Surrealism in Greece
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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C o n t e n ts
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A c k n owl e d g m e n ts
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The editor would like to thank the following persons, without whom the present Nanos Valaoritis, for his interest and encouragement during the preparation of this anthology, despite our largely divergent opinions as regards the actuality of the sur-Despina Tsouma for the invaluable help she provided regarding copyright Panos Koutrouboussis and Alexander Skinas for reading, commenting upon, ...
I n t r o d u c t i o n
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In the âSurrealist Map of the Worldâ printed in the âSurrealism Specialâ of the jour-nal VariÃ©tÃ©s 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 âGreco-Romanâ civilization) were reportedly seen by surrealismâs founder, AndrÃ© Breton, as symbols of an insipid rationality imposed upon what has come to be ...
Pa r t O n e
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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 magnateâs son who, while living in Paris, had met AndrÃ© Breton and his circle around 1929,Â¹ Embirikos returned in the early 1930s with the dual intention of intro-...
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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 Greek literature, reveals a utopian desire beyond metaphysics, reflected on a unique linguistic sensibility, whereby the dryness of the âofficialâ Greek dialect is subjected to a hedonistic dÃ©tournement. Despite being less active in his late years, he remained interested in the continuation ...
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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 âinitiatedâ by Embirikos; after leaving Greece he became an impor-tant figure of international surrealism, maintaining little contact with Greek activity until the 1960s, when he reemerged via Nanos Valaoritisâs journal Pali. In the seven-ties and eighties he published his Greek poems and early essays in book form, while ...
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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 âratio-nalism.â He thus devoted his life to redressing what he saw as an oppressive misconception of the Greek âtraditionâ (the word for which, in Greek, is the same as for âsurrenderââcf. the homonymous poem herein). Introduced to Embirikos by Nicolas Calas, he was the second Greek poet to publish a surrealist book (in 1938), and to this day the best-loved (and most ridiculed) one. Although there is a visible ...
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Born in Crete. One of surrealismâs 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, âThe Dreams,â one of his best and least discussed). Most, if not all, of his poetry has been translated into English, repeatedly in some cases, especially after he won the Nobel Prize in 1979. His numerous books not represented here include Sun the First (1943), Axion Esti (1959), Six and One Qualms for the Sky (1960), The Light-tree and ...
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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 his many nonsense songs and his imagi-native use of folk motifs, reminiscent of Lorca), the volume and popularity of his commercial work dimming the significance of his self-imposed silence. Yet Amorgos remains a prime indication of a new sensibility brought to Greek writing by sur-...
Pa r t Two
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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 some of the most authentic voices of their generation: Miltos Sahtouris, E. Ch. Gonatas, Dimitris Papaditsas, and others, including the two figures who, of ...
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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 outstanding late poems. Although her marriage to Embirikos lasted only until 1944, this crucial period (which coincided roughly with the Nazi Occupation) gave rise to the second generation of Greek surrealists via the wartime gatherings in the Embirikos/Hatzilazarou household. Hatzilazarou is a very inter-...
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Particularly close to Engonopoulos, Sahtourisâs 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 Kaknavatos or Valaoritis, whose constant trans-formations lie at the very antipodes of Sahtouris) does not display any particular acquaintance with, or at any rate influence by, postwar international surrealism; yet it is precisely its stubborn maintenance of a quasi-nightmarish repertory of images ...
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Born in Piraeus. A lifelong contributor to Greek surrealism with poetry, essays, and translations. Yet Kaknavatosâs first collection, in 1943, was followed by two decades of silence, partly owing to political prosecutions which also affected his professional status. A mathematician by training, Kaknavatos brought fresh tools to surrealist poetics. Besides his original work, he is mostly responsible for introducing the writings of Joyce Mansour (first presented by Nanos Valao- ritis in the journal Pali) to the Greek public; he has also translated works by RenÃ© ...
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Born in Lausanne, like Nicolas Calas; close to the âmodernistâ 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 regu-lar at meetings and discussions of surrealism during the war. Having developed a surrealist tendency by the mid-1940s, he spent the first postwar years in London, where he translated and introduced modern Greek poets. In 1954, Valaoritis came in contact with the French surrealist group via Marie Wilson, whom he later mar-...
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Particularly close to Hector Kaknavatos and E. Ch. Gonatas, Papaditsas is unique amidst the generation raised during the war in displaying a pro-nounced lyrical tendency, and a repertory of autonomous images reminis-cent of Pierre Reverdy. Certainly one of the most original voices of his generation, his work assumes explicitly metaphysical overtones after his first two books, and the surrealist imagery therein becomes increasingly mild. âI dissolved into birds/With Stairs here stairs there glittering steels square beings no trees anywhere and yellow ...
E. Ch. Gonatas
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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 publicity. A lawyer by profes-sion. The slim volume of his complete published works testifies to his eclecticism and has helped render him a âcultâ writer, to use a rather tired expression. Gona-tasâs stories involve a renewed sense of the marvelous, whereby curious revelations ...
Pa r t T h r e e
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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 nothing, as we have seen, because of objective difficulties. But in the 1960s the conditions were ripe for a Greek attempt along those lines; hence the Pali journal....
