The 14th Thessaloniki International Book Fair (TIBF), an institution that has brought radical change in the field of books and has become a meeting point for all book professionals and fans in Greece, has opened its gates on Tuesday 11 May. This year’s Book Fair focuses on the European South, an undivided landscape regarding literature, tradition, social structure, politics and the economic perception of today’s world. A landscape of affinities and controversies, of common history and parallel narratives.
In this context, Reading Greece* interviewed Nathalie Karagiannis whose poetry anthology The Quest of the South “revolves around the twin axes of disorientation and the quest of the South”, and touches upon the themes of “destiny, passage, loss, origin”. She expresses her interest in the “imaginaries of the South, its juxtapositions, its great moments, its great contrasts, its dark light, its intensity”, and comments that the concept of ‘South’ opens up a wide range of possibilities “from a political strategy aiming at the creation or even emancipation of a collective subject to, simply, a horizon, an always-advancing never-attainable limit”.
Natalia Karagiannis (1972) was born in Paris and lives in Barcelona. She studied Law, Political Sciences and Sociology. She has published the poetry collections Σαράντα [Forty] (with Christina Nakou) (Agra Editions, 2014) and Εξορισμός [Exile] (Melani Editions, 2016). She is the editor of the bilingual poetry anthology La busqueda del sur [The quest of the South] (Animal Sospechoso, 2016).
Your poetry anthology The Quest of the South was recently published by Animal Sospechoso. What’s the story behind the book?
The book came as the natural follow-up of a festival of poetry, the Festival of the South, which took place in Barcelona in December 2015. It revolves around the twin axes of disorientation and the quest of the South and is an encounter of poems written in Greek, Spanish, Catalan and French, by poets who come from Greece, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Russia, France and Belgium.
Destiny, passage, loss, origin. How are these themes dealt upon in the anthology? What is the binding thread of the poems – and the poets – included in it?
The book performs its own theme of disorientation by reversing the normal order of things. It is divided in four chapters, whose titles you mention, performing, as it were, an existential quest the other way around than the chronological one. Destination/destiny gives us the immediate result of the quest – poetry – reminding us that what lies ahead or behind, what is of interest (at once keeping us apart and binding us together), is the quest. Passages (the means of transports, the ways of passing) and losses (death, separations, disenchantment) are the two succeeding chapters and each of them brings us closer to the moving ground which is the very end of all of our quests: the origins – the South and its intensity.
The binding threads between the poems are contained within them: a tingy fruit, a bicycle, the wing of an angel, a bridge, an open car window, the earth, a hand, a cut, a break, a chain, an atmosphere, a regret. In the words or silences of each poem something always, miraculously, gestures to the poem before it and the poem after it.
The European South constitutes a landscape of affinities and controversies, of common history and parallel narratives. Could we also talk about a distinct ‘poetry of the European South’? What are the points of convergence and divergence?
I am not convinced by the concept of the European South, and I certainly don´t think there is such a thing as a `poetry of the European South´. Or to put it differently: I am not looking for it. I am rather interested in the imaginaries of the South, its juxtapositions, its great contrasts, its dark light, its intensity. Theoretically, one can of course perceive in the use of the concept of the 'South' a wide range of possibilities - from a political strategy aiming at the creation or even emancipation of a collective subject to, simply, a horizon, an always-advancing never-attainable limit.
In recent years the interest of foreign readers in Greek poetry has been rekindled, with an increasing number of Greek anthologies being translated abroad. Could you comment on this trend?
Every book that strives to render the incredible vitality of contemporary Greek poetry accessible to a non-Greek readership is laudable. There are many explanatory factors: one is the sheer vitality of Greek poetry itself that, naturally as it were, bursts out of its linguistic barriers; another is the wider and deeper international networks highly educated Greek poets are building; a third one has to do with the side of the demand, so to say: critical audiences world-wide are more attuned to non-hegemonic languages and artistic expression.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
Konstantina Korryvanti (Athens, 1989) has studied Political Science, History and International Relations. She has recently moved to the United Kingdom, where she works at the University of Essex. Mythogony (Mandragoras, 2015) is her first poetry collection.
Photo Credit: Kristina Bratuska
Konstantina Korryvanti spoke to Reading Greece* about Mythogony, “a poetry collection inspired by female figures of Greek mythology”, that “touches upon the everlasting battle between male and female by re-introducing the divine status of women”. She comments that “poetry is a discursive form which allows for an imaginative exploration of the enduring visionary narratives of myths”, and adds that Mythogony is “a poetic project of self-awareness and self-reflection, with a strong focus on gender, social roles and norms”.
Asked about the prospects of Greek literature abroad, she note that “Greek poetry and particularly Homer have a continued impact on Anglophone literature”, which should serve as a model for further exchange, and concludes that “Greek poetry has become relevant again and it would be a pity not to take advantage of the momentum”.
Your first poetry collection Μythogony received both the Maria Polydouri Poetry Award 2016 and the G. Athanas Award of the Academy of Athens the same year. Tell us a few things about the book.
Mythogony (Mandragoras, 2015) is a poetry collection inspired by female figures of Greek mythology. I was attracted to myths from an early age and I have to admit that Greek mythology excited my imagination to such an extent that it was almost impossible not to write this book. Mythogony touches upon the everlasting battle between male and female by re-introducing the divine status of women.
How important are such awards for a newcomer in poetry?
Receiving an award is always a welcome gesture that not only motivates the recipient to do more, but also conveys to others that such efforts are indeed appreciated. Mythogony was also a runner up for the 2016 debut poet’s award in the literary prizes of the Reader’s Magazine (Anagnostis) and was shortlisted for the 2016 Yiannis Varveris award for the best first poetry collection presented by the Hellenic Writers’ Society. I could not be more thankful for the tremendous amount of encouragement to keep getting better. However, I do consider poetry to be a process, a lifelong project and I know pretty well that at the end of the day, awards are just a pat on the back to carry on and work harder.
Ancient Greek mythology has always been a source of inspiration for writers. How are myths and archetypal symbols used in your writing?
Poetry is a discursive form which allows for an imaginative exploration of the enduring visionary narratives of myths. It is through their archetypal images and drama that we can address eternally important issues such as order, freedom, balance, love and death. As Roland Barthes nicely put it ‘myth is a type of speech chosen by history’. To build upon this thought, I have come to realise how easily myths go way beyond the public domain and concern us deeply on a more intimate level.
Classical mythologies had and will always have a place in poetry. There is a long list of poets who drew not only on ancient myths but also on the work of previous writers influenced by mythology. A striking example is that of Ted Hughes, who was greatly inspired by writers such as Robert Graves and W. B. Yeats. Mythological figures are also recurrent references in Margaret Atwood’s writings and have frequently appeared in Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry in a revisited way. This revisionary quality interests me the most. Retelling a story has a constructive power much needed and often hard won, especially for women struggling to challenge and transgress the patriarchal discourse.
Just to elaborate on this point, Adrienne Rich, acclaimed poet, essayist and one of America’s most esteemed intellectuals once said that ‘revision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction- is for women more than a chapter in cultural history; it is an act of survival’. As I see it, and apologies for the terrible cliché, the only way to survive is to know yourself. Mythogony is, therefore, a poetic project of self-awareness and self-reflection, with a strong focus on gender, social roles and norms.
What about your use of female mythological figures only (with the exception of Triton)? How is woman, in all her roles and representations, imprinted in your poetry?
The 23 female mythological figures of the book serve as devices exploring further the female identity. Western mythology introduced women either as angels or devils. The contrast of Euripides's Alcestis, who sacrificed her life to save her husband and Medea who murdered her children to get revenge for her husband’s betrayal is a perfect example of this. My Mythogony, however, stands in the middle and sets the woman at the centre of the universe where genesis begins. It was only just before submitting the final manuscript of Mythogony that I realized what my book was about.
Mythogony is mostly a poetry collection dedicated to the mother-daughter relationship. This is the core and the primary link between women and I could not have chosen a different starting point. In fact, the book opens with a quote by the American poet Sylvia Plath. Plath in a letter to her mother wrote: ‘I would like to call myself the girl who wanted to be God’.
What I mean to say is that even though, at first, mythology might seem an inhospitable terrain for women, if the reader overcomes the recurring theme of conquering gods and heroes, some rare qualities attributed to women can be witnessed. In Mythogony, even the less trained poetry reader can identify the woman as mother daughter, mistress and wife. Interestingly enough, my favourite role is that of the deserted or the loner - if you prefer – as it is a much broader category open to different interpretations.
The last two poems, however, are not female portraits. The 24th poem is about Anafi, a small Greek island in the Cyclades where the Argonauts found shelter during a storm. Anafi imprints and extends, therefore, the qualities of the Sea, yet another metaphor for woman. That is why Triton, a fish-tailed merman and demigod of the Sea made a fine conclusion. It appears that Triton as a young man said to be a messenger is the only one who can calm the waters.
It has been argued that the new generation of Greek poets is multicultural, multiethnic and multigenerational. What is it that makes a national literature appealing to a foreign audience? And, in turn, to what extent do Greek writers incorporate foreign influences in their work?
Emerging Greek poets have shown raw talent and great potential. The vast majority of them are well educated, hardworking individuals from all walks of life, with a strong commitment to poetry. Their work is independent from tradition but at the same time not altogether detached from it.
