- Δημήτρης Ραυτóπoυλος, Άρης Αλεξάvδρου, ο εξóριστος by Dimitris Raftopoulos
The combination of biography and literary criticism has often proved to be a dangerous undertaking in postmodern literary scholarship; however, Dimitris Raftopoulos manages to minimize the skepticism that such an undertaking might produce in his readers. Approaching his subject creatively, he constructs his own literary/critical genre.
Άρης Aλεξάvδρoυ, o εξóριστoς is the first in a series of monographs on Greek writers, subtitled «oι διϰoί μας», issued by the Sokoli publishing house. Despite having to work within a specific framework, Raftopoulos manages to be [End Page 362] innovative. His project, at least until the last chapter, consists in demonstrating not a causal relationship between personal experience and literary creation but a complementary one. His ultimate aim is to create a portrait of the man/a writer, or of the writer/a man: to search for the figure of a writer.
Raftopoulos’s experiment first offers a chronological narrative of the major events in the writer’s life and their influence on the development of his political and intellectual ideas. This takes the form of a diary (written in the third person) supplemented by other documents such as letters, oral testimonies by his friends, and, of course, Alexandrou’s own work, starting with the very first essay that he composed in Greek elementary school, a memory of Christmas in Russia.
In the course of this narrative, Raftopoulos follows several threads. He sketches the portrait of Alexandrou as translator and examines the influence upon him of authors whose work he encountered via the act of translation. He speculates on the effect that translation as an exercise had on the development of Alexandrou’s aesthetic project. How can one reconcile, on the one hand, the writer’s ideal of being a citizen of the world, his aspiration to construct a phonetic alphabet, and his interest in Esperanto with, on the other hand, his acknowledgment qua translator of the particularities of each language and his respect for those particularities? Raftopoulos shows that the untranslatability of texts was, for Alexandrou, as much a product of a specific author’s stylistic particularities as of the particularities of the language itself, thus signaling a parallel between the writer-translator and the writer-reader (interpreter). In a parallel narrative, Raftopoulos explores the influence upon Alexandrou of politically committed Marxist ideology as expressed in the dogma of socialist realism, and the writer’s reaction to this influence.
Alexandrou’s life is presented as a series of periods of exile that were characterized not by nostalgia, as they so often are, but rather by a progressive sense of disillusionment and alienation. Raftopoulos describes as the first such period the family’s coming to Greece from Russia. Interpreted retrospectively, this becomes the first ideological disillusionment, involving Alexandrou’s linguistic isolation from his classmates in elementary school in Greece; his joining young people’s political organizations and his encounter with other young intellectuals of his time; the war, the German occupation, and Alexandrou’s disappointment with the leadership of the Greek communist party, which he viewed as having become the instrument of Russian politics rather than maintaining an ideological integrity; the writer’s self-banishment from the party and yet his adherence to its ideological principles; the sequence of exiles and imprisonments imposed by the British army and then by the Greek government in Limnos and Makronisos; the gradual shift in his poetry from Aϰóμα τoύτη η Άvoιξη, a collection described as subscribing to a political climate rather than being a personal creation, to 'Aγovoς γραμμή, marking the poet’s gradual isolation and shift to a disillusioned but still impersonal “I,” and finally to Eυθύτης oδώv, in which the historical perspective approaches Cavafian irony; then his final exile to Paris, where he concludes the writing of To ϰιβώτιo (“Mission Box”) and composes his Exercises de rédaction and his Parisian Poems. [End Page 363]
Raftopoulos convincingly conveys a psychology of the writer. In addition, he demonstrates how Alexandrou’s work is permeated by an existentialism that seems to derive not from his encounter with works of contemporary French writers such as Sartre and Camus—an...