Thursday, March 31, 2005

Matt Barrett's Greek History!

Matt Barrett has attempted the impossible: Read his Short History of Greece.

I clicked on the Alexander bit first, since I was in the mood for a bit of historical gossip considering all the "controversy" in recent months...I met various Greeks in Sydney who personalized the whole issue of Alexander's cinematic sexuality in response to non-Greeks saying things like "Hey, mate! I never knew Alexander was a bloody poofta. It ain't Alexander the Great anymore, is it! It's bloody Alexander the Gay!"

But Greeks in Greece didn't seem to care much at all. I don't get it. Then again, Greeks in Sydney, Australia would never (?) burn an Albanian flag, but Greece Greeks did just the other day.

Anyway, this is what Mr Barret had to say about Alexander the Great.

Sexual attraction between men was considered normal in Classical Greece as well as in Alexander's time. Men of culture and education like Alexander loved beauty, and beauty is beauty whether it is in the form of a woman or a man. Regardless, when Oliver Stone brought the ancient king back to life in his movie Alexander, a group of 25 Greek lawyers threatened to sue him and Warner Brothers for what they claimed was an inaccurate portrayal of history. They were offended by the effeminate nature of Stone's Alexander, as were the critics. They needn't have bothered. The film was a 150 million dollar disaster though from reading reviews and discussing the film I have come to the conclusion that people who know history liked it. People who know movies didn't. The point is that 2000 years later Alexander the Great is still a controversial figure, whether he was man or God, gay or just effeminate. So Alexander still lives. But if he is still 'The Great' why does he need 25 Greek lawyers to defend him? Homosexuality (rather bisexuality) was common place in ancient Greece, but it was regarded as a highest form of human communication, as a sacred bond between men, that lifted them to divine sharing, to refinement of spirit. Philosophers rather than philanderers were born from such relations. This is the issue: not whether you depict Alexander as a homosexual, but how you do it. Jewelry and eyeliner does not do hommage to a kind of relationship that they themselves aspired to be as equal to that of their heroes, Achilles and Patroclus.


So, the answer to Quiz #4 is Thomas Mann.

The Greek musician in question was:

Loris Margaritis (1884-1953) was a distinguished greek composer, musicologist, performer and music-educator. As an infant prodigy he played his own compositions in pianoforte at age of 9 in the Richard Wagner Concert Hall of the Munich Palace...Thomas Mann was present during this concert and was inspired from the amazing playing and character of Loris which gave him the idea to write his masterpiece novel Das Wunderkind.

[That was a quote from

Monday, March 28, 2005

Paul Hester

Sad news today.

Paul Hester ends it

He was so amazing on the stage. A riot. Funny, how the people who bring so much joy to others can, themselves, be so sad.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gizoogling Cavafy

This is wrong, I know it is. But I can't help it. Everyone is gizoogling and I had the wicked idea of Gizoogling the Cavafy poems I posted here the other day.

Sorry. This is wrong. But I can't help it.

Translations thanks to Gizoogle


One monotizzles day is followed
by anotha monotizzles identical day like old skool shit. The sippin' wizzill happen, they will happen again --
the same moments find us n leave us.

A month passes n hustla in anotha month.
One easily guesses tha com'n events;
they is tha perpetratin' ones of yesterday.
And tha morrow ends up not resembl'n a morrow anymore.

The Nizzy Table

He must be barely twenty-two years old-
yet Im certain jizzust `bout that long ago
I enjoyed tha very same body.

It isnt erotic rappa at all.
And I came into tha casino only a few minutes ago,
so I aint had time ta driznink vizzle much.
I enjoyed thiznat very same body.

And if I dont rememba where, this one lapse of memory doesnt mizzle a th'n.

There, now tizzle hes sippin' dizzay at tha nizzy table,
I recognize every motion he makes -and killa his clothes
I see again tha limbs that I loved, naked.

At tha cafe door

sum-m Sum-m they said beside me
made me look toward tha cafe door,
and i saw that lovely body W-H-to-tha-izzich seemed
as though eros in his mastery had fashioned it,
joyfully shap'n its well-formed weed-smokin' its tizzle build,
shap'n its face tenderly,
and leav'n, witta touch of tha rappa particizzles impression on tha brow, tha eyes, tha lips.

Five (5) Book Questions

My cute friend Steve Kane sent me this book thingy, which he got from the gorgeous and talented Jai Claire.

His answers are right here.

And mine are here:

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, what book would you like to be?

Ulysses by James Joyce. I want to be misunderstood but great!

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

When I was younger.: Mr Darcy.
Then a bit older: Jude in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure
Then later: Andrew McGahan's Praise protagonist Gordon. He was a bit of a greasy grungy slacker and creeped me out when he had sex with this girl who had bad eczema, but I didn't care.
Then even later: The boy that Iris falls for in Siri Hustvedt's The Blindfold, though I can't remember his name.
Now: I have a crush on JM Coetzee. Sure, he creates fictional characters, but as far as I'm concerned he's fictional.

