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The Two-Fold Nostalgia: Lost Homeland and Lost Time in the Work of G. Theotokas, E. Venezis and K. Politis Peter Mackridge A constant theme in modern Greek literature is the evocation of childhood as a time during which one's sense impressions were more vivid and one's emotions more intense than they are in adulthood. As an adult one's routine preoccupations make one inattentive to the deeper lessons to be learned from the world, when one's tastes are jaded by constant repetition and when one's natural responses have been disciplined so as not to infringe social conventions. In short, finding all dreams and expectations shattered by one's encounter with "reality," the adult idealizes childhood as a state in which one experiences never-to-be-repeated "privileged moments." In a country such as Greece, where for a long time young people have had to move to the city in order to gain an education and a good job, it is natural that the temporal nostalgia for childhood should often have been coupled with a spatial nostalgia for the island or mountain village that has been left behind. Around the turn of the century this two-fold nostalgia is most clearly evident in some of the stories of Papadiamandis, such as "Dream on the Wave" and "Under the Royal Oak." For those writers of the "Generation of 1930" who lost their homes in the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, this two-fold nostalgia has an additional component; for, while Papadiamandis could—and did—return to his native Skiathos and observe it still living (though inevitably changing for the worse!), the refugees of 1922 found themselves more or less totally deprived of the possibility of return: their homelands had ceased to exist, if not in a physical sense (as was the case with the destruction of Smyrna by fire), then at least from the human point of view (the Greeks who had made up virtually the entire population of Ayvali being replaced by Turks—many of them, 75 76 Peter Mackridge ironically enough, Greek-speaking Cretan Moslems). Just as a famous man can be said to live for ever after his death, so it is with dead homelands: their existence becomes timeless through their celebration in memory and art. This sense of timelessness attaching to childhood seems to have developed, in the writers from Asia Minor, into something akin to the Platonic sense of the eternal existence of the soul before birth: the reminiscence of childhood becomes the anamnesis ofthat "other world," that "other life, beyond the statues," for which Seferis' voyagers are vainly seeking, a Garden of Eden from which they have been cast out, as a punishment for they know not what sin, into the arid landscape evoked in Mythistorema. The three novels I want to discuss are all by members of the Generation of 1930. Leonis (1940), ' by George Theotokas, is chiefly set in Constantinople between 1914 and 1922 (although this is not strictly Asia Minor, the experience is the same); Aeolian Earth (1943),2 by Elias Venezis, is mostly set near Ayvali in 1914; while most of the action of At Hadzifrangos' (1963), ' by Kosmas Politis, takes place in Smyrna in 1901-2. Each of these novels concerns not only a lost homeland but also the problems faced by children as they are wrenched, by their first experiences of sexual arousal or physical violence, out of the carefree and seemingly timeless existence of childhood into the troubled and fragmented world of adult reality. In Leonis the narration follows the central character's development between the ages of 9 and 17—the "crisis of puberty" (p. 181) taking place to the accompaniment of the world crisis; for most οι Aeolian Earth the first-person narrator, Petros, is 10 and his sister Artemi 13; and in At Hadzifrangos' Aristos is about 11, Stavrakis about 13 and Pandelis about 18. Even though, in addition, the authors devote a considerable amount of attention to adult characters, the parents of these children hardly play any significant role: essentially, the lost homeland and the process of growing up are viewed through children 's eyes. This is understandable in view of...


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pp. 75-83
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