We have been fortunate enough to inherita highly influentialliterary legacy, so building upon it is an arduous and exhaustive task. Greek literature may have its own allure but when it comes to poetry you need to approach one reader at a time. While I believe word of mouth normally helps and should suffice in the domestic book industry, raising awareness on Greek modern poetry is key, if we are aiming at a foreign audience as well.
To put it in the right context, Greece has recently fallen under the spotlight due to the economic crisis and many young Greek poets were featured in relevant anthologies published abroad. Prior to those anthologies, the only Modern Greek poetry that you could find in mainstream bookstores in London was the unparalleled poetic corpus of C.P. Cavafy, an extended bibliography on Seferis and in some cases poems of Ritsos.
Launching abroad anthologies of contemporary Greek poetry was, therefore, a great kick start. Greek poetry has become relevant again and it would be a pity not to take advantage of the momentum. If there is a just right moment for everything, I think that is high time for public sector and private initiatives to join forces. A promotion campaign should be the next step.
From my experience abroad, I can assure you that ancient Greek poetry and particularly Homer have a continued impact on Anglophone literature. Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Anne Carson, Louis Glück and Alice Oswald, just to name a few poets, have returned to the old texts several times; still paying homage to ancient Greek models and themes. Why not pursue further exchange?
In looking for foreign influences in our writings, I am pretty convinced that modern British and contemporary American poetry are the dominant paradigms. This is no surprise, given that English is the most accessible language to us and a considerable number of young Greek poets have studied in the U.K. Needless to say how significant has been the contribution of Greek literary magazines, such as Poiitiki,Mandragoras and more recently Farmako and Thraca to this exchange.
To speak for myself, my growing appetite for foreign poetry led me to somehow match the Greek poets I have cherished the most with British, Irish, Americans, French and Italians. This way I have teamed up C. P. Cavafy with W.H. Auden, Andreas Empeirikos with Ted Hughes, Matsi Chatzilazarou with Joyce Mansour, Louis Glück and Jane Hirshfield with Jenny Mastoraki and Maria Laina, Alda Merini with Katerina Angelaki-Rooke.
“I saw my personal fears reflected in those of hundreds of young people who have put their hopes in the heavy industry that is higher education”. How does Brexit influence the academic and cultural mapping of England? What are the prospects ahead?
The U.K’s withdrawal from the EU has started and no one knows what future holds. If there is one thing that keeps my hopes high that’s the inclusivity and the internationalism of the UK Universities. I joined the University of Essex in early 2016 and since then I have been co-ordinating the Doctoral Programme of the Law School. As we like to say here at Essex, we are proud to have the world in one place. So, we shall keep it this way.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
Kallia Papadaki was born in Didymoteicho in 1978 and grew up in Thessaloniki. She studied economics in the United States at Bard College and Brandeis University and film at Stavrakos’ Film School in Greece.
Her short story collection The Back-Lot Sound (Polis Publishers, 2009), attracted warm critical reviews and won the New Writers Award from the Greek literary journal Diavazo. In 2011, she was selected to participate in the Scritture Giovani with her short story Agis and Mary, at the Mantova, Hay and Berlin literary festivals. Her second book, Lavender in December (2011), was a poetry collection. Her third book, Dendrites (2015), is a novel that received the Centre National du Livre (CNL), development grant in 2012, won the Young Author’s Award from the literary journal Clepsidra in 2016 and received the European Union Prize for Literature in 2017. Both her short stories and poems have been published in international anthologies and literary journals.
She works as a professional screenwriter. September, her first feature script won, in 2010, the International Balkan Fund script development award, received the Nipkow Scholarship in Berlin, and premiered at the 48th Karlovy Vary IFF (official competition). Forty days, currently in development, is her second.
Kallia Papadaki spoke to Reading Greece* about Dendrites, “a story about the quest for a meaningful life amidst the ruins of lost second chances, failed marriages, and broken careers”. She explains that she writes about “people who strive to make a difference but don’t quite make it”, and adds that what motivates her when it comes to writing is her “fears, compulsions, and second thoughts”, which she often finds overpowering.
She comments that both fiction writing and script writing share “the need to narrate a story”, noting, however, that it’s poetry that is closer to cinematic language. Asked about the reason why in Greece there is a preference for short form, she explains, among others, that the country’s small size and its language encourage writers to “delve into the depths of language and history, to even write in dialect, which in longer formats would be repetitive and exhausting”. She concludes that “literature – its essence – lies in what we cannot see but only imagine: the depths and richness in maps of oceans and outer skies, the crying of a whale, the singing of a bird”.
Your novel Dendrites has just won the European Union Prize for Literature 2017. Tell us a few things about the book.
Dendrites is set in crisis-ridden 1980s Camden, New Jersey, in a community of immigrants who fail to achieve the American dream. It is a story about the quest for a meaningful life amidst the ruins of lost second chances, failed marriages, and broken careers. It is a novel about wanting to belong despite personal and collective crises, where hope and compassion can be found in the least expected places.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a dendrite is: a) a branching treelike figure produced on or in a mineral by a foreign mineral, b) a crystallized arborescent form, c) any of the usually branching protoplasmic processes that conduct impulses toward the body of a neuron. How does the title serve the purposes of the book?
The title works on multiple levels. Dendrites signifies, in an abstract sense, memory – its core existence or not – located at the neuron synapses and its transmitters; family trees and the mark they leave on future generations; and of course the ephemeral of human beauty, as seen in those uniquely formed snowflakes swirling in the air.
A short story collection, a poetry collection and a novel. Which are the themes that your writing touches upon?
It’s hard to pinpoint what I write about. I guess I write about people who strive to make a difference but don’t quite make it. I write about how inescapable loss and pain are and how we struggle to live on, to leave a mark behind, our unique imprint that we too were here and we tried to make sense of this world and life. I guess it would be much easier to talk about what motivates me when it comes to writing: that is my fears, compulsions, and second thoughts, which I often find overpowering.
Being an award-winning scriptwriter, are there parallels to be drawn between fiction writing and script writing? What is closer to cinematic language: fiction or poetry?
The one obvious parallel to be drawn is the need to narrate a story. In addition, scriptwriting borrows many narrative tools from fiction –and vice versa. However, I think that poetry is much closer to cinematic language: there is a central theme, a central idea that holds together a poem or script, images and notions that serve that very central theme or idea, and an internal rhythm that sets the pace and brings to mind the art of film-editing. It all comes down to the principles of precision and condensation that both film and script share in common.
It has been noted Greek writers have a preference for short form and that short story collections have outweighed novels and longer narratives. How would you comment on this trend?
I am not sure this is entirely true. However, there is a certain tradition in Greece when it comes to short stories and poetry. Perhaps we are not accustomed to longer forms, the way Americans and Russians are, because they had to invent and re-invent their history to fight off the vast empty landscape, its inhumane bareness and loneliness. Whereas for us Greeks, history always weighed heavily on our shoulders and still does to this day.
Moreover, Greece is a small country with a small market and a language that doesn’t reach all those big markets; rarely do Greeks get translated into English. That encourages an esoteric search and experimentation in form and context, the need and motivation to further delve into the depths of language and history, to even write in dialect, which in longer formats would be repetitive and exhausting.
Last but not least, we are trained to write in short form. Few writers, if any, nowadays live from their writing. We all have morning jobs, nine to five jobs, wives, husbands and children, and after a long day at work it’s almost impossible to set on such a long and time-consuming journey. Unfortunately, for many of us, writing comes second. The day is full of to-do’s, jobs and chores, and nights seem to always be short.
In a crisis-stricken Greece, could literature offer new ways to imagine what could be radically different realities?
Literature looks like an ever-changing world map: borders change, continents move apart or closer, volcanoes explode, islands are brought to surface, forests burn and grow anew, while man is trying to sketch time and again the lines and curves of his limited but changing world. Yet literature – its essence – lies in what we cannot see but only imagine: the depths and richness in maps of oceans and outer skies, the crying of a whale, the singing of a bird.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
Sotiris Rizas is Director of Research at the Academy of Athens Research Centre for the Study of Modern Greek History. Dr Rizas has been member of the Advisory Board of the National Centre of Public Administration (2008-2011) and has taught at the National School of Public Administration and the Hellenic Open University. He has been Visiting Fellow in Hellenic Studies Program/Princeton University (2004-2005) and King's College/University of London (1994-1995).
He has published widely in Greek and English* on Greece's modern and contemporary history focusing on the political history and foreign policy of the Post–World War II period. His recent publications in English include a book on The Rise of the Left in Southern Europe: Anglo-American Responses (2012), as well as articles on Atlanticism and Europeanism in Greece's Foreign and Security policy in the 1970s (2008), Domestic and External Factors in Greece's Relations with the Soviet Union: Early Cold War to Détente (2013) and The Search for an Exit from the Dictatorship and the Transformation of Greek Conservatism, 1967-1974 (2014).
Sotiris Rizas talks to Greek News Agenda** about Greece’s European course, the causes of the European crisis, the debt impact on the European project as well as Greece's Europeanism from a a historical perspective. Dr Rizas concludes that if the European project is to be preserved, the pro-European middle classes have "to take into account the risks inherent in post-modern capitalism and accept the need of safety nets."
How does Greek Post–World War II history relate to Europe’s coditions, achievements and dilemmas? Would you like to elaborate on Greece’s “European course”?