3. The last book you read

David Markson's This is not a novel (About a month ago.)

4. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading various stuff from the literary journals I bought while in Sydney earlier this year.

5. Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Tom Saunders's Brother, what strange place is this?
Siri Hustvedt's The Blindfold
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Wittgenstein's Tractatus
Epictetus's Encheiridion

6. Who are you going to pass the stick to (3 persons) and why?

Definitely my friends Alexia and Angelike over in Athens, because they've always got fabulously interesting things to say.

I think I'll also send to Ari down in Melbourne, because she's also fabulously interesting and may be coming to Greece later this year. What fun!

Of course, anyone who arrives at this blog by chance is invited to add their responses to these questions in the comments section.

Well, that was fun.

Thanks, Steve!

QUIZ: The Greek musician, the German writer and his story

Another quiz borrowed from Ta Nea.

Which German author attended a piano concert in Munich (around 1893) to see a Greek child perform and what story did he write about the event?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Hegel on saying everything in your own language

From an article by Tilottama Rajan printed in the lit, history and philosophy of history journal CLIO (Winter 2004)....

A fragment from Hegel (1803):

"It belongs to the highest cultural development of the people to say everything in their own language. The concepts that we mark with foreign words seem to be themselves foreign and not to belong to us immediately as our own."

: What of the idea that one gains insight into a race/culture through its untranslatable/difficult to translate words? How can one culture assimilate the culture specific words from another culture?
: The emergence of a "migrant dialect" (say in communities of the Diaspora, this Greeklish) of mixing words from mother tongue with second tongue? Concepts from the old world (the familiar world which becomes foreign due to distance) being translated into the new world (the foreign world which becomes familiar)? A hybrid language.

Comments? Anyone? I'm not really sure what I'm on about. Just that it is interesting.

Greek authors online: Part I

Some websites belonging to Greek authors:

[I'm quoting from the websites themselves]

1. Nikos Dimou

"Born 1935, Athens, Greece. Graduated from Athens College, (a Greek-American school) 1954. Parallel studies in Athens of French language and literature. 1954-1960 studied Philosophy (major), Psychology and English Literature (minors), in Munich, Germany (Munich University). Published his doctor's thesis (on philosophical scepticism) in Greece, 25 years later."

"Although he thinks his most important task is writing books, he has also worked in the media for over twenty years. He was a columnist for the Sunday editions of leading Greek dailies (“To Vima”, “Kathimerini”, “Eleutherotypia”, “Ethnos”) and magazines. He was also the first Greek writer to host television talk-shows on literary and ideological issues (“Dialogues” 1987, “Adventures in Ideas” 1992). He also created radio programmes. He has received two journalism awards: the Ipectsi prize (for Greek-Turkish friendship) and the Botsis award. For his overall literary and philosophical work he also received the “Mitropoulos” medal."

"He was the first Greek writer to create a personal site in 1997."

2. Vangelis Raptopoulos

"Vangelis Raptopoulos was born in Athens in 1959, where he studied education and journalism. From 1980 to 1981 he lived in Sweden, and in 1984 spent a half-year in the United States on an International Writing Program scholarship."

He's published lots and lots of (fabulously good) books.

2. George Zarkadakis

"George Zarkadakis is regarded as one of the most innovative young Greek novelists. Born in Athens in 1964, he studied Systems Engineering at City University, London, where he received his PhD in Artificial Intelligence at the age of 24. Since then he has followed up his research by applying AI techniques in Data Mining and Medical Informatics. For the past two years he has been developing a research framework at Athens University for consciousness studies and is writing a relevant book on mind dynamics (Noetics).

His first novel "The Secrets of the Lands Without" was published in 1994 and created a sensation for its originality. Its daring style of writing enjoyed much critical acclaim. Concurrently to its publication the novel was released on the World Wide Web, becoming the "first Greek novel on the Internet"."

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Hellenophile on Cavafy

Inspired by Douglas Anders's blog entry on Cavafy at the Hellenophile I flicked through some of my old Cavafy favourites.


Την μιαν μοτόνονην ημέρα άλλη
μονότονη, απαράλλακτη ακολουθεί. Θα γίνουν
τα ίδια πράγματα, θα ξαναγινούν πάλι-
η όμοιες στιγμές μας βρίσκουνε και μας αφήνουν.

Μήνας περνά και φέρνει άλλον μήνα.
Αυτά που έρχονται κανείς εύκολα τα εικάζει.
Είναι τα χθεσινά τα βαρετά εκείνα.
Και καταντά το αύριο πια σαν αύριο να μη μοιάζει.


One monotonous day is followed
by another monotonous, identical day. The same
things will happen, they will happen again --
the same moments find us and leave us.

A month passes and ushers in another month.
One easily guesses the coming events;
they are the boring ones of yesterday.
And the morrow ends up not resembling a morrow anymore.

[English translation borrowed from Poetry Connection].

Το διπλανό τραπέζι

Θάνε μόλις είκοσι δυο ετών.
Κι όμως εγώ είμαι βέβαιος που, σχεδόν τα ίσα
χρόνια πρωτύτερα, το ίδιο σώμα αυτό το απήλαυσα.

