Thursday, June 23, 2005

Go Eleni Go!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My books

Answering thalassa_mikra's tag.

Total Number of Books I Own:

I counted over 250 books on my bookshelf here in Greece. This bookshelf dates back to 2000. There are many more books back in Sydney. Most of which are in boxes and some on a bookshelf in my folks' home.

Last Book I Bought:

Deadfolk by Charlie Williams. (It's in the mail.)

Waiting, in my shopping basket, to be bought:

Granta 88: Mothers (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
Platform - Michel Houellebecq
Heredity - Jenny Davidson
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
Saturday - Ian McEwan
H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life - Michel Houellebecq
Six Memos for the Next Millennium - Italo Calvino

Last Book I Read:

A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me:

Was reading about Italo Calvino and came across this appropriate quote from The Uses of Literature (1980). Calvino had written that there should be a time "in adult life devoted to revisiting the most important books of our youth. Even if the books have remained the same (though they do change, in the light of an altered historical perspective), we have most certainly changed, and our encounter will be an entirely new thing."

The books that first came to mind as the books that mean a lot to me are the important books of my youth. (Many more came to mind than five, but since the question asks for five...)

Sartre Nausea.

Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure.

John Fowles The Magus.

Shakespeare Hamlet.

Sophocles Antigone.

Friday, June 10, 2005

National Book Center of Greece in debt

Kathimerini reports:

The state-run National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI) has run up debts of 3 million euros, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said yesterday. Partly to blame for the bill is Greece’s participation in the 2001 Frankfurt Book Fair at a cost of 10 million euros — of which EKEBI still owes 600,000 euros, Tatoulis said. The minister was speaking at a press conference EKEBI had called to present a review of the recent Thessaloniki Book Fair.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Literature of the Greeks in Australia: A Historical Overview

Dr.George Kanarakis writes an overview of Greek-Australian literature for The Cud.

He goes back a hundred years to the oral poetics of Nikos Kallinikos and Nikos Paizis, both from the island of Ithaca, to the very first Australian-Greek newspaper called Afstralia where prose pieces (Greek-language short stories) by the Cypriot George Nicolaides, appeared in 1913, to the very first written poetry on Antipodean land published in the Sydney newspaper To Ethniko Vima (The National Tribune). He cites the publication of the first Greek-language literary book, a short story collection called Istories tis xenitias (Stories of the Foreign Land) in (1932) by the Athenian Homer Rigas, published in Sydney by the publishing arm, "Intellectual Beacon of Hellenism in Australia".

He also cites the appearance of English-language texts, such as "short stories by Anagyros Fatseas of Kythera in the Sydney periodicals Woman's Weekly and Woman's Day, as well as the earliest translation in Australia of Dionysios Solomos' "Hymn to Liberty" published in the Sydney newspaper Sun (5 March 1941) and poems by Costas Malaxos-Alexander of Phoenikas, Asia Minor, in the Western Australian periodical Black Swan and in the newspaper of the University of Western Australia Pelican."

And then there are the more recent, more familiar names of Dimitris Tsaloumas and Vasso Kalamaras...

Investigating Links Between Ancient Greeks And Modern Science Fiction

Science Daily reports on University of Liverpool's Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh's research into the tradition of fantasy in ancient literature beginning with Odysseus' "fantastic travels in Homer's Odyssey." She examines "theories of modern science fiction writing and how these can be applied to texts from the ancient world."

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh is basically studying the work of 2nd century AD writer, Lucian of Samosata, who wrote True Histories, "a travel narrative that includes an account of a trip to the moon and interstellar warfare", Antiphanes of Berge, who wrote about his travels in the far north of Europe and Herodotus "who wrote about 'flying snakes; and 'giant gold-digging ants' in India".

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh says:
Fantasy writing in the ancient world is still relatively unexplored from a literary perspective. What is so interesting about these fantastical journeys is that many of them are written in the form of truthful travel logs and historical texts. The Greeks had a fascination with the exotic and other worlds and some writers travelled to the north and Far East to satisfy their intrigue. The cultures they found there were so different from their own that they were inspired to fantasize and speculate about even more remote and exotic worlds.

Lucian was the first to announce that what he wrote was untrue. But, says Ni-Mheallaigh, "His writing-style is however calculated to convince his reader that all his adventures are in fact true. His writing plays a very clever game with the reader's mind, and, like all science fiction and fantasy writing today, allows the reader to ponder, what if ... ?"

