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Reviewed by:
Eratosthenis Kapsomenos, editor, Odysseas Elytes: Ho poietes kai hoi hellenikes politismikes axies. Proceedings of the International Conference organized by the University of Ioannina and the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Kos, 25-29 June 1994. Athens: Govostis. 2000. Pp. 686. €35.22.

This substantial volume brings together 44 papers presented at the International Conference on Odysseas Elytis held on the island of Kos in 1994. Most of the important papers have already been published elsewhere. In those essays as in the others presented in the volume, an odd characteristic of criticism dealing with Elytis's oeuvre (a bent probably encouraged by the poet's extensive comments on his poetics) is discernible. Very often, contributors simply paraphrase passages from his essays in their readings of poetry and/or merely quote excerpts from his poems to explain his essays. The value of this user-friendly [End Page 160] book is therefore primarily practical; well-arranged thematic unities provide a framework that contributes to this effect.

Kapsomenos offers a lucid account of Elytis's treatment of Greek cultural values. He maintains that the poet aspired to elevate his experience of the harmony achieved between man, nature, and culture, which is typical of Greek tradition, to the status of a universal value. The open and luminous space of Elytis's poetry is discussed by Martinidis. As Kaknavatos claims, it represents beauty and good, which are connected to the metaphysical experience of that which remains inexpressible. According to Nikolaidis, Elytis's faith in the reality of both potential and sensory images originates in Plato. By drawing on the myth of Atlantis, Stavropoulou considers the emerging island in "Ode to Santorini" as a symbol that stands for the creation of the world as well as the creative process.

Siaflekis rightly points out that the assimilation of Pierre Reverdy's ideas on the image, the existence of subject matter, and the background of Greek cultural tradition in "Windows toward the Fifth Season" reveal a selective approach to surrealist theories about automatic writing. Yet, given, for instance, Elytis's claim that in his early poetry he sought to replace subject matter with the impersonal idea of poetry (see "The Chronicle of a Decade" in his first volume of essays inline graphic [Open Book] Athens: Ikaros, 1987:419), it seems to me that his relation to Surrealism is more complicated. Noutsos focuses on the reception of Greek surrealism by left-wing writers in the 1930s. His contribution effectively highlights the need for in-depth analyses of this crucial issue, about which more conclusions than research have been offered in the past. Tsianikas relates the polyphonic and structurally complex poem Maria Nefeli to German Romanticism and considers the game between presence/absence and disguise/revelation in the poem from a modernist perspective. According to Ivanovic, Elytis's presentation of the model of endless rupture with tradition, in his essay on Kalvos, constitutes the best account of modernism that has appeared in Greek criticism.

Ioannou suggests that Elytis's ideas on the "poetic moment" reveal obvious similarities to those of Gaston Bachelard and Georges Poulet, although the Greek poet was not directly influenced by them. However, Elytis was familiar with Bachelard's theories before 1944 (that is, before his theory of time evolved), a detail that seems to have escaped Ioannou's attention. Connolly clears away misconceptions of earlier reviewers about the Elegies of Jutting Rock; regrettably, he does not take into account previous contributions on the issue of the moment (those by Vayenas, Lychnara, and Vitti), which reach more or less similar conclusions to his own. Ilinskaya restricts her consideration of time to the Diary of an Invisible April and provides stimulating insights, based on the conclusion that personal and historical details are submitted here as examples of collective experience. In the same vein, Paschalidis points out that Elytis rejected the autobiographical tradition introduced by Jacques Rousseau, whose distinctive qualities are historicity, individuality, and inwardness.

An exploration of narrative structures in The Axion Esti is attempted by Triandou-Kapsomenou, who makes constructive use of the theories of Propp, [End Page 161] Greimas, and Genette. Trandou-Kapsomenou moves from a well-presented comparison between The Axion Esti and...


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