Δεν είναι διόλου έξαψης ερωτισμού.
Και μονάχα προ ολίγου μπήκα στο καζίνο.
Δεν είχα ούτε ώρα για να πιω πολύ.
Το ίδιο σώμα εγώ το απήλαυσα.

Κι αν δεν θυμούμαι, που-ένα ξέχασα μου δεν σημαίνει.

Α τώρα, να που κάθισε στο διπλανό τραπέζι
γνωρίζω κάθε κίνηση που κάμνει-κι απ'τα ρούχα κάτω
γυμνά τ'αγαπημένα μέλη ξαναβλέπω.

The Next Table

He must be barely twenty-two years old-
yet I'm certain just about that long ago
I enjoyed the very same body.

It isn't erotic fever at all.
And I came into the casino only a few minutes ago,
so I haven't had time to drink very much.
I enjoyed that very same body.

And if I don't remember where, this one lapse of memory doesn't mean a thing.

There, now that he's sitting down at the next table,
I recognize every motion he makes -and under his clothes
I see again the limbs that I loved, naked.

[English translation from here]

Στου καφενείου την είσοδο

Την προσοχή μου κάτι που είπαν πλάγι μου
διεύθυνε στου καφενείου την είσοδο.
Κ' είδα τ' ωραίο σώμα που έμοιαζε
σαν απ' την άκρα πείρα του να τώκαμεν ο Έρως--
πλάττοντας τα συμμετρικά του μέλη με χαρά
υψώνοντας γλυπτό το ανάστημα
πλάττοντας με συγκίνησι το πρόσωπο
κι αφίνοντας απ' των χεριών του το άγγιγμα
ένα αίσθημα στο μέτωπο, στα μάτια, και στα χείλη.

At The Cafe Door

Something they said beside me
made me look toward the cafe door,
and I saw that lovely body which seemed
as though Eros in his mastery had fashioned it,
joyfully shaping its well-formed limbs,
moulding its tall build,
shaping its face tenderly,
and leaving, with a touch of the fingers,
a particular impression on the brow, the eyes, the lips.

[English translation from here]

Cyborg's Contemplative Corner: Stolen centrepieces and the Cyprus question

Thalassa_mikra blogged the events of an American-Hellenic council dinner at: Cyborg's Contemplative Corner: Stolen centrepieces and the Cyprus question.

I've always maintained that Greeks in the Diaspora make up a separate race, more akin to other migrants, to a migrant race, rather than to the modern Greeks living in Greece. The binding characteristic of the Greeks of the Diaspora is in the way that they embrace the archetypal Greek identity, an identity based more on a static interpretation of ancient Greekness, rather than a Greekness that develops and changes (and therefore risks becoming less Greek or a different kind of Greek as it responds to the pressures of this new globalised age). In this way, the Greeks of the Diaspora are either to be praised (for their persistence in maintaining traditional ideals at risk of being forever lost) or to be laughed at (for their comedic grip on the past, above all else, above even the present).

It's a kind of death this insistence on tradition and culture. I also find it is a way of degrading what the modern Greek has become. As if he/she has fallen from grace.

[Note to thalassa_mikra: I couldn't comment at your blog, so I respond with this, here. How's the flower arrangement coming along? ;-)]

QUIZ ANSWER: Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen died in May, 1906, and on June 6, 1906, Kostis Palamas wrote an "Ode on the death of Ibsen" (if that title is correct in the English, I haven't found a copy of the poem. Anyone?).

According to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea (whose source is a book by Nikiforos Papandreou, called Ibsen in Greece; Νικηφόρος Παπανδρέου, ο Ίψεν στην Ελλάδα, Εκδ. Κέδρος, 1983) the poem is a dialogue between the poet and his muse. And at one point the famous dramatourg, Ibsen, speaks:

«...κι εγώ είμαι απ' την Ελλάδα. K' εγώ είμαι από το αίμα των Αισχύλων»

[...I, too, am from Greece. I, too, am of the blood of Aeschylus.]


Sunday, March 06, 2005

QUIZ: Kostis Palamas's Ode...

This week's quiz is again "borrowed" from Greek daily Ta Nea:

For the death of which writer did Greek poet Kostis Palamas write an Ode?

Hint: The writer was an influential playwright, the pioneer of modern realistic drama, whose work is regularly performed around the world today. on the Diaspora

Lots of interesting reading at, including articles on the Diaspora.

The construction of identity in diasporic communities is motivated by two major impulses/desires. The first seeks an identity related to a homeland that will impart strong cultural, historical, and racial roots to the diasporic community. This form of identity requires a strong connection between center/homeland and periphery/diaspora. The second seeks an identity that imparts cultural roots to the diasporic community but at the same time remains autonomous from a homeland, and consequently from a “territorially bounded nation.”.... [But] whether constructing an identity in relation to a homeland or in opposition to/autonomy from one, diasporic communities remain closed communities characterized by both exclusionary and inclusive mechanisms.