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Christos Tsiolkas -- "Dead Europe"

Looking good is Christos Tsiolkas's third novel Dead Europe. Read the Australian review of the book by the Australian-Greek author who wrote the fab Loaded (made into a film by Anna Kokkinos and starring Alex Dimitriades).

Isaac is a photographer in his mid-thirties, travelling through Europe. It is the post-Cold War Europe of a united currency, illegal immigration and of a globalised homogenous culture. In his mother’s mountain village he encounters a Balkan vampire. Subsequently, as his journey continues across Italy, Eastern Europe and Britain he discovers that ghosts keep appearing in the photographs he takes, providing clues to a family secret and tragedy. Parallel to Isaac’s story we are in the Greece of World War II. A peasant family is asked to provide protection to a Jewish boy fleeing the Germans. It is this boy who will become the vampire. From the mountains of Greece to the inner-city streets of 1960s Melbourne, we trace the journey of this malevolent force as it feeds on generation after generation of Isaac’s family, seeking revenge and justice.

What Ian Syson said:
Like most of Tsiolkas' work, Dead Europe leads us to pessimistic conclusions. Characters are base and weak; cultures are moribund, corrupt and decaying; peoples are warlike, hypocritical and hate-filled. In other words, he's writing about a likely future.

Yet within all this, Tsiolkas finds moments of beauty and life. One of his strengths is the ability to reveal gentleness lying where none might be expected. His prose is sometimes so achingly tender and beautiful that it gives us pause to reflect on the tragedies that force a writer capable of communicating such joy and delight to stare down the many spectres haunting Dead Europe.

What Colm Toibin said:
This book “sets sharp realism against folk tale and fable, a world of hauntings and curses against a fiercely political portrait of a society. The energy in the writing, the pure fire in the narrative voice and the fearlessness of the tone make the novel immensely readable, as well as fascinating and original, and establish Christos Tsiolkas in the first rank of contemporary novelists.”

BUY IT from Gleebooks!. Gleebooks is the great Australian bookshop! Americans, do not fear, order this book from Gleebooks!

The Last Days Of Kostas Karyotakis

I'm thinking of doing a "Last Days of Kostas Karyotakis" thing. Um. That is, to do a walkthrough of the few weeks leading up to his suicide in Preveza back in 1928. (I live in Preveza so the subject of Karyotakis is, rather, dear to me.) He arrived on June 20 in 1928. So, on June 20 2005, I'm going to blog his last days. [If you want an email reminder on the day post a comment or send me an email.]

As a warm up, browse to these pages where Yiannis Vogiatzis has collated numerous facts regarding the poet's work and life.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ismail Kadare is awarded the international Booker

Albanian born, Tirana University educated, and political refugee Ismail Kadare was awarded the inaugural Man Booker International Prize on June 2.

What the judges said:

"Ismail Kadaré is a writer who maps a whole culture - its history, its passion, its folklore, its politics, its disasters. He is a universal writer in a tradition of storytelling that goes back to Homer."

What Kadare said:

"I feel deeply honoured by the award of the Man Booker International Fiction Prize. I am a writer from the Balkan Fringe, a part of Europe which has long been notorious exclusively for news of human wickedness - armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and so on."

Other stuff Kadare said (via the Guardian):

On resistance:

"Being critical of a regime is a normal state of affairs for a writer," he said. "The only act of resistance possible in a classic Stalinist regime was to write - or you could go to a meeting and say something very courageous, and then be shot. I think I was very lucky to be able to publish from time to time. A lot of writers were simply crushed."

On book banning:

Half a dozen of Kadare's books were banned. "That ended up being counterproductive for the regime," he said, "because all those people who had already read them them started studying them seriously to see just why they were so subversive. So book bans actually played a big role in the emancipation of the country."

On labels:

" "These labels make no sense," he said. "All writers come from a country, a region, a continent, but their work cannot be reduced to that."

On literature:

Kadare said he read Macbeth at the age of 11. "When you start so young with literature, you understand very little of politics. That's what saved me, I think."


The following Kadaré titles have been translated into English:

The General of the Dead Army
The Three Arched Bridge
Broken April
Chronicle in Stone
The File on H
The Concert
The Palace of Dreams
Albanian Spring
The Pyramid
Elegy for Kosovo
Spring Flowers, Spring Frost
The Successor (forthcoming, January 2006)
Agamemnon's Daughter (forthcoming, date TBC)

Books available from: