 73 when the            into practice. By amalgamating
      War of Liberation of Greece started       these inputs, the Fanariots lived
      in 1821, a breakthrough he helped         dangerously: from time to time, the
      to shape, give it a coherent projec-      Empire disgraced some them, sent
      tion, a sense of conceptual continu-      them to exile or decapitated others.
      ity and a realistic configuration. His
      contribution, always in the spirit of     The Fanariots, many of them mer-
      a pragmatic liberalism, is still appar-   chants established in Trieste,
      ent, whether one looks at the Mod-        Livorno, Genova, Vienna, Marseille,
      ern Greek language development,           even India, land owners in Bulgar-
      the philological comments and ex-         ia, Romania, Moldova and the
      planations concerning the publica-        south of Russia, ship-owners sail-
      tion of Ancient Greek texts, the          ing as far as Montevideo under
      political priorities, the survival and    British, French or Russian flags,
      expectations of a reborn Greek            capital providers to the Ottoman
      state. His prestige has been enor-        Empire have not been only the
      mous all over Europe; he lived            supporters, backers and bankers
      long enough to see the liberation of      of the idea of the return to life of
      his beloved country (officially pro-      the fatherland. Adopting the bour-
      claimed independent in 1830), the         geois class life-style and priorities,
      “resurrection of the Nation” and the      they have been mainly the promot-
      first uncertain steps of the modern       ers of culture. Thanks to the prolif-
      Greek state whose territory included      eration of newspapers and maga-
      the Peloponnese and a part of the         zines (some of them with a real
      peninsula, the frontier traced 200        feminist orientation), the develop-
      kilometers north of Athens.               ment of amateur and later on pro-
                                                fessional theatrical groups, the
      These developments would have             spreading of social events related
      never materialize, if there were          to art manifestations, Constan-
      not a strong and recurrent moral          tinople and Smyrna became cultur-

202   about GREECE

al centers of excellence. European
literary movements and schools
found disciples (or enemies) in
these places. A “Fanariotic literary
school” was born that introduced
romanticism in prose and verses,
in epics and feuilleton story telling.
If French influences are present,
Byron (who died in Greece during
the Liberation War) is imitated
more or less successfully. The
names of Panayotis Soutzos (1806-
1868), who is considered the first
modern Greek romantic author,
or of Alexander Rizos Rangavis
(1809-1892), who develops an in-
tellectual-like neo-classical ap-                            Dionysios Solomos
proach to poetry, are examples of
the Fanariotic understanding of lit-
erature as a litterature de salon.        land of Zakynthos. Solomos, the
                                          son of a rich old count and a poor
Romanticism will acquire a broader        young housemaid, was educated
signification and will become a           in Italy, a usual procedure for the
way of life as well as a school of aes-   children of the local aristocracy
thetics and social renewal in the         speaking Italian. There he will be
Ionian islands so close to Italy, so      initiated to the romantic principles
long under Venetian rule, so fond of      and will compose his first poems.
the ideals of the French Revolution       He will continue writing in Italian
(1789) and of social radicalism, so       after his return to Zakynthos in
dazzled by Napoleon and the               1818 and a good part of this pro-
Napoleonic wars. After the occupa-        duction will be published in Corfu
tion of Venice by Napoleon, the           ( Rime improvvisate , 1822). It
French army occupied the Ionian is-       seems that at that time he has
lands and stayed there for almost         started writing in Greek, a lan-
20 years (1797-1815). However, ro-        guage he has hardly studied or
manticism was there before the            spoken. His Hymn to Liberty, a long
French. A particular kind of roman-       poem of 158 quatrains, is the first
ticism blending symbolistic over-         proof of his mastering the Greek
tones long before Charles Baude-          language and the literary mιtier.
laire’ s concept of correspondances       Written in 1824, when the Libera-
between sounds, colours, words            tion War was embracing the whole
linking in a mystical and quasi-tran-     of the Greek peninsula and the
scendental way Nature to the aspi-        Aegean islands, while the Ionian
ration for an out-of-this-world.          islands were, after the Vienna
                                          Congress in 1815 and the with-
The leading figures of this roman-        drawal of the French forces, a
ticism are Dionysios Solomos              British protectorate, the Hymn
(1798-1857) and Andreas Kalvos            was widely acclaimed and gave ex-
(1792-1869), both born in the is-         tra strength to the “philhellenic”