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A ravantinouâs early texts, influenced by Embirikos in their treatment of language and expansive freedom, but entirely original in concept, consti- tuted one of the major tone-setting works around Pali; language here at once constructs and describes a mysterious, nocturnal urban landscape. Largely ignored by critics and translators alike, her death from Alzheimerâs disease was a tragic irony, given her preoccupation in her works with the function of memory. âHere the narrative flow follows the direction of desire, of an impossible cravingâ ...
Yorgos V. Makris
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His suicide and unwillingness to publish bring perhaps to mind Jacques Rigaut and his namesake VachÃ©âa facile comparison for an equally unique human case. A member of Embirikosâs wartime circle, close to Sahtouris and Gonatas, Makris evaded both work and âliteratureâ; one of his poems, now lost, was titled âAn attempt to become enchanted.â Introduced to AndrÃ© Breton by Nanos Valaoritis, Makris collaborated on Pali, notably with his translation of Pazâs Sunstone (based on Benjamin PÃ©retâs translation and notes). Many texts by ...
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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, predictably, Skinasâs writ-ing has been downplayed by critics for not being âserious-mindedâ enough, it would not be much of an exaggeration to consider him as perhaps the most original Greek writer of the postwar era, his boldness in stretching the limits of language with bit-...
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A vital member of the young Pali group, who has not remained close to surrealism. One of his generationâs most acerbic poets, he has translated works by Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. âSeldom has a man given not a shit/For the collected values of the European spiritâ (Tassos Denegris)....
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Writer, painter, graphic artist, director of surrealist shorts, and cofounder of Pali, whose intervention gave the tone of an era. His Historias con-stitute 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 modern popu-lar culture. In magnifying the everyday as well as in trivializing the apocalyptic, Koutrouboussis alludes to a new myth, barely discernible amid the prevalent misery and the debased, common use of popular artifacts. His influences include, by his ...
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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 Baudelaireâs and Rimbaudâs prose poems. âShuddering, I hear hollow sounds of human voices, of glasses standing on tables; I see ghosts of brilliant ad-The king was very young. He wore a crown of Veronese green-colored ice. He lived at the bottom of a lake up north. That lake is covered with ice all year long, so no ...
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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 wholly original in concept) as well as translations of LautrÃ©amont, Ted Joans, Arrabal, and Aldous Huxleyâs The Doors of Perception. After Paliâs demise, he became a proponent of the semiclandestine (under the junta rule) underground rock ânâ roll scene, although ...
A f t e rwo r d
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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 journalâs heritage involved a dual movement: besides posing the issue of continuity, it encouraged a reappraisal of the earlier surrealists, one that ex-...
N o t e s
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...1. In Î£Ï Î½ÏÎÎ»ÎµÎ¹Î± (Synteleia), SpringâSummer 1991, no. 4â5, p. 112.1. According to his interview with Andromachi Skarpalezou, posthumously printed in 2. The most comprehensive source is Î£ÏÏÎ®ÏÎ·uni03C2 Î¤ÏÎ¹Î²Î¹Î¶Î¬uni03C2: Î¤Î¿ Î£Î¿Ï ÏÏÎµÎ±Î»Î¹ÏÏÎ¹ÎºÏ Î£ÎºÎ¬Î½Î´Î±Î»Î¿ (Sotiris Trivizas, To Sourrealistiko Scandalo [The Surrealist Scandal]), (Athens: ÎÎ±ÏÏÎ±Î½Î¹ÏÏÎ·uni03C2 3. âProlegomena to a Third Surrealist Manifesto or Notâ; in Manifestoes of Surrealism, ...
B i b l i o g r a p h y
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...a n d r e a S e m b i r i k o S ( Î Î Î Î¡ Î Î Î£ Î Î Î Î Î Î¡ Î Î Î Î£ )ÎÎ½Î´Î¿ÏÏÏÎ± (Endohora) (Hinterland). Athens: ÎÎ³ÏÎ± (Agra), 1980.ÎÏÎ±ÏÏÎ¬ Î® Î ÏÎ¿ÏÏÏÎ¹ÎºÎ® ÎÏ Î¸Î¿Î»Î¿Î³Î¯Î± (Grapta I Prosopiki Mythologia) (Writings or Personal My-Î ÎÎÎ³Î±Ï ÎÎ½Î±ÏÎ¿Î»Î¹ÎºÏÏ (O Megas Anatolikos) (The Great Eastern). 8 vols. Athens: ÎÎ³ÏÎ± (Agra), ÎÎ¹ÎºÏÎ»Î±Î¿Ï ÎÎ³Î³Î¿Î½ÏÏÎ¿Ï Î»Î¿Ï Î® ÏÎ¿ ÎÎ±ÏÎ¼Î± ÏÎ¿Ï ÎÎ»ÏÎ±ÏÏÎ¬Î½ ÎºÎ±Î¹ ÏÎ¿Ï ÎÎ¿ÏÏÏÏÎ¿Ï ÎºÎ±Î¹ uni0394Î¹Î¬Î»ÎµÎ¾Î· Î³Î¹Î± ÏÎ¿Î½ ...
i n d e x
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Page numbers in boldface indicate actual material by the person indexed....
Page Count: 373
Illustrations: 9 halftones, 4 line drawings
Publication Year: 2008
Series Title: Surrealist Revolution, Franklin Rosemont series editor