Greece's postwar growth and prosperity was tied to European developments. Either as part of a US-led recovery or the Euro-Atlantic security arrangements, Greece's economic and security policies could not be understood detached from their European context. Moreover, from the 1970s onwards, Greece's European course was marked by European integration and the enlargement of the European Community to the South. It was a design with the dual aim of consolidating democracy and modernizing economic and social structures of a formerly backward Mediterranean country. Greece retained though strong historical and cultural affinities with Western Europe, which was the model of democratic and developed societies.
Athens' Syntagma square after the liberation from the German occupation (October 1944)
Europe undergoes one of the biggest crises in its history. What is your view of its main causes?
The crisis of 2008 was caused by intense competition from the rising Asian economies in the context of a globalized world and an uncritical utilization by the financial sector of credit tools that led to over borrowing; hence the need for "deleveraging", the cutting down of debts, which is a long and painful process. Moreover, the Euro-zone was not prepared for a crisis of this magnitude. As it had been pointed out at the beginning of the European monetary union project, the Euro zone lacked mechanisms that would rectify fiscal imbalances, that is, the transfer of funds from surplus to deficit countries that are met in federal states. Consequently, intervention to rescue insolvent countries took the form of austerity policies imposed by lenders to borrowers. Whereas the aim of preserving the single currency was and is a legitimate one, the means to this end were almost self-defeating since austerity destabilized political and social structures and generated a tide of Euroscepticism.
Greece (as well as other European countries) has a long history of debt. What is the impact of the member-states-in-debt to the European project?
Greece has indeed a long history of debt although it is not alone in over borrowing. Its impact is difficult to assess. It could lead eventually to the detachment of the weaker countries from the single currency. This eventuality is not very possible though, since it would incur a heavy toll to the beneficiaries of the euro: first, discrediting of the euro in the markets, second, expectations of further withdrawals and last, but not least, an unwanted, in terms of competitiveness, appreciation of the euro. An alternative could be the establishment of a mechanism of fiscal transfers that would stabilize the situation. However, this sort of redistribution presupposes a shift of the political equilibrium to the centre-left and the left or a policy shift of conservatism, which at present is unlikely. The third possibility would be the reaffirmation of the current conservative hegemony and the transformation of the European Stability Mechanism to a European Monetary Fund that would act as the lender of indebted countries. Its logic, nonetheless, would be similar to that of the current arrangements. It's doubtful that it would last for long if growth does not return.
Recent studies show a consolidation of a new kind of Euroscepticism in Greece [which coexists with a parallel Pro-European modernizing rhetoric]. Would you like to comment?
From a historical perspective, Greece's Europeanism has been somewhat shallow. It was based on the funds coming from the European Community and the European Union: Common Agricultural Policy, structural funds, programs tailored for the Mediterranean countries, convergence funds and so on. It should also be borne in mind that Greece's participation in the monetary union was legitimized as a means of sheltering the country from the fluctuations of the market, as a sort of protection of its prosperity. It was almost an ambition that Greece would be sharing a very strong currency that otherwise was not corresponding to its actual economic situation. Cheap borrowing after 2000 came to confirm the false pretences associated with the coming of the euro.
The crisis of 2010 was the painful awakening and revealed another aspect of relations between countries that share a single currency. Dislocation and decay was the experience of many of our fellow Greeks. The story is a complicated one though. European unification was not a shallow project. It opened borders and created a common European space. A large part of the middle classes, not a majority but still consequential, are sharing a European frame of reference. They feel that the European project must be preserved not least in order to escape from the ghosts of the past, chauvinism and conflict. However, if the European project is to be preserved, the pro-European groups should be intelligent and creative: Europe must coexist with the nations that marked its history; the well off have to take into account the risks inherent in post-modern capitalism and accept the need of safety nets.
** Interview by Florentia Kiortsi
* A full list of Sotiris Rizas publications can be found here
Eugene Trivizas is one of Greece’s leading writers for children. Although educated in law and a specialist in criminal law and comparative criminology, he has published more than 120 children’s books. He has written short stories, fairy tales, picture books, novels, poems, television series, songs, plays and even opera librettos for children. Humor, subversiveness, a multilevel complexity and the unexpected transformations of classic stories and images are the key elements of his work. He has received multiple national and international prizes and awards, including honorary distinctions by the US Library of Congress and the Polish Center for Youth, while much of his work has been adapted for stage, screen and radio.
His first book for children published in the English language was The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury and published by Heinemann in 1993. The Economist wrote about this book that "only the most talented of writers can tamper with a classic nursery tale and produce something almost as amusing and thought-provoking as the original". The book reached the second place in the American best seller list for picture books and has won many distinctions. His books have been translated in more than fifteen languages. His book Emily & the Cherry Stalk was voted best preschool e-book of the year 2015 by the prestigious Kidscreen Awards.
Eugene Trivizas spoke to Reading Greece* about what drove him to writing books for children noting that his longing for a story he liked never to end became the reason why he started writing his own fairytales. He comments that “a book should have three primary goals: to entertain children, to broaden their creative horizons and to cultivate their imagination”, adding that he writes books that “both small children and mature adults will enjoy at different levels”. Asked about the way he handles the issues of war, violence, prejudice and bullying in his books, he explains that “through the use of symbols and allegories, you can talk to young children about serious, even tragic issues without traumatizing them”.
As for the Greek educational system, he stresses that “education should aim not so much to impart knowledge – given that knowledge nowadays is easily accessible – but to cultivate children’s creativity and imagination, so that this knowledge is employed in innovative ways”. He concludes that “the more difficult the social conditions, the stronger the need to envision a brighter future” and that “fairytales offer children the hope that we can defeat the dragons and the monsters that threaten and oppress us”, while they also “transmit the message that we are able to overcome the limitations of our roles, our environment and our existence”.
What drove you to writing books for children? What continues to be your driving force?
When I was young and someone read a book to me, I felt betrayed when at the end I heard “and they lived happily ever after”. The heroes may have lived happily ever after, but they had abandoned me all the same. Thus, I tried to imagine what would happen if the story went on. At times I offered first aid to the defeated dragon or I tried to discover where the eight neglected dwarf was hiding, while at others to guess what the last dream of Sleeping Beauty was right before she woke up or even to visit the shoemaker who made the boots of Puss in Boots. This longing for stories I liked to continue and never end became the reason why I started writing my own fairy tales.
I began writing my first novel The Chimney Pirates while still a child. When it was first published in sequential instalments in a children’s magazine, I received my first letter from a girl. “It’s strange”, she wrote among others, “that I feel the Chimney Pirates as my own, as if they were hidden in my imagination and they suddenly woke up…”. At a time when I had discontinued literary writing and was thinking of devoting myself entirely to criminology, this letter – which I found while rearranging some papers – induced me to continue writing books for children. The magazine page with the letter is included in the exhibition FROM FRUITOPIA TO THE ISLAND OF FIREWORKS, which has just concluded at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation and will be transferred to the HELEXPO Thematic Park museum,THE SECRET WORDS OF EUGENE TRIVIZAS.
What makes a book attractive to such a demanding audience as children? And, in turn, what do you want to offer kids through your books?
A book should have three primary goals: to entertain children, to broaden their creative horizons and to cultivate their imagination. When I am asked why I write books for children, my response is that I don’t just write book for children but for the whole family. In other words, I try to create books that both small children and mature adults will enjoy at different levels, as it is the case for example with the classics Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, or The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. The concept of shared enjoyment is predominant in my literary work.
“The stereotypes of good and evil which are propagated through the medium of children’s books are often not only wrong, but even dangerous. They lay the foundations for prejudice against minorities, as well as breeding many other social ills”. How do you handle the issues of war,violence, prejudice and bullying in your books?
I believe that, through the use of symbols and allegories, you can talk to young children about serious, even tragic issues without traumatizing them. For instance, the issue of racist genocide is tackled in The Last Black Cat. In the book members of a secret sect are convinced that black cats bring about bad luck and they decide to exterminate them, supported by business circles active in the trade of cat traps as well as by political leaders who find in black cats convenient scapegoats for their disastrous policies. Within a short period of time, the ruthless persecutors have almost achieved their goal. Only one black cat remains alive. The members of the sect are determined to track this cat down and kill it! My anti-war book series titled Bang-Bang- Bing-A-Bong (The War of the Lost Slipper, The War of the Oufrons and the Tzoufrons, The Alphabet Soup War, The Whale that Eats War) touches upon the issue of war crimes, while the problem of bullying is tackled in my book The Rabbit's Mandolin.
Criminology and children’s writing seem quite distinct fields of interest. Is curiosity what bringsthem together?
Both the criminologist and the fairy-tale creator observe what for many may go unnoticed. For both the seemingly trivial could be be critical. An orange juice straw, an ice cream stick, a confectionery wrapping, a burnt match, a milk bottle top, may hide a clue for the solution of an atrocious crime or the beginning a charming fairy tale. Additionally, many of the issues modern criminology deals with, such as guilt, transgression and punishment offer rich material for my books: the trial by landowners of a scarecrow that dreams of flying and his conviction for attempted violation of the law of gravity in The Scarecrow's Dream, little Amy’s unbearable remorse in Amy and the Banana Skin, the outrageous methods of execution of convicts in The Executioner's Frying Pan, or the unexpected encounter between a burglar and a miser inside the safest safe of the world in The Baron's Golden Turtles.
What about the Greek educational system? What reforms are in your opinion needed in order to make schoolbooks and school courses attractive to children?