                                                               about GREECE      203

      movement. Soon, the composer            lands) to this new center so much
      Nicolaos Mantzaros (born in Corfu)      burdened by its glorious past.
      put the poem into music and the         There is an “Athenian literary
      Greek national anthem was born.         school” which promoted a late
      Solomos moved to Corfu in 1828          romanticism, quarreled about lit-
      and died there in 1857. No one          erary styles and, more important,
      knew then that Solomos did not          about the language to be used in
      stop writing poems (as well as fine-    literature: a vocabulary close to the
      ly elaborated proses) and work          ancient Greek? A vocabulary based
      ceaselessly on vast lyrical compo-      on the spoken language which
      sitions that modern scholars call       had given anonymous folkloric
      “sketches”, because they have           songs (called “demotic poetry”) of
      never got a final touch, they have      high value during the centuries of
      never been published during the         Turkish occupation? A language
      poet’s lifetime, but constitute a       like the one produced by Korais, a
      patchwork of brilliant inventive-       “middle of the road path”? The so
      ness and the best sample of the         called “language problem” will
      Greek poetical language.                plague the intellectual and political
                                              life of the country and it will be
      Andreas Kalvos is the poet of just      solved more than 150 years later by
      20 lyrical Odes , half of them pub-     government decision in favor of the
      lished in Geneva in 1824, the rest      spoken language, the result of
      in Paris two years later (1826). An     the evolution of Ancient Greek en-
      introverted and sensitive person,       riched by foreign vocables, Turkish
      he lived in Italy and Switzerland,      and French, Slavic and English,
      worked as a university professor in     German to a lesser degree.
      Corfu and then left for England,
      where he married and managed a          An outstanding example of this os-
      young girls’ school with his wife.      mosis is the work of Yannis
      His poems are a blend of romantic       Makriyannis (1797-1864), a general
      enthusiasm and melancholy, a            of the Liberation War, an illiterate
      real commitment to the struggle for     soldier who, at the age of 32
      the liberation of Greece, a call for    learned how to write and decided
      a moral standing under difficult cir-   to present his Memoirs , the text of
      cumstances. Kalvos created his          an eye-witness that goes to the
      own poetical language and tech-         heart of the events, a kind of mise
      nique, a unique phenomenon that         ` nu where the best and the worse
      relates his inspiration to the an-      of human behavior are given equal
      cient times, to an aristocratic         chances, the general keeping the
      standing, to the rejection of any or-   role of the story-teller and of hon-
      namentation. The dryness of his         est commentator and judge. This
      lyrism has the monotony and the         text remained unknown up to
      thrill of a Walkyrie-like cavalcade.    1907. Its publication did not arise
                                              the interest of the intellectuals or
      The independence of Greece and          the scholars. It is Giorgos Seferis
      the choice of the city of Athens as     (poet and Nobel Prize laureate)
      the capital of the country drew the     that 60 years later, revealed the im-
      literary forces from the periphery      portance of Makryiannis, the “illit-
      (Constantinople or the Ionian is-       erate master” as he called him.

