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Surrealism in Greece

An Anthology

Edited and translated by Nikos Stabakis

Publication Year: 2008

In the decades between the two World Wars, Greek writers and artists adopted surrealism both as an avant-garde means of overturning the stifling traditions of their classical heritage and also as a way of responding to the extremely unstable political situation in their country. Despite producing much first-rate work throughout the rest of the twentieth century, Greek surrealists have not been widely read outside of Greece. This volume seeks to remedy that omission by offering authoritative translations of the major works of the most important Greek surrealist writers. Nikos Stabakis groups the Greek surrealists into three generations: the founders (such as Andreas Embirikos, Nikos Engonopoulos, and Nicolas Calas), the second generation, and the Pali Group, which formed around the magazine Pali. For each generation, he provides a very helpful introduction to the themes and concerns that animate their work, as well as concise biographies of each writer. Stabakis anthologizes translations of all the key surrealist works of each generation—poetry, prose, letters, and other document—as well as a selection of rarer texts. His introduction to the volume places Greek surrealism within the context of the international movement, showing how Greek writers and artists used surrealism to express their own cultural and political realities.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 4-5


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pp. 6-7

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p. vii-vii

The editor would like to thank the following persons, without whom the present volume would not have been possible:
Nanos Valaoritis, for his interest and encouragement during the preparation of this anthology, despite our largely divergent opinions as ...

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pp. 1-5

In the “Surrealist Map of the World” printed in the “Surrealism Special” of the journal Variétés in 1929, Greece is conspicuous by its absence. So, of course, are several other countries, but Greece and Italy in particular (insofar as having originated the “Greco-Roman” civilization) ...

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Part One

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pp. 7-13

Despite a number of perplexed newspaper reports on the emergent international movement, and a 1931 essay by Dimitrios Mentzelos (more on whom in the Nicolas Calas section), Greek surrealism really started with the poet Andreas Embirikos. A magnate’s son who, while ...

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pp. 14-55

Born in Braila (Rumania), to an Andros family of shipowners. One of the great visionary poets, originator of surrealism and psychoanalysis in Greece. His work, ranging from automatic writing and love poetry to fairy-tale-like narratives and the most explicit erotic pages in ...

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Nicolas Calas

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pp. 56-81

Born in Lausanne to an upper-class Athenian family, Nikolaos Calamaris soon chose the path of radical left-wing politics. The first published Greek surreal-ist (albeit in his presurrealist period), he was skeptical about the movement before being “initiated” by Embirikos; after ...

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pp. 82-130

Painter and poet. Born in Athens, he spent much of his early life in Paris; there, he discovered surrealism, which he perceived as a reaction to French “rationalism.” He thus devoted his life to redressing what he saw as an oppressive misconception of the Greek “tradition” ...

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pp. 131-161

Born in Crete. One of surrealism’s earliest champions in Greece, he later kept his distance from the surrealist movement, although his mature work is still marked by it (this selection includes excerpts from only one late text, “The Dreams,” one of his best and least ...

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pp. 162-168

Close to the thirties surrealist nucleus, Gatsos produced but a slim volume in 1943 (the bulk of which is contained herein). His later involvement in writing song lyrics, most notably for Manos Hadjidakis, had mixed results, including some memorable ones (as in ...

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Part Two: The Second Generation

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pp. 169-173

During the Nazi Occupation, Embirikos and his then-wife, the poet Matsi Hatzilaza-rou, had held regular meetings in their house; along with Engonopoulos, Elytis, and Gatsos, a number of young poets made their first appearance in this milieu. These included ...

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pp. 174-181

Treated by Embirikos, who, in a breach of psychoanalytic ethics, married her in 1940, Hatzilazarou combined in her work a remarkably bold sensuality with a constant will toward poetic experimentation, which perhaps yielded its best fruits with her ...

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pp. 182-194

Particularly close to Engonopoulos, Sahtouris’s poetry is of vital importance in any attempt to distinguish between first- and second-generation Greek surrealism. One of the most celebrated Greek poets of his generation, the evolution of his work (unlike that of ...