Every time I visit schools, I am impressed by the boundless imagination and the infinite creativity of preschoolers. A few years later, I see the same kids behaving like robots. Tired and stressed, they have already lost this freshness of approach, this magic spark. We teach them how to serve reality instead of how to shape it. Education should aim not so much to impart knowledge – given that knowledge nowadays is easily accessible – but to cultivate children’s creativity and imagination, so that this knowledge is employed in innovative ways.
In November 2015, astrophysicist Dimitris Nanopoulos invited me to take part in the presentation of his autobiographical work titled Στον τρίτο βράχο από τον ήλιο [Third rock from the sun]. In the book, he refers to how repelled he was by the way the subject of Physics was presented in school books and cites a quote by Manos Hatzidakis on how he envisioned the education of the future, “an education that propels towards a flying leap to the stars”. This is true not just for Physics books. Many school books are so boring, tiresome and tedious that instead of stimulating students, they drive them away. Instead of a “leap to the stars”, they lead to a massive leap away from books.To make matters worse, school books cause so much discomfort to kids that for the rest of their lives they loathe everything printed (with the possible exception of chequebooks).
School books could well become much more attractive were the learning process to be enriched with humor and imagination. For instance, a simple math exercises like “One kilo of potatoes costs two euros, how much do twenty kilos cost?” could be formulated in a different way such as “When Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose grows by two inches. How long will Pinocchio’s nose be if he tells twenty lies?” The exercise remains essentially the same, yet the way it is formulated stimulates the child’s attention much more effectively.
“The ability to imagine the nonexistent, the process of creating in our minds images or concepts beyond empirical reality is directly related to scientific thought, technological progress and economic prosperity”. What role does imagination play especially in times of crisis? Do books constitute an effective means to talk to children about the crisis?
The more difficult the social conditions, the stronger the need to envision a brighter future. Fairy tales offer children the hope that we can defeat the dragons and the monsters that threaten and oppress us. They also transmit the message that we are able to overcome the limitations of our roles, our environment and our existence. In my play The Scarecrow's Dream, a scarcow learns how to fly, in the novel A Girl and a Snowman a snowman detemined never to melt, sets out on a long dangerous journey to the north pole and in my opera libretto The Chessboard Fugitives a pawn, a wooden horse dreams of fleeing the chessboard and gallop on a meadow of four-leaf clovers .
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
Two years after assuming his duties as Chairman of Enterprise Greece*, Christos Staikos spoke to Greek News Agenda about the mission of Enterprise Greece, the stable increase of Greek exports and foreign investments and the chance for Greece to "turn the corner, as a great turnaround story". Staikos also commented on Greek - Chinese relations, the One Belt One Road initiative and Greece's participation at coming "Expo Astana 2017 Future Energy".
Could you briefly describe the gamut of investment sectors in which Greece excels?
Enterprise Greece is designed to assist foreign investors and enterprises to do business with Greece, to contribute to the outward looking orientation of the Greek economy, to attract foreign investment, to troubleshoot issues related to the public administration, and to provide key investment and business information, by promoting the entire range of investment sectors. The recent European Commission forecasts for positive growth in the Greek economy, are expected to have a positive effect on the international investment markets, thus sending a clear GO signal to the international investor community, effectively leading to an inflow of capital and the initiation of new investment projects. This investment spur is anticipated to be driven by high-value sectors of the economy like Tourism, Real Estate, ICT, Energy & Renewables, Food - Beverage & Agriculture, Logistics, Waste Management and Life Sciences. Greece’s exceptional human capital, advanced infrastructure, geostrategic position, and potential for economic expansion, will act as investment accelerators within Greece’s newly designed investment framework, in supporting the creation of new business, new synergies, and new partnerships.
What are the exports of Greece? In which ways does Enterprise Greece help Greek businesses to reach new markets, find new business partners, and grow faster?
Greek exports (excluding petroleum products) have demonstrated a significant, but above all stable increase during the last few years. From 16.9 billion Euro in 2014, Greek exports increased to 18.4 billion Euro in 2015 and to 18.6 billion Euro in 2016. Once focused on the safe and strong domestic demand, Greek companies and entrepreneurs especially on SME level found themselves having to start exploring new opportunities for new business development offered through export trade. Greek businesses, through the necessary support from state agencies, are now enabled to follow this new trend and build upon this positive momentum. Enterprise Greece as the competent state agency mandated to promote and facilitate exports, has designed a diversified exports trade promotion program in key business sectors, inspired by the current trade trends and feedback from the Greek companies. This program has so far demonstrated an impressive and steady increase of Greek company participation in export trade related actions and initiatives. The success of this program is more evident in several exhibitions we have participated by organising national pavilions, where the number of participating companies has demonstrated a y-o-y increase at a rate of 10% to 50%, depending on the fair. We provide the full spectrum of services related to international business relationships and domestic business development for the international market. Enterprise Greece addresses the international business community with a variety of outreach events and missions, and supports investment and trade delegations, both incoming and outgoing, and (co-)organizes the business component of official Presidential, Prime Ministerial, and Ministerial missions abroad. A key component of the international outreach program of Enterprise Greece is its integrated relationship with Greek Embassies throughout the world and close cooperation with the Offices of Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This unified approach allows the global business community to reach multiple points of contact in conducting transactions with Greece’s public and private sector organisations.
In Greece since 2015 there has been an increase in both foreign direct investments and exports. How do you explain this increase? Does this trend has an impact on Greek economic growth?
As I have already mentioned we have recorded a strong growth on exports, whereas on foreign investments in 2016 FDI Inflows (net) stood at nearly 2.8 billion Euro, significantly higher than that of 2015 (1.02 billion Euro) and higher than that of 2014 (2.02 billion Euro). Apart from the major shift in the orientation of the Greek business community in becoming more extrovert and seeking new business opportunities abroad, on another level the Greek government has set key priorities for economic growth: a) to create high value and set the conditions for inclusive growth, b) to create new jobs by capitalizing on the high caliber of human capital, c) To promote outward looking and export oriented sectors and d) to support innovative and dynamic companies through a lean and supporting public sector and a stable environmental friendly framework for investments. In parallel, a new set of policy measures is under implementation, including: the absorption of the available Structural Funds for the period 2014-2020, the new investment law and the provision of investment incentives for new investments, the cooperation with international financial institutions like EIB, EIF, EBRD, IFC, Black Sea Trade & Development Bank, etc., to increase liquidity and ease investment financing, the newly launched NPLs framework, the acceleration of the privatization agenda and the new licensing framework designed in cooperation with World Bank. We have seen that this new reform agenda is paying back and we now do have early signs of economic growth in the economy, namely export development and new investments, as I mentioned before.
Enterprise Greece has rolled out an ambitious development strategy focusing on Greek high quality food & wine products. What do you what to achieve with this strategy and what are the results so far ?
Greek food and wine are famous of their premium quality. Since 2015 we’ve been actively promoting Greek food and wine exports through various promotional activities. We organize the national participation at the biggest food exhibitions in the world where under the slogan ‘Invest in Taste’, we invite trade visitors to select Greek products, ‘investing’ in that way to good health and their well being, the main attributes of the Mediterranean diet. About our wine, the indigenous Greek varieties are becoming more and more famous all over the world, thanks to increased promotion and the growing number of tourists visiting Greece every year and taking the opportunity to sample our unique grape varieties. Recent data show that Greek wine is increasing its market share in competitive international markets, in the US, Northern Europe and South East Asia. Our promotion strategy consists of alternative promotional activities in those markets, implemented in cooperation with the Greek Wine Association. The results are more than satisfactory so far, with the Greek food and wine exports increasing by 10% between 2015 and 2016 reaching 4,2 billion euro, defying the unfavorable global economic climate.
Is it a good period to invest in Greece? What are the most attractive investment opportunities for foreign investors ?
Greece today is ready to turn the corner, as a great turnaround story. Greece has been in a process to overhaul its economy towards Foreign Direct Investments and Export trade. Reforms and structural adjustments are in the frontline and it is now evident to all that there is a strong commitment to change in Greece, enabled by the political leadership. There is a new viewing angle now, it actively fosters relations with international investors and business leaders looking at the international markets and establishing lasting partnerships. Most importantly though it is the society as a whole which has embraced the narrative of change, and is supporting the changes and engaging with the global community. With so many changes happening in the economy we are bound to create at least as many opportunities: our tourism industry a recognized international leader, the rapidly developing mobile-tech and high-tech industries which are increasingly attracting global attention, diverse business sectors such as minerals, biotech, and environmental management continue to offer broad investment and trade opportunities, new energy sources and networks are reshaping our energy sector, the developing international sector of economic residence drives our competitive yet prime real estate sector, the worldwide popularity of the Mediterranean diet is rejuvenating and growing our food and beverage industry, Greece’s geographical position as a gateway between East and West renders it highly attractive for investments in logistics and transport. Enterprise Greece is continuously promoting investment opportunities in all these sectors, to interested investors that contact us.
There is a view that China will benefit disproportionately enormously in Europe with the Belt and Road project. In your opinion is the New Silk Road initiative bringing risks for Greece? How Greece could benefit from this initiative?