204   about GREECE

                                                        Kostis Palamas’ statue

By 1880, a “new” Athenian literary     In the “new” Athenian literary
school will emerge. Emmanuel           school belongs Kostis Palamas
Roidis (1836-1904) is its prominent    (1859-1943), an extremely produc-
representative. Born in the island     tive poet, fiction writer, critic and
of Syros, educated in Genova and       playwright. His inspiration is em-
established in Athens after 1863,      bracing national, personal and re-
he is a unique figure in Greek let-    ligious themes, his versatility allows
ters as he combines a cosmopol-        him to pass from the one genre to
itan spirit with a deep understand-    the other in a kind of mystique
ing of daily life in the small Greek   that reminds Victor Hugo, in a
kingdom. His Papess Johanna is         melancholical sotto voce close to
the narration of a medieval story      Lamartine, in a patriotic enthusiasm
relating the life and adventures of    where Antiquity, the opposition to
Johanna, a young and pretty            the Turkish occupation and the
woman which succeeds in occupy-        “Great Idea” of Greece pushed by its
ing Saint Peter’ s throne in Rome,     duty to reconquer the Byzantine glo-
becoming a “papess”. Alfred Jarry      ry and recover lost territories, are
in France and Laurence Durrell in      closely related. This outline must not
England have been those who            hide the great contribution of Pala-
gave publicity to this novel outside   mas to the foundation of a real na-
Greece forgetting on the way to re-    tional literary environment, away
mind the name of the author. This      form a sterile and complacent ro-
work must not put aside the short      manticism, very close to the devel-
stories written by Roidis, excellent   opment of moral values and of the
samples of realism and social          idea that the writer has a mission
satire.                                within society: to help it improve.

                                                             about GREECE        205

                                               seem natural, the light of the Greek
                                               climate not allowing things to settle
                                               in gloominess and rust in darkness.
                                               There is a thirst for life that revig-
                                               orates the reader and a sense of
                                               unstable but manageable peace
                                               that gives a unique touch to the
                                               writer’s art. Papadiamantis lived
                                               with little money writing for news-
                                               papers and magazines. His Com-
                                               plete Works in a critical edition ap-
                                               peared in 1981-1985. Since then,
                                               many scholars and authors (in-
                                               cluding Milan Kundera) tend to
                                               put Papadiamantis in the tradition
      Constantine Cavafy                       of the great European romanciers.

      The same high value attributed to        Poetry recovers a new start with
      literature is visible in Georgios        Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), a
      Vizyinos (1849-1896) prose. Vizyi-       poet born in Alexandria (Egypt)
      nos who studied philosophy and           where he lived making a living as
      psychology in Germany is the rep-        a low level public servant. He
      resentative of a new trend in Greek      used to work meticulously on his
      literature that gives consistence        verses and print periodically at his
      and physiological depth to the           own expenses the so-called “loose
      characters created by the author’ s      leaves” introducing some of his
      imagination. He is known today for       poems to an audience he selected
      his fictions that have a real “mod-      himself. These publications form
      ernistic” touch and they are written     a kind of chronological (and some-
      in a concise but staccato style that     times thematic) units. Their
      leaves romanticism aside privileg-       reprints present notable changes
      ing the meanders of the soul.            as some poems are re-worked,
                                               others are eliminated and replaced
      In the same context, Alexander           by new ones. The canon of Cavafy’
      Papadiamantis (1851-1911) is a           s works includes 107 poems com-
      true explorer of the provincial and      posed in the course of more than
      Athenian life, a personality that suf-   35 years. Scholars divide them in
      fers watching the human medioc-          three categories: philosophical,
      rity but has enough stamina to de-       historical and sensual, where the
      scribe it in all details, without for-   homosexuality of the poet emerges
      getting that “the beast is not away      in the middle of melancholic over-
      from the angel” and that life is a       tones and a wording that reveals
      kaleidoscope allowing bright im-         while it conceals. This parallel
      ages to form. In all his fictions and    game of introverted-extroverted
      novels, Papadiamantis puts for-          approach is a constant parameter
      ward Freudian problems (before           in Cavafy’ s style. His poems bring
      Freud) either concealed or exposed       in mind Fernando Pessoa’s (a
      in full view, a psychoanalytic ap-       Cavafy’s contemporary) works full
      proach that makes acts and words         of desasosiego (disillusionment).

206   about GREECE

Cavafy belongs to a particular lit-
erary category that emerged in
the first quarter of the 20th century
and had no continuation: this is a
“stand alone” category in which
one could put Kafka and Joyce,
Kavafy and Pessoa.

Kavafy’ s poetry is in full contrast
with that of Angelos Sikelianos
(1884-1951), another lyrical poet
of the same period that succeeded
in moving romanticism beyond tra-
ditional boundaries thanks to his
recreation of ancient Greek myths
and legends in elegies, long poetical
compositions and theatrical plays
that he liked to call “tragedies”. A
visionary that brought back to life
the Delphic celebrations (1927), an                            Nikos Kazantzakis
effort that has been acclaimed but
collapsed financially.

After the Paris Commune (1871)           belong to the upper social strata or
and the emergence of socialism,          to a particular Greek proletariat liv-
the vision of a just, moral and          ing mainly in the country.
equalitarian society took a literary
shape. This is the canvas for the        Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), a
poems and the fiction works of           prolific and versatile writer, traveler
Kostas Varnalis (1884-1974) who          and poet, a follower of Henri Berg-
faithful to the communist ideals                                   ΄
                                         son’ s theories on the elan vital, is
has been rewarded with the Lenin         sensitive to the social problems and
Prize. Varnalis is the representative    hails the Bolshevik Revolution, but
of a literary movement that brings       turns soon to a metaphysical and
to the forefront the social injustice,   existentialistic search of a spiritual
the bourgeois ideology decline, the      apotheosis, the result of a contin-
expectations nourished by social-        uous struggle to overcome the
ism and the revolution. In the           “earthy” bonds. Although Kazantza-
same framework, Konstantinos             kis tries to give a solid form to a
Theotokis (1872-1923) born in Cor-       philosophical system out of these
fu in a wealthy and aristocratic         ideas (his book Salvatores Dei pub-
family, an admirer of Nietzsche, is      lished in 1927 encompasses his
a true believer and a systematic         philosophy), he has been interna-
promoter of socialism (and com-          tionally recognised thanks to his
munism). His novels describe in a        novels, Zorba the Greek (1946) be-
realistic way and in a vigorous          ing the most widely known. Howev-
style that reminds Tolstoi or Dos-       er, all his novels (and in fact all his
toievsky the ups and downs of ex-        books) are supposed to be a by-
emplary characters whether they          work of a huge epic of 33,333 verses

                                                                about GREECE       207

                                              the Greek army in the war with
                                              Turkey in 1922 that pushed more
                                              than 1,5 million refugees from Asia
                                              Minor into the Greek peninsula in-
                                              habited then by 6 million inhabi-
                                              tants, the emergence of a liberal
                                              bourgeois class influenced by West-
                                              ern Europe’ s cultural and civilisation
                                              developments, the formation of an
                                              urban proletariat, these are the
                                              main drivers that opened new hori-
                                              zons to literature. Giorgos Seferis
                                              (1900-1971) is the leading figure of
                                              this generation. A career diplomat,
                                              very demanding for himself, crafting
                                              with patience and accuracy his vers-
                                              es, he was awarded the Nobel Prize
      Odysseus Elytis
                                              in 1963. Carefully studying and put-
                                              ting forward the Greek historical
                                              and literary heritage, he is aware of
      entitled Odyssey a “remake” of          the contribution of high caliber au-
      the Homeric epic, Ulysses being a       thors of his time. An admirer and
      desesperado that leaves Ithaca af-      translator of T. S. Elliot and Pound,
      ter his return and continues his             ΄
                                              Valery and Michaux, he adapted and
      peregrinations that bring him to        incorporated new literary trends in
      complete loneliness climaxing in        his poetry collections published in
      his death in the South Pole.            1961 in a final edition under the sim-
                                              ple title Poems. Seferis declared in
      Away from this kind of intellectual     an interview that his ultimate goal
      constructions, Kostas Karyotakis        was to write simply and he kept this
      (1896-1928), an obscure public          promise. If the first contact gives the
      servant who committed suicide in        impression that he is a difficult
      strict obedience to his pessimism                      e
                                              poet, his clart΄ pops up quickly. This
      and his visceral rejection of social    is the reason why many of his poems
      rules that degrade the individual       put in music by leading song com-
      and lead him to despair, is the link    posers like Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis
      between the declining romanticism       Theodorakis, Stavros Xarchakos and
      and the modernistic trends. A gen-      others have become and remain
      uine representative of intimism         popular.
      and decadence, a follower of Jean
      Morιas and Jules Laforgue, he cre-      If in a way Seferis is close to the sur-
      ated a poetic fashion that survived     realists, Andreas Embirikos (1901-
      for a long time and is perceptible      1975) is the emblematic figure of sur-
      even in contemporary poets’ works.      realism in Greece. Belonging to a
                                              wealthy family of ship-owners, he
      Greek literature enters modernism       studied in France and introduced
      with the so-called “generation of       psychoanalysis in Greece. His first
      1930”. The traumatic experiences of     collection of poems, Furnace, ap-
      the First World War, of the defeat of   peared in 1935 (the same year Se-