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pp. 195-210

Born in Piraeus. A lifelong contributor to Greek surrealism with poetry, essays, and translations. Yet Kaknavatos’s first collection, in 1943, was followed by two decades of silence, partly owing to political prosecutions which also affected his professional status. A mathematician ...

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pp. 211-256

Born in Lausanne, like Nicolas Calas; close to the “modernist” milieu of the 1930s from the age of eighteen, Valaoritis had an early mentor in Yorgos Seferis, but he soon frequented the Embirikos milieu and became a regular at meetings and discussions of surrealism ...

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pp. 257-258

Particularly close to Hector Kaknavatos and E. Ch. Gonatas, Papaditsas is unique amidst the generation raised during the war in displaying a pronounced lyrical tendency, and a repertory of autonomous images reminiscent of Pierre Reverdy. Certainly one of ...

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pp. 259-269

One of the foremost storytellers of Greek surrealism, Gonatas has been a physically marginal figure in it. His solitary attitude (excepting a poetry journal undertaken along with Papaditsas in the late 1950s) is regrettable but reflects his programmatic unwillingness to court ...

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Part Three: The Pali Group

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pp. 271-281

Nanos Valaoritis soon became the most vital organizing force in Greek surrealism: being the one consistent link between Embirikos and Breton, an effort toward the collaboration of both Embirikos and Elytis in French surrealist publications came to ...

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pp. 282-287

A ravantinou’s early texts, influenced by Embirikos in their treatment of language and expansive freedom, but entirely original in concept, constituted one of the major tone-setting works around Pali; language here at once constructs and describes a mysterious, nocturnal urban landscape. ...

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pp. 288-292

His suicide and unwillingness to publish bring perhaps to mind Jacques Rigaut and his namesake Vaché—a facile comparison for an equally unique human case. A member of Embirikos’s wartime circle, close to Sahtouris and Gonatas, Makris evaded both work and “literature”; one ...

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pp. 293-308

One of the most brilliant Greek humorists (a quality rather than a specialty), and a major, if elusive, contributor to Pali, Alexander Skinas has spent most of his life in Germany, where he worked extensively for the radio, notably with his junta-era barbed broadcasts. Although, ...

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pp. 309-310

A vital member of the young Pali group, who has not remained close to surrealism. One of his generation’s most acerbic poets, he has translated works by Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. “Seldom has a man given not a shit/For the collected ....

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pp. 311-323

Writer, painter, graphic artist, director of surrealist shorts, and cofounder of Pali, whose intervention gave the tone of an era. His Historias constitute a new kind of surrealist narrative and offer a fresh look at the world, albeit one rooted in a subversive reading of folk tradition and ...

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pp. 324-327

A member of the Pali group from the first issue on, Mylona published her first book of poetry much later, but she arguably never surpassed the freshness and cruel humor of these early prose pieces. She has translated selections of Baudelaire’s and Rimbaud’s prose poems. ...

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pp. 328-336

Having organized the first Greek happenings, along with Koutrouboussis, Dimitris Poulikakos went on to meet Nanos Valaoritis, an event that led to the creation of Pali, to which Poulikakos contributed original texts (which testify to a remarkable grasp of surrealist narrative, while being ...

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pp. 337-341

The importance of Pali, which has only recently begun to inspire some good-faith academic study, has been rather underplayed in Greece, for the simple reason that critics have shown a profound and indeed stubborn ignorance of the actuality of surrealism. Yet the journal’s heritage i...


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pp. 343-354


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pp. 355-357


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pp. 359-363

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794344
E-ISBN-10: 0292794347
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292718005
Print-ISBN-10: 0292718004

Page Count: 373
Illustrations: 9 halftones, 4 line drawings
Publication Year: 2008

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Subject Headings

  • Surrealism (Literature) -- Greece.
  • Greek literature, Modern -- 20th century -- Translations into English.
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