Greece and China both have a long cultural heritage, they both share a deep appreciation on each other’s culture, their diplomatic relations span for nearly half a century and over the last 11 years they have forged a strong bilateral strategic partnership. This partnership initiated with the investment of COSCO at Piraeus port, a project that transformed Greece to a major hub of the OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative through the positioning of Greece in the Maritime Silk Road. It is one of the largest investments taking place in Greece, with major spillover growth effects on various sectors of the economy. Greece, despite being a small country in size though with significant presence, has followed the OBOR initiative is looking to cooperate with Chinese in this framework, as a European country . Within that context our PM Alexis Tsipras will be visiting Beijing for one more time in Mid May to participate on high-level meetings of the OBOR initiative about infrastructure development in the Middle-East, Central Asia and the fringes of Europe, necessary for the deployment of the “New Silk Road”. We have the chance to be part of China’s maritime route to Europe and effectively the entrance to the European market, and this brings profound benefits for Greece on its trade, shipping and tourism industries, with solid expectations shaping on a monthly basis for new business development and growth on infrastructure, transport, real estate, energy, shipbuilding, agriculture and construction sectors. Following COSCO’s investment in Piraeus several other smaller or bigger business deals have realised all over Greece by Chinese organizations thus creating win-win situations for all.
Enterprise Greece is participating at the coming Expo Astana 2017 Future Energy. What are your expectations of this participation?
Indeed we are very happy to participate at "EXPO ASTANA 2017" world exhibition and we have a first class opportunity to strengthen the long-standing close cooperation we always shared between our two countries, Kazakhstan and Greece. The fact that the exhibition focuses on energy issues is of particular importance to Greece, especially as our country is undertaking a comprehensive transformation of its energy sector with enhanced social care attributes, cross-border cooperation and security in the region, diversification of its energy supply and further change on its energy mix, with further development of renewable energy sources. On the other hand Greece acting as an important partner in the wider Balkan region, will give new impetus to the economic and cultural bilateral relations of the two countries, given that in Kazakhstan the existing Greek diaspora exceeds 10,000 people. The exhibition itself is an important international forum that gives Greece the opportunity to promote the high level of know-how and experience of Greek companies in the field of renewable energy and to attract foreign direct investment both in the energy sector and in other strategic economic sectors. The aim is to utilize "EXPO ASTANA 2017" as an international platform to promote Greek products, to strengthen Greek exports to the wider market and to promote our country as a unique tourist destination, as the exhibition is expected to welcome more than 10 million visitors.
*ENTERPRISE GREECE is the official agency of the Greek State, under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy & Development, to showcase Greece as an attractive destination for investment and to promote the highly competitive products and services produced in Greece for export. Enterprise Greece assists foreign investors and enterprises to do business with Greece, troubleshoots issues related to the public administration, provides key information about Greece as an investment destination and promotes the investment sectors in which Greece excels. In addition, it promotes Greek products and services to the global marketplace, helps Greek businesses reach new markets, find new business partners, and become more competitive and attractive. To learn more about the many investment and trade opportunities Greece offers, visit www.enterprisegreece.gov.gr
Interview by Irini Anastopoulou
Stathis Intzes is a poet and an editor. He has published two poetry collections Gadium (Thraka, 2017) and Σεληνάκατος [Lunar Module] (Mandragoras, 2013), and a novella Οι τελευταίοι φανατικοί της στρωματσάδας [Τhe last lovers of bedding on the floor] (Thraka, 2014). He is the editor of “Thraka” Literary Magazine and Editions. His novel Οι ανειδίκευτοι δεν βγάζουν κιχ [The unskilled make no sound] is expected soon by Melani Editions.
Stathis Intzes spoke to Reading Greece* about Gadium, a poem structured in seven parts and Οι ανειδίκευτοι δεν βγάζουν κιχ, “a humorous story, surreal and post-modern, ending up in a dystopic environment”. He notes that “Thaka” was born out of “love for books and especially poetry”, commenting that “the time when publishing houses were large companies offering a wide range of books is long gone” and that “specialization restores readers’ relationship with the publisher”. He concludes that “our era will bring to the fore some great writers. We just have to be patient and leave books do their ‘job’”.
Your new poetry collection Gadium was recently published, while your novel Οι ανειδίκευτοι δεν βγάζουν κιχ is expected soon by Melani Editions. Tell us a few things about both books.
Gadium is not exactly a poetry collection. It’s a poem structured in seven parts. It’s about an heirless traveler chronicling instances in seven distinct historic eras. It is seven poems, seven ‘snapshots’ of every era, from that of Phoenician prosperity to the Spanish civil war. As for the novel Οι ανειδίκευτοι δεν βγάζουν κιχ, which will be published soon, it tells the story of an unskilled factory worker who suddenly realizes the supernatural strength of his left hand. From then on unfolds a humorous story, surreal and post-modern, ending up in a dystopic environment.
Together with Thanos Gogos, you are the editors of “Thraka” Literary Magazine and Editions. How did you decide to embark on such a publishing venture amidst the crisis?
It was our love for books and especially poetry. We wanted to create a medium (either through the magazine or our editions) in order to promote the work of writers worthy of having their voice heard.
What is to be expected from Thraka in 2017?
The new poetry collections of Yiorgos Lillis and Petros Golitsis will first be published, followed by newcomers Eva Spathara and Panagiotis Dimitriadis. As for prose, the new novels of Olvia Papailiou and Petros Birbilis are underway.
How do you respond to those that argue that the crisis has broken the ties that connect readers with the choices and orientation of traditional publishers, creating an aesthetic and intellectual space that remain to be filled?
I believe that the so-called era of the “crisis” Greece is currently going through has also had some positive side-effects, which is the establishment of some new publishing houses with expertise in specific fields. For instance, you could say that "Thraka" specializes in poetry, another publishing house in prose, yet another in essays etc. It seems that the time when publishing houses were large companies offering a wide range of books (from children’s books and literature to scientific books) is long gone. In this framework, I believe that specialization restores readers’ relationship with the publisher as well, given that they know what to expect and by whom.
In recent years, there has been an extraordinary burgeoning of poetry in every form: graffiti, blogs, literary magazines, readings in public squares to mention just a few. How is this trend to be explained?
Poetry is an art whose expression doesn’t cost much (as e.g. in the case of a professional camera for an aspiring director). It can take form by noting down some simple verses which a person of average intelligence has the ability to produce. As for the over-abundance of poets that is noted lately, it has to do with current adverse conditions resulting in the need for poetic expression. Besides, as is often said, Greeks have poetry in their blood.
What about contemporary Greek literature? Does the new generation of Greek writers have the potential to attract readers both in Greece and abroad?
I was informed that many books by Greek writers translated in French were on display at the recent International Book Fair in Paris. That is more than encouraging. As for the new generation of Greek writers, there are many promising voices both in prose and in poetry. I believe that our era will bring to the fore some great writers. We just have to be patient and leave books do their ‘job’.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
David Mason, Poet Laureate of the state of Colorado (2010-2014) and teacher at Colorado College, is the author of the award-winning poetry collections: The Buried Houses (1991), Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize; The Country I Remember (1996), Αlice Fay Di Castagnola Award; and the verse novel Ludlow (2007), named best book of poetry in 2007 by the Contemporary Poetry Review and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He has edited and co-edited several anthologies and has authored dozens of poems, essays, reviews, translations, stories and memoirs.
In 1980 he came to Greece, where he lived for just over a year in Kardamyli, Greece, in the Mani district of southernmost part of the Peloponnese. He returned to Greece on a Fulbright fellowship in 1996-97. He has written extensively about his experiences in Greece: a book of poetry Arrivals (2004) and a book of memoirs News from the Village: Aegean Friends (2010). As a librettist, Mason collaborated with Lori Laitman on her opera The Scarlet Letter and on an award-winning opera adaptation of Ludlow. His one-act opera with composer Tom Cipullo, After Life, won the 2017 Dominick Argento Prize for Best Chamber Opera from the National Opera Association.
David Mason spoke to Reading Greece* about the main themes his poetry touches upon, noting that “the scars and abrasions of a vagabond life have given me subjects”, adding that he wanted to write “what it feels like to live in a body even when the body does not happen to be [his] own”. He comments that much of his consciousness “is heavily laden with Greek mythology and literature”, explaining that the “tragic sense of life”, which came to him via the Greeks, is the way he views life on this earth.
Asked about the role of poetry in times of crisis, he quotes Shakespeare’s MacBeth that in dire times we must “give sorrow words”, concluding although human being may not be capable of eliminating conflict altogether, “we can find language to help us grieve and even laugh together, to help us memorialize our time on earth”.
A poet, essayist, librettist, translator and editor with a major contribution to the rejuvenation of meter and narrative in American poetry. What is the binding thread?
This is a very generous description as well as a question. I suppose I have done many kinds of writing, but none of them were ever planned. What event in my life sent me in all of these directions? I wanted to write. I was interested in theatre and performance, and I loved poetry. One follows the threads where they lead. Friendships with figures like Dana Gioia, Yiorgos Chouliaras, Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, Patrick Leigh Fermor offered me opportunities for kinds of work, from poetry to translation to memoir. An introduction to composer Lori Laitman led to commissions to write libretti, which I have now also done with composer Tom Cipullo. I may even be returning to my roots in drama and fiction writing—we shall see. Meanwhile, essays and reviews get written in an effort to make money as well as to clarify my thinking about all of these things. Perhaps one day I will find the connections between these interests. For now, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to pursue them.
“Always preparing to arrive/ I suffer the deaths of many friends, / survive, surprised to be alive. / My story’s told, but never ends”. What are the main themes your poetry touches upon?