208   about GREECE

feris published his first verses). The
titles of his poems, like “Angels
presence in a vapor machine” or
“The vibrations of a tie”, gave the
chance to the literary establishment
of that time to jeer and deride the
poet. Embirikos continued “like a
proud transatlantic vessel his voyage
to the land of Beauty” and his work
epitomizes an idealistic belief in life
and a sacred terror of death, both
leading to a sensual and cathartic
philosophy of being.

Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996), a friend
of both Seferis and Embiricos, the
second Nobel Prize laureate in 1979,
close to the French poetical innova-
tions of the 20th century such as sur-                               Giorgos Seferis
realism, the ecriture automatique
and the revelation of the subcon-           This lack of robustness (in compar-
scious, is an exuberant colorist of         ison to Seferis for example) does not
words he chooses from the rich tra-         mask the fact that Ritsos reserves for
dition of the Greek language and, at        himself the role of the bard, fighting
the same time the preacher of a             for the dignity of the individual.
dionysiac way of living, where every-
thing leads to the light, to a particular   Looking at Seferis, Embirikos, Elytis,
joie de vivre that accepts death as         Ritsos, one is tempted to admit
a resurrection in this world we all live    that poetry is the main genre in the
in, this world so small and simulta-        Greek literature of most of the 20th
neously so glamorous. These ideas           century. Novels, short stories, the-
are carefully balanced in his Axion         atre plays are there; however, at a
Esti (1960), a poetical composition         distance, they do not have the
in a style incantatoire, that gave him      punch neither the aura of poetry.
international fame and has been             Prose writing babbles, remains di-
widely known thanks to the music of         dactic and returns to the same
Mikis Theodorakis.                          themes: the lament on the death of
                                            a peaceful pastoral life, the wounds
Yannis Ritsos (1909-1997), a gifted         of the wars and internal political
versificator, the second Greek Lenin        feuds, the uncomfortable sense of
Prize (1977) and a committed com-           lost roots. Stratis Myrivilis (1892-
munist that lived long years in forced      1969), Ilias Venezis (1904-1973),
political exile, is the most prolific       Thanasis Petsalis (1904-1995) be-
poet of modern Greek literature.            long to this category. Kosmas Politis
Able to compose a whole collection          (1887-1974) with his fiction Eroica, re-
of poems in few weeks, he plays with        lating the impetus and dreams of
all forms, lets himself improvise on        adolescence, and Yannis Beratis
a single theme, reverts to a rhetoric       (1904-1968) with his quasi-autobi-
that sounds like a series of slogans.       ographical novel The wide river that

