restricted access The Karagiozis Heroic Performance in Greek Shadow Theater (review)
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Reviews 359 It is intriguing to see Kazantzakis' playful version of this theme, especially considering his ponderous treatment of it in Kouros, and the weight of allegorization placed upon the sack of Knossos in his Odyssey. Peter Bien Dartmouth College Kostas Myrsiades and Linda S. Myrsiades, The KaragiozL· Heroic Performancein Greek Shadow Theater. Hanover, New Hampshire: University of New England Press. 1988. Pp. χ + 248. $30.00. This book on Karagiozis is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on modern Greek folklore and popular culture. It opens with a detailed history of Greek shadow theater that focuses on its origin in Turkish shadow theater, its introduction into Greece, and the process of development by which it assumed its present form. Critically annotated translations of two plays follow—The Hero KatsandonL · and The Seven Beasts and KaragiozL·. The book concludes with appendices describing the stock characters that appear in the plays, the production techniques used by puppeteers, and the tradition of printed shadow theater plays. The historical research on which this study is based is impressive. The authors have consulted a wide range of sources including old newspapers, 19th century travellers' reports, and collections of printed texts and taped performances. Because of their exclusive focus on history, however, the authors fail to deal adequately with the contemporary state of Greek shadow theater. We learn a great deal about the performances of itinerant players in small towns in the Péloponnèse in the 1920s, but very little about performances given in Athenian movie theaters and the Plaka in the 1980s. A more balanced treatment of the history of the tradition and its contemporary ethnographic context would have been helpful. The authors' commentary on the two plays presented also suffers from an overly narrow concern for the "historical veracity" of the texts. They state that texts often "forget historical facts," that they do not "truly reflect history," and that they express "an ideological view of history that has little to do with historical actuality" (pp. 47, 48, and 54). Many of the footnotes to the plays simply compare the account of certain events presented in the plays (such as the death of Katsandonis ) with more "historical" accounts of the same events. I suggest 360 Reviews that all views of history are ideological and that a more valuable commentary would have focused on questions of meaning and interpretation rather than on the issue of "historical veracity." Occasionally the authors seem unable to maintain sufficient critical distance from their material. They participate in, rather than comment critically on, various nationalistic debates concerning the "Greekness" of Karagiozis. For example, they discuss whether Karagiozis expresses "the irresistible force of the national spirit" (p. 178), and in their investigation of the "Hellenization" of Karagiozis they try to distinguish between plays that are "genuinely" Greek and those that are actually "Turkish in nature." In addition, they claim that the version of the Katsandonis play they present is the "most traditional" (p. 55) and that early printed texts "present a more faithful picture of Karagiozis than even today's performances" (p. 192). From a critical perspective the more pressing questions seem to be: What role has the scholarly discourse on Karagiozis played in ideological discussions of Greek national identity? Who has the authority to define what is "traditional"? How do traditions change? The translations of the two plays presented here do a good job of conveying the wonderfully irreverent humor of Greek shadow theater. When he learns that the father of Katsandonis has been boiled in oil by Ali Pasha, Karagiozis asks: "Boiled in oil? What the devil did they take him for, French fries?" (p. 72). After being introduced to Serini, the granddaughter of the Pasha, Karagiozis says "Yes, yes, my little Pussyrini, how's tricks?" (p. 173). Karagiozis' many puns, which are extremely difficult to translate, are also handled very skillfully. When Ali Pasha refers to the prophet, Karagiozis refers to the propshit, and when Karagiozis meets "Alexander the Macedonian," he greets him as "Alexander the Macaroni-man" (pp. 85 and 172). Perhaps even more difficult to convey in translation are the regional dialects and the idiomatic speech of the various characters. Here the authors...