I’m grateful to you for quoting that poem, “The Dream of Arrival,” which is a fanciful retelling of a scene in Homer, rather as Greek poets sometimes revise myth and history. It was Seferis who said the poet had only one subject: his living body. Or her living body, as the case may be. So the scars and abrasions of a vagabond life have given me subjects. But I’m also not satisfied with the letter “I,” and want to write about people other than myself. I want to acknowledge our common trials, as well as the inconclusiveness and ephemerality of our experience. I want to write what it feels like to live in a body even when the body does not happen to be my own.
“Greece in Mason’s poems is both Epicurean and Homeric; it is an image of intense sensual presence and unreflective vitality – part of his drive to “feel more alive in [his] own skin”. What does Greece represent for you? How is the Greek experience imprinted in you literary work?
I love Greece. I love the Greek people—their history, their struggles, their language, their vitality. Greeks have been generous to me in more ways than I can possibly list, and I have also written about Greek immigrants in America and Australia. There is an element of unreality in that I have often been footloose while in Greece—unfettered in ways I feel fettered in America. So you might say even my years of contact with Greece include a kind of cultural sampling. But I plead love as my excuse, and hope I have been a loyal and truthful lover of Greece. Also, my own native tongue, English, is partly made from Greek, and much of my consciousness is heavily laden with Greek mythology and literature. Ellenismos is unavoidable to me. The “tragic sense of life,” to borrow Unamuno’s phrase, comes to me via the Greeks, and it really is the way I view our life on this earth.
“Fearing he has lost Greece and everything it has meant in his life, Mason goes back again and again to the country he knew as a young man”. Tell us a few things about your memoir News from the Village.
It is the book I most wish I could rewrite, yet I was writing and revising it for many years, trying to get it right. When I returned to Greece in 1996 after a 15-year absence I suddenly felt I had a story to tell. Whether my story of coming of age and growing in relation to a village of which I was only very marginally a part is useful or not I cannot say. It’s a story in some sense of youthful delusions and trying to grow into an adult awareness of reality and responsibility. But the big problem in the book has to do with a relatively small number of its pages. I was lying in the book about my personal life, unwilling to do what the bravest memoirists do and really openly talk about their lives. I should either have been more honest about my private life or cut it out altogether. The pages about other people—Yiorgos, Katerina, Paddy and others—are the best parts of the book.
One of the main characters in Ludlow, Louis Tikas, is from Crete and his Greekness and that of others in the miners’ camp is a main feature of the story. How are the themes of roots and uprootedness dealt with in your poetry?
My father grew up in a small Colorado town near Ludlow, Colorado. The river that flows through that town was named by Spaniards El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio—The River of Lost Souls in Purgatory. Having grown up with that name in my mind, I have always felt that my people were rootless wanderers. America may be a nation of immigrants, but not all Americans acknowledge that truth and not all of them understand what it means to live with more than one identity. My family come from Scottish and Danish immigrants—my maternal grandmother arrived first in Canada, then in America, from a small village near Aberdeen, Scotland. In America she became a drug addict, and she was later lobotomized, and I never met her. That is another kind of exile—psychic as well as geographical. I feel these alienations at my core, and perhaps that helps me sympathize with immigrants like Tikas.
What about poetry in times of crisis? Could poetry offer new ways to imagine what can be radically different realities?
Someone in Shakespeare’s MacBeth says that in dire times we must “Give sorrow words.” That is what we must do, along with everything else we do to bring a bit more civility to our lives. And yes, I think literature is a way of humanizing ourselves and others. Empathy is a civilizing activity. These things don’t put bread on the table, and they don’t save Syrian children from a gas attack, but they might convince some soldiers to disobey evil orders, and that would be a good thing. Poems intended as marching songs are usually not very good. But poems that help us feel and experience life in its complexity cannot be a bad thing. I don’t believe human beings are capable of eliminating conflict altogether, but perhaps we can find language to help us grieve and even laugh together, to help us memorialize our time on earth.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou
Donatella Della Porta is professor of Political Science and Dean at the Institute of Human and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy, Florence), where she directs the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos). Between 2003 and 2015 she has been Professor of Sociology at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute.
The main topics of her research are social movements, political violence, terrorism, corruption, the police and protest policing. Between 2008 and 2013 she has co-edited the European Political Science Review (ECPR-Cambridge University Press) as well as the Contentious Politics series at Cambridge University Press. Since 2015 she co-edits the European Journal of Sociology (Cambridge University Press). In 2011, she was the recipient of European Consortium for Political Research Mattei Dogan Prize for distinguished achievements in the field of political sociology. In August 2017 she will be Plenary Speaker at the 13th Conference of the European Sociological Association: (Un)Making Europe: Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities in Athens, Greece.
Professor Della Porta is the author of 85 books, 130 journal articles and 127 contributions in edited volumes. Her recent publications include Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis (2015), Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents in the Economic Crisis - Comparing Social Movements in the European Periphery (2016), Where Did the Revolution Go? Contentious Politics and the Quality of Democracy (2017), and Movement Parties Against Austerity (2017).
Donatella Della Porta spoke to Rethinking Greece* about social movements in times of austerity and electoral democracy, their cultural effects and partial institutionalization, as well as their moral critique on the corruption of representative democracy. She comments on the differences and similarities between the movements of the European South and underlines their heterogeneity and their concern for national sovereignty, while she also stresses the need for a cosmopolitan vision and transnational alliances between them. She believes that those who are able to develop alternative forms of governance, or cosmopolitan/pan-European identities are those who come from these movements. On an international level she anticipates that there will be a stronger and stronger struggle between progressive and regressive forces with an uncertain result. As far as Greece is concerned, she believes that it still is a laboratory for the progressive forces, asserting that the mobilizations of the previous years have produced important outcomes.
Can you talk to us about your latest book “Movement Parties against Austerity”?
The book grew out of the observation of the increasing relevance of electoral politics for social movements. This became very visible in Greece with the electoral victory of Syriza but also in several other places: Podemos in Spain, Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal; we also have the Left-Green Movement in Iceland, and more recently “La France Insoumise” with Mélenchon in France. So we see an unexpected return of the “Left-Left”, as the French call it, in the electoral arena, which is very much related to social movements' mobilizations. Even if none of these parties can be seen as the only and direct expression of the movements, there are nevertheless many overlaps in terms of the types of claims these parties and movements put forward, the forms of action taken and the importance given to political participation.
These parties developed from movements that were very dissatisfied with representative democracy and electoral politics; in the beginning they seemed not to be interested in becoming an alternative type of political party. So, I wouldn’t have expected hat, for instance, the Indignados of 2011-2012, people who were outraged with the corruption of participatory democracy, would also start thinking in terms in electoral alternatives. And this is just one of the expressions and outcomes of social movements in terms of their impact on electoral democracy. We are also seeing campaigns and referendums, like the ones in Scotland and Catalunya, or the referendum against the privatization of water in Italy -which has grown with from very dynamic social movements. We are also witnessing the development, within established parties, of a sort of left-wing opposition, like Sanders and the Democratic Party in the United States, like Corbyn in the UK, and also a change in established parties, like the Socialist Party in France, where totally unexpectedly, a left-wing candidate won the primary election. These are some expressions of the interaction between movement politics and electoral politics that we analyze in the book.
The movements that developed after 2011 in Europe seem to have died down. What is your take on this?
Research shows that movements tend to develop in cycles or in waves: people cannot stay in the streets or in the squares forever. The evolution of these cycles could bring about, in the declining phase, a radicalization of fractions of the movements that start using a violent repertoire of actions, like what happened in the 70’s in Italy and in Germany. On the other hand, and sometimes at the same time, we have a sort of institutionalization of parts of the social movements. It is no by chance that these kind of effects develop when mobilization is declining, as the activists experiment with many different tactics and repertoires in order to come up with solutions to the diminishing turnout in protest events.
Furthermore, we have the cultural effects of the protest movements, effects on worker unions, like the “white wave” or ‘marea blanca’ that was organized in Spain from health-care professionals against cuts to the budget of the country’s public health services, or the development of alternative citizen-run health clinics, food centres, kitchens and legal aid hubs that came along with the movement of the squares in Greece. So there are various ways through which the people that had protested in the streets keep trying to change the future.
Also, parties themselves change because of mobilization in the streets. It happened with the labour movements of the 19th century, or with the environmental movements with the emergence of the Green parties. What we are seeing today is quite common after the end of protests: when activists stop being in the streets, they often try to develop parties which they believe could help achieving the aims of the movements.
What is interesting at this particular moment is that these parties grow so fast and become so big, up to the point where they are entering positions in government, after national or local elections like in Greece, Portugal or Spain. So the unusual development that we address in our book, is not that parties emerge from movements, but that these parties become so competitive and powerful in the electoral arena.
What do you believe has been the impact of social movements in party system politics? Has it brought something new to the way parties operate and are organized?
In the book we compare three parties that in many ways were related to social movements, Syriza, Podemos and the Five Star movement, and then we compare them with similar parties in Latin America, some of which started on a similar type of dynamics. Ιn Latin America, this happened much earlier than in Europe, so we can see the long term effect of these parties being in power. And what we see are different things.
In the beginning these parties tend to adopt some of the movements' principles. So, we have parties that are more participatory than traditional ones, more engaged in attempts to open up beyond the members and that attempt to incorporate the criticism of the top-down organization.