                                                                   about GREECE        209

      revives the day to day realities of the   disillusioned and preferred to re-
      war in 1940-1941 in the Albanian          main on the sideway, alone but not
      front, introduce a palpable realism       morally defeated. Aris Alexandrou
      and tangible psychological insights.      (1922-1978), in his novel The trunk,
      Michalis Karagatsis (1908-1960)           published in 1974, takes on the
      goes a step further and makes             same theme: Communist Party
      carnal love the main driving force of     companions transport a huge trunk
      his characters.                           and put big efforts to this mission
                                                understanding at the end of their
      The second half of the 20th century       odyssey that the trunk is empty.
      is marked by a series of events that      Dimitris Hadjis (1913-1978), a long-
      left deep wounds in the social fab-       time political refugee in Hungary
      ric:4 the Second World War, the Ger-      and East Berlin, in his collection of
      man Occupation (1941-1945), the           short stories The end of our small
      Civil War (1945-1949) that came im-       town (1963) is the sharp witness of
      mediately after, the terror imposed       treasons and pettiness, a cata-
      by ruthless governments supported         strophic mix that kills both innocent
      by the British and later on by the        and criminal people. Stratis Tsirkas
      Americans, the dictatorship of the        (1911-1975) in his trilogy Lost cities
      colonels in 1967, the permanent           (1960-1965), better known under
      fight of the Right against the Left are   the title of the French translation
      the main characteristics that poi-            ΄ `        r
                                                Cites a la de΄ ive that has been
      soned public life, resulted in a          awarded the French “Best Foreign
      massive internal immigration from         Book Prize”, describes in detail
      the countryside to the main urban         the historical background in the
      areas and to a more important im-         Middle East (1941-1944), in which
      migration to all parts of Europe          the Greek expeditionary army plays
      (mainly Germany and Belgium),             a secondary role. Many critics con-
      Australia, Canada and the U.S.A. Lit-     sider Tsirkas’ s trilogy as the first
      erature turned to a litterature en-
                                 ΄              Greek novel, as the fiction part is in
      gagee approach and style and of-
            ΄                                   balance with the psychological
      fered its potential to the objectives     portraits of the characters, the
      of lofty ideals such as fraternity and    rhythm is sustained and the interest
      to values that help humans to live        of the reader remains constant.
      in peace. These tendencies have
      been established by liberal minded        After the fall of the dictatorship of the
      authors (for this reason labeled          colonels in 1974 and the re-estab-
      “communists” and sent to exile, tor-      lishment of a democratic regime,
      tured or simply executed) so much         Greece becomes a more open (and
      so that one comes easily to the con-      permissive) society, joins the Com-
      clusion that the Greek literature af-     mon Market (the European Union of
      ter 1945 is best represented by           today) and struggles to modernize.
      the Left (a term that includes prac-      Literature seems surprised by these
      tically liberals, communists, anar-       changes and makes efforts to adapt.
      chists and apolitical authors sym-        It will need a generation before a
      pathetic to social questions). In po-     new group of authors appears. This
      etry, Manolis Anagnostakis (1925)         group, composed by very young
      and Titos Patrikios (1928) represent      people, male and female, rejecting
      those that fought for ideals, were        the traumas and wounds of the

210   about GREECE

past tries to talk about the present.
Although this trend has been visible
in all literatures around the world, it
acquires a particular significance in
Greece as it coincides with con-
sumerism that understands writing
and book buying as a consumer
move without any idealistic or polit-
ical projection.

Literature explodes in this context:
writing in itself becomes an opposi-
tion act in the sense of a revolt
against an ill-defined “tradition” or
“establishment” that seems to be an
obstacle towards justice and happi-                            Nikos Eggonopolos
ness. Writers like Petros Tatsopoulos
or Vanguelis Raptopoulos, in their
early ‘20s by 1980, bring forward dis-    wide gallery of characters that live in
oriented youngsters that remain           a purgatorio between the satanic in-
available for “good causes” and           nocence of angels and the heavenly
live in their own world, away from the    corruption of the devils. Menis
adults, supported by their own jar-       Koumandareas explores the petty
gon that is a form of being and by        bourgeois world and, like an ento-
their own codes of conduct that           mologist, describes the small quakes
constitute the only viable alternative    that brought this world down. His
in a world they refuse to understand.     novel The beautiful lieutenant is an
Faidon Tamvakakis, belonging to the       exercise balancing style and the
same age group and to the same lit-       uncomfortable (almost erotic) rela-
erary trend that could be called          tionship between two men. On the
“the small group of not very seriously    other hand,ThanasisValtinos is a wit-
angry young men but very seriously        ness of war episodes, a memorialist
uneasy young men”, a translator of        of things forgotten (like large scale
Fowles and close to the British cul-      immigration or women emancipation
ture and literature, is a remarkable      timid steps in the ‘60s). Using a con-
observer of a paralyzed and stagnat-      cise style, he outlines human char-
ed society that does not allow ado-       acters of lost identities. In the same
lescence to flourish.                     context, Yorgos Ioannou is the ob-
                                          server of a city, Thessaloniki, the sec-
If these are clear signs of a literary    ond biggest urban center in Greece:
“search of the self” within a changing    thanks to short stories, always writ-
environment, writers that have been       ten in “I” form, he builds a mosaic
in the market by 1960 form the cat-       whose small pieces disappear in an
egory of those that had a more or less    ever expanding fresco, where the city
direct experience of the political        becomes an ever demanding com-
and social upheavals during the           panion.
period that followed the Civil War
(1945-1949). Kostas Taktsis with his      While prose redefines itself and
novel The third wedding gives a           finds out ways and means to pro-

                                                                 about GREECE        211

                                                 tance running competition, in which
                                                 men and women, all having the
                                                 same technique, attract the ap-
                                                 plause of the public. If many critics
                                                 and dilettanti complain that this is
                                                 a bad omen for the years to come,
                                                 the reality is that Greek literature is
                                                 geared to the present. The phe-
                                                 nomenon is not specific to Greece.
                                                 Supposing that it marks the coming
                                                 of a new area, one has to be confi-
                                                 dent: as Andreas Embirikos said,
                                                 “we are all within our future”.
      Kiki Dimoula

      ceed, wasting quite often time and         1
                                                     Glory of Byzantium: Arts and Culture of
      stamina in unfortunate imitations of           the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261
      Kafka, Joyce or Proust, mixing internal        by Helen C. Evans (Editor), William D.
      monologue to surrealistic-like situ-           Wixom (Editor), Edited by Helen C.
                                                     Evans (Author), 2001; Byzantium: Faith
      ations that seem des actes gratuits,           and Power (1261-1557) by Helen C.
      poetry retreats in a kind of esoteric          Evans, 2000
      lament and, in the best cases of in-
      troverted melancholy, very rarely          2
                                                     Royal Academy of Arts (London), Turks,
      peppered by satire or irony. Scholars          A Journey of a Thousand Years 600-
      talk about the “generation of the              1660 (catalogue of the exhibition 22
      ‘80s” that follows the “generation of          January-12 April 2005)
      the defeat”, meaning the generation        3
                                                     Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris), Venise
      of poets that somehow belonged to              et l’Orient, 2006 ; L’Age d’Or des
      the Left and witnessed the Left’ s de-         Sciences Arabes, 2005
      feat after the Civil War. The poets of     4
                                                     Mark Mazower: Inside Hitler’s Greece:
      the 80s, bringing forward their voices         The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44
      in a kind of unisono, form a compact           (Yale UP, 1993); Dark Continent: Eu-
      mass without leading figures.                  rope’s 20th Century (Knopf, 1998);
                                                     The Balkans (Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
      From this mass have popped up                  2000); After the War was Over: Recon-
      young poets in the ‘90s that promise           structing the Family, Nation and State
                                                     in Greece, 1943-1960 (Princeton UP,
      to rejuvenate poetry. Their task will
                                                     2000) and The Balkans: A Short History
      not be easy as fiction is creaming             (Random House, 2002). His most recent
      (and pre-emptying) the market.                 book is Salonica, City of Ghosts: Chris-
      Young fiction writers obtain more              tians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950
      and more often a thundering suc-               (HarperCollins, 2004).
      cess with their first book and create
      ephemeral fashions that are trans-
      lated into future best-selling ex-             USEFUL LINKS
      pectations, normally not fulfilled. Lit-   Hellenic Authors’ Society
      erature seems a kind of short dis-

212   about GREECE

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