However this is not always easy to do, because movement parties have to take into account different types of arenas: on one hand you have the movements, which they take ideas from, and on the other the electoral arena, the party system. And they sort of adapt to both, developing different alternative tactics and adopting general trends, like the personalization of politics. Furthermore, as parties evolve the type of members changes: they tend to include disappointed members and even leaders of other parties, with very different perspectives and priorities than the activists and supporters of the beginning. This brings about changes and even creates tansions within the parties themselves, like in Podemos, where a controversy devoloped between those who pushed towards the original relations with social movements and those stressing the constraints of electoral politics.
Also, these parties have different and this is reflected in their evolution. For example, SYRIZA and Podemos are often referred to as twin parties but they developed in different ways. However, SYRIZA grew from a previous wave of protests during the global justice movement, while Podemos developed from the 2011 Spanish protests against austerity.
Could you briefly describe the similarities and differences between protest movements across South European countries?
We see both similarities and differences. So in terms of the type of capacity of mobilization, forms of action, actors involved and so on, in Southern Europe you have these two constellations: on the one hand movements in the squares, very innovative and active in Spain and Greece, and on the other hand, more traditional forms of protest in Italy and Portugal. What was similar in all countries is the fact that there was a criticism of neoliberalism, of social injustice and of increasing inequalities. Also all the movements were very pluralist, involving different social groups, from the precarious workers to retired people, from workers in the big factories to civil servants. They also involved different generations. Young people in particular were very much present and one can say that these movements spark the development of a very committed generation of young people.
Another thing protest movements accross South Euroopean countries have in common is that the criticism of neoliberalism is a political as well as a moral, addressing the corruption of representative democracy and the lack of capacity of representative institutions to live up to their own standards, to deliver what they promised. In all countries the conceptions of social, political and civil rights were so very deeply rooted that the attempt to take them away produced an indignant, outraged reaction.
Which broader social and economic transformations does the emergence of protest movements reveal? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new political identity?
The creation of collective identities is a long process; it usually takes a lot of time, even more so in this case because these movements are very heterogeneous. Their heterogeneity is reflected in how difficult it is to find a shared term for them. For example in Spain protesters were called 15 de Mayo, 15M, or Real Democracy, journalists called them Indignados; the multiplicity of names testifies to the fact that there is not yet a specific collective identity those participating in the movements. There is however a search for an identity, reminiscent of what Ernesto Laclau called “populist reasoning” in the sense of attempting to create a new definition of the people. This attempt has produced a sense of empowerment; particularly in Spain or in Greece there are generations of people that took politics into their hands and became deeply politicized during the mobilization in the streets. As of yet there is however no strong common collective identity, and I think there couldn’t have been yet one: a common identity, as we can see from previous movements, can take years and even centuries to form. However, this sense of empowerment, of political participation, of search for a combination of justice and freedoms is spreading. This also explains why, not withstanding some decline in mobilization, these are movements that didn’t die: they keep re-emerging in different countries. So, in 2011 there was Spain and Greece, in 2013 it was Gezi Park in Turkey, protests in Brazil and other countries, and, less than a year ago the “Nuit Debut” in France, which showed a strong capacity to mobilize the people. Thus, a common identity does not exist yet, but it is in the making.
Is there a transnational or cross-European interconnectedness between anti-austerity movements?
There has been a difference in the way European issues and global issues have been addressed by the global justice movement, the World Social Forum and European Social Forum in the beginning of the years 2000 on one hand, and the movements and anti-austerity protests of 2011 on the other. In the previous wave, protest started globally and then it shifted to the local and national level. The recent wave of protests that developed in Europe was very rooted in the characteristics and the timing of the crisis at a national level. You had the 2008-2009 crisis in Iceland, and then it moved to Ireland and Portugal, Spain and Greece, nowadays in France. Also, the issues of national sovereignty are more directly addressed by these movements. At the same time, these movements develop ideas for a different type of Europe, so they are not nationalist in terms of an exclusionary type of nationalism. They are moreover trying to develop European and transnational linkages, even though, while in the previous decades this was more straightforward and easier, now it is a challenge. However, it is something that is starting to happen now: you have pan-European union protests and campaigns against TTIP and so on, even if they are still not well developed.
European social protest movements sometimes seem to call for a return to national sovereignty and to classical social democracy, instead of calling for a more radical alternative to capitalism. What is the political vision of those participating in the protests?
As I mentioned earlier, the movements are quite heterogeneous: you find different positions within the same movement. For sure, there is a much more concern, compared to the past, with the issue of national sovereignty. This is understandable, given the characteristics of the crisis, which was very much driven and then controlled at a transnational level. So people think, given the democratic institutions at a national level, it is unfair that unaccountable institutions, like Ecofin, European Central Bank and so on, make decisions for us. At the same time, in most of the cases there is still an understanding that it is not sufficient to go back to national sovereignty, that you need to develop a cosmopolitan vision and transnational alliances between the movements.
In terms of an alternative to capitalism, again the movements are quite heterogeneous. There are those that claim a return to old laws and rights and welfare state protection; this is also understandable in a situation where these rights have been taken away -the first claim is give us back what is our rights. But at the same time, there are some innovations, like the idea of the commons, of creating a space for something which is neither in the form of top-down welfare state, nor in that of the privatization or commoditization of services. It is an attempt to develop ideas about how citizens could participate in the management of common spaces and common goods. These are not ideas which are easy to establish. Likewise, initiatives like the alternative clinics or welfare services in Greece and the mareas in Spain are searching for a more radical alternatives but this search requires time; it is not a moment where you say, oh, I got the right idea. It’s a process of testing, adapting, transforming, searching for the right way.
Can this movements contribute to solving the problem of democratic deficit in EU?
Yes, I think that this is an achievement already. The democratic deficit of Europe is very clear: what is not clear yet is if those who are in charge at the European level understand the danger for them. I believe that those who are able to develop alternative forms of governance, or cosmopolitan/pan-European identities are those who come from these movements. But they need to be listened to, because otherwise, those that refuse any form of Europeanization on the basis of an exclusionary and nationalist, xenophobic identity,will become more and more powerful. It happened in the UK, it happened in Hungary, it is also happening with the increase of illiberal regimes all over the world -take Turkey as an example.
How do you see this issue evolving in the future?
A social scientist never predicts. A reason why it is difficult to make a prediction is that right now there are intense conflicts between progressive and regressive visions. The old establishment is in crisis, but the new one is to be born yet, like Antonio Gramsci said. So, what you see is the development of strong conflicts and all possibilities are quite open. Take the United States as an example, we have Trump now, but it could have been Sanders. Take the French election. Anything can happen in a few days in France. It could be that in the second round you have two right-wing candidates, but it could also be that a left-wing candidate wins. So, overall, the only thing that we can predict is the capacity of the people to mobilize and at this momoent that there isiindeed an understanding that it is important for people to act. However, at the same time, powerful regresive forces also tend to organize. So the prediction is that there will be a stronger and stronger struggle between progressive and regressive forces, with an uncertain result. If I want to end this conversation on an optimist view, my understanding is that right now regressive forces do not have a strategy, so they are taking a high-stakes gamble. Take Erdogan in Turkey, Trump in the US, Orban in Hungary. They are daring a lot and I don’t think that they will succeed. rdogan has been resisted by progressive forces, Trump has caused a lot of damage already, but he has also generated a lot of movements; there was the March of Women in Washington, there is the March for Science on April 22. These movements seem to be able to mobilize people, to create a convergence between different social strata and I really hope that they will successful.
How you comment the political situation in Greece now?
I think that the situtation is not easy, but at the same time Greece is still a laboratory for the progressive forces. From what I can say from my limited knowledge of the country, what we see, even in the refugee crisis, is that those new values like solidarity, like empowerment, daring to take the destiny in your own hands didn’t decline with the end of mobilizations. Or are least didn’t disappear. The movements, the different moments of mobilizations since 2008 and then in 2011, produced important outcomes, they were not for nothing. But as an activist in Egypt once told me, “we thought that the revolution was a moment, we realize that it is a process”, and I think this is the case for Greece also.
*Interview by Ioulia Livaditi
Vana Manasiadis was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and she divides her time between Greece and New Zealand. As co-editor of the Seraph Press ‘Poetry in Translation Series’, she edited and translated from the Greek the first bilingual volume Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters (Seraph Press, 2016). Her poetry has been widely published including in Jacket2 (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2017), and Essential New Zealand Poems (Penguin Random House NZ, 2014), and she is the author of acclaimed verse biography/poetry collection Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A mythistorima (Seraph Press, 2009). She regularly performs her work, and teaches Academic Literacy and Creative Writing at the Centre for Creative Writing at the Auckland University of Technology.
Vana Manasiadis spoke to Reading Greece* about Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets, which introduces Greek poetry in New Zealand, commenting on how “so much current artistic practice in Greece epitomises this backwards and forwards movement between light and dark” and how the poems she chose speak to “this trajectory from struggle and mourning towards transference, collectivism, and emergence”. She notes that in times of crisis, “art should bear witness and not go quietly into the night”, adding that there is more to crisis than top level meetings and protests, “there’s craft, creativity, conversation, and composition”.
She explains that “there are in fact a few New Zealand writers with connections to Greece” and that in her case, “the idea of ‘being here and there’ is the most appropriate ongoing frame of reference”. She concludes that “the immigrant experience is often bookended by disruption and fragmentation”, explaining that this is the reason she returns to the notions of movement and reinvention in her writing, “trying to glue the fragments by writing in fragments”.
You edited and translated Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets recently published by Seraph Press. How did you decide to embark on such a venture? What about the title Shipwrecks/Shelters?
The first motivation came after I returned to Aotearoa/New Zealand and didn’t see much locally published poetry in translation. After being in Greece, and Europe generally, the largely anglophone – albeit very vibrant – literary community made me feel the country’s distance from the rest of the world quite acutely. Were there many translations of non-English poetry being undertaken by local poets? I was keen on finding the antidote to the dislocation I was feeling, (a first experience of ‘shipwreck’), and simultaneously keen on introducing a little Greek poetry in English because I’d often been disappointed with the English translations I’d come across. Together with the translator and lecturer Marco Sonzogni, and Helen Rickerby, of Seraph Press, we committed to beginning the press’s Translation Series conceived as a series of marriages between New Zealand poets and languages other than English.
Then, during a day on a beach called Huia, we came across the display of the mast from the 1863 Orpheus which lost 189 of its crew when it sank. And I started to think of the relationship of shipwreck to shelter and the idea that shipwrecks do eventually house marine life, and can – like the many ancient shipwrecks in the Aegean – safeguard treasures. In my own life, if I was experiencing something like shipwreck then I was also experiencing sanctuary after a very difficult period: I’d lost my mother to cancer, experienced a breaking Greek health system, grief, financial plummet, ill health and depression. (On the other side:my neighbours in Athens, the urban landscape and its ability to rejuvenate and reinvent itself, our refuge in Heraklion and the sea five minutes from the house).
I was also thinking about how so much current artistic practice in Greece epitomises this backwards and forwards movement between light and dark. So I decided I particularly wanted to translate poems that spoke to this trajectory from struggle and mourning towards transference, collectivism, and emergence. I wanted to introduce this zeitgeist in Greek poetry to a new and receptive audience.
You have stated that in editing and translating the poems in Shipwrecks/Shelters, you considered, among other things, Maurice Scève’s idea that ‘translation, like love or music, involves being apart together’. Could you elaborate on that?
I was inspired by the essay ‘Ensemble Discord’ by translator Richard Sieburth. The quote in its entirety is, ‘translation like love or music involves being apart together, mutually ingathered by an interval or caesura that…renders us ensembles discords’. Doesn’t love work better if two individuals exist in a mutualistic push and pull as separate agents, connected but uncompetitive? Isn’t music often made with many instruments forming a body, or made by only one body – the musician’s breath, or touch – combined with air, gravitational pull, perhaps friction? Translation itself also embodies this motion from separateness to unity and inhabits the caesura between two independent spaces.
In the meantime, the very act of translating is analogous to eros and desire. The translator tries to get under the skin of the object, translate the poem/poet into something recognizable, reflect, surrender. As essayist Eliot Weinberger argues, translation is an act of self-abnegation, subordination; of the putting aside of ego. And longing was ever-present while I was working on the translations, longing for Greece and for the Greek language. (But I had to find my own caesura or ‘place to stand’ – ‘turangawaewae’ in Māori – before I could make contact, and luckily wind and water don’t trade in borders.) Essentially, the project was very personal and entwined with my own moving between worlds, spaces, identities.
What is the role poetry is called to play for a country in crisis? In this respect, how important is to get this poetry into the world?
Poetry is everything, or was so for thousands of years, as information, record, witness, bridge. And epic poetry was of course passed down orally from parent to child, communities connecting over music and rhythm of sound and sense. This oral aspect of poetry, its percussion and cry, is vitally important to me. But poetry is more than the news. It is deeply connected to our humanity, creativity, generation. It is graffiti, the I am here, we are here, this is what we feel, how we survive. Art should bear witness and not go quietly into the night. During the Documenta 14 hosted public talk ‘Athens Social Economies: Deinstitutionalizing Alternatives, Global Capitalism, and Local Knowledge’, philosopher and writer Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz posed questions such as: How does an individual or a community counter the removal of rights and securities by a dominant power matrix? What is the response when the status of a political or native entity changes from legitimate to other, from included to excluded?
Shelters/Shipwrecks is a small-in-size collection, but the poems are all calls, unapologetic and determined. ‘Muscle’, ‘borders’, ‘bodies’, ‘gaze’, ‘armour’, ‘multiplicity’: one word can call to attention, to action. There’s more to crisis than top level meetings and protests, there’s craft, creativity, conversation, and composition. In other words: imagination and breath. For all these reasons it was also very important to have contemporary Greek urban art on the cover, and Cacao Rocks the prolific Athenian street artist, who exhibits and participates in festivals all over the world, gave us the gift of his beautiful, iconoclastic ‘Dominique, 2016’.
What about your first poetry collection Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A mythistorima? Why did you choose to use the word “mythistorima” to describe a poetry collection?
I’d read Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red: A novel in verse while working on the first draft, and her title was an early inspiration. Like Carson’s work, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves tells a story, and is essentially a single narrative poem. I decided to adopt ‘mythistorima’, the Greek word for ‘novel’, because of the semantic combination of ‘myth’ and ‘history’. Seferis, the Greek modernist poet, stated a similar motivation behind his use of the word in his author’s notes, (although I hadn’t come across those at the time of writing the book), but I had especially wanted the combination to allude to the time when people communicated myths and histories by mouth. As I said at the time of publication, in an interview with writer and editor Tim Jones, ‘I wanted to assume oral language, with its tangents, fillers and pauses, as the governing concept’. Speech, performance and exchange have long embodied the freedoms of expression and movement. I like very much that Adamantios Korais, eighteenth century liberal scholar who believed in liberty and equality, coined the term ‘mythistorima’ during the Greek Enlightenment.
“Exploring the ex patria feeling of ‘being here and being there,’Vana Manasiadis sews together Greece and New Zealand to create a playful and deeply moving journey". Is there an identifiable tradition of Greek-New Zealand writing, or New Zealand writing about Greece, and if so, do you see Ithaca Island Bay Leaves as part of this tradition?
Michael Harlow is one of New Zealand’s most respected veteran poets, and of Greek-Ukrainian descent. Mary McCullum, writer and independent publisher who descends from Rethymno, has published two novels with Greek connections, and I was one of the first novel’s early readers, (Maggie Rainey-Smiths novel Daughters of Messene, about a Greek family from Peloponnesus, soon to be translated and published also in Greece). There are in fact a few New Zealand writers with connections to Greece, and Mary and I have even discussed collecting some of this work into an anthology, which I would love to do.
In terms of my own contribution, I can say that I’m one of those writers who writes what they know, and splitting time between Greece and New Zealand, does define me in many ways. But perhaps the idea of ‘being here and there’ is the most appropriate ongoing frame of reference for me. Lynley Edmeades writing for Jacket2 offers this opinion: ‘Manasiadis’ reference to Greek and classical traditions, and her borrowing of forms from her poetic forebears, lets her cultivate a poetic voice relatively peculiar to these shores…her work acts as a conduit between her ancestors and this New World, between classical and colloquial Greek and her New Zealand English, between mythology and reality, between the past and the present, between her last poem and her next.’
You have stated that as “an immigrant’s daughter for whom multiculturalism is crucial, you can’t help but recoil at the idea of borders, restriction of the freedom of movement, refugees floating in water or limbo, or purgatory or hell”. How are the notions of disruption, fragmentation, mobility, departure and home imprinted on your job?
The immigrant experience is often bookended by disruption and fragmentation. As an immigrant and single parent, my mother was stuck financially, spiritually and geographically, and experienced otherness every single day. She was intensely literary, a writer herself, but pre-internet had no access to Greek language texts in New Zealand. She was essentially cut off from herself; lost her selfness. And, having married a New Zealander, she didn’t get what she needed from the Greek community in Wellington – her peers were almost all in monocultural marriages, married to other Greeks and wary of the New Zealand culture outside their gates.
Suspicion of otherness is dangerous, and as such, the origins of racism can be surprising. As children, my pale and red-haired sister and I experienced the most prejudice from members of the Wellington Greek community despite our identification, fluency, Greek family-history-home. The criteria of inclusion were missing: we didn’t look stereotypically Greek. Even in adulthood, the only experience I have had of this kind is from another New Zealand Greek woman who has said I’m not really Greek; and ironically, she is an anti-racism advocate. I find this curious. But it also speaks to deep wounds and the desire for home and identity that so embodies the immigrant experience, even generations after migration. There is trauma, and it finds ways to express itself. The play between inclusion and exclusion is complicated and ongoing. Perhaps this is why I return to the notions of movement and reinvention in my writing. I’m trying to glue the fragments by writing in fragments, employing parentheses, conflating chronologies and suggesting gaps. I am always interested in the porousness, and in the uncertain space.
I also recoil a little at the idea of categories in writing (and like very much that writing from my earlier collection has been catalogued variously as short fiction or poetry in library catalogues). And I’ve been describing the collection I’m hoping to finish soon – with its references to earlier work, its connections, and combinations of forms – ‘a sequel’. However definition is not always helpful. We have only been stationary a short time in the 200,000 years on this planet, and have experienced shifting selfhoods for millenia. My grandfather arrived in Athens a refugee in 1922, today’s refugees find themselves in similarly terrifying and unfamiliar territory. There is a continuum and we are all along it somewhere. Perhaps departure and home are points on a circle rather than on a straight line. And the circle is shot full of holes.
*Interview by Athina Rossoglou