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280 Reviews PanayotisMoullas.ÎαναγιώτηςΜουλλάς,Oλόγοςτηςαπουσίας:Δοκίμιογια τηνεπιστολογϕαφίαμεσαϕάνταανÎ-κδοταγϕάμματατουΦώτουÎολίτη (1908-1910). Athens. Morfotikó 'Idrima EthnikÃ-s Trapézis. 1992. Pp. 451 + 24 pp. of photographs hors texte. This volume, sumptuously printed under the editorial care of Emmanuel Kasdaglis, is an extravaganza rather than just a collection of letters. The letters are up front in Part One, to be sure, preceded whimsically by Jacques Derrida's apophthegm Au commencement, en principe était la poste. They were sent by Fotos Politis to his mother, his grandmother, and his redoubtable father, the celebrated N. G. Politis, while the epistolographer was a graduate student in Germany. Immensely literate, huge, and full of surprises, they remind us sadly of a species that has become almost extinct owing to the telephone. They range from worries about underpants (addressed to his mother, of course)— ... I don't want you to make me [the underpants] with a cord but with buttons. If the cord breaks, bye-bye to the underpants, whereas if the button breaks and there is a reserve supply (εφεδϕεία) of other buttons attached to the same pair of underpants, as I had written to you, it is easily replaced. (89) —to worries about his future profession (addressed to his father, who evidently had a vision of Fotos studying law and becoming a Member of Parliament): Your letter saddened me, just as mine saddened you. It saddened me because the current matter—my current decision, that is to say—you associate with the other one from last year: in other words, with my decision to change my area of study. And because you rely more on economic reasons, materialistic ones, rather than ethical—what I mean is spiritual—to reproach me. ... I chose my subject blindly ... a fifteen year old boy ... It was the influence of my surroundings. . . . Ever since I was a small child . . . you shouted at me: Lawyer! You will become a celebrated lawyer! . . . ... If love of Art is a folly, a temporary blindness, why isn't the study of law the same folly, the same blindness? . . . One thing only you will answer me, just as you write in your letter: social position, financial position. . . . Social position, if by this you mean not just financial, is achieved not only by the person who studies law. Palamas and Mavilis and Gryparis have a higher social position than the great majority of cabinet ministers and university professors. . . . Palamas, whom you mention, is precisely an argument for my position. Wasser aus meiner Mühle. He is a person who has devoted his entire being to Art and who is not dying from hunger. To earn one's living isn't so extraordinarily difficult in romiosini . A job will be found somewhere. If necessary, journalist, actor. . . . . . . I've repeated my decision to you. I wonder if you will understand me this time. (132-133, 135-137, 139) But this volume is not just a collection of letters. Although the forty texts seem to establish the presence of both author and recipients very well, Professor Moullas entitles his collection provocatively "The Discourse of Absence . " His motivation (above and beyond loyalty to his teacher, the late Linos Politis, who entrusted the N. G. Politis archive to his care) was to examine as Reviews 281 broadly as possible the problematicism implicit in these letters—specifically, questions relating (a) to the intellectual atmosphere of the early decades of our century, (b) to the studies of Greeks abroad and (c) to the methodology whereby one draws general conclusions from the personal observations of a single individual. Professor Moullas viewed these epistolary testimonies, in sum, as a double opportunity: to expand historically on the situation of Greek students in Germany and to speculate theoretically on the "dubiousness" of epistolary practice. He begins Part Two with theory: the question "Who is speaking?" (as though there were an answer). Must we not distinguish the real person writing the letters from the "epistolary author" who is constrained by rules such as the obligatory inquiry about the recipient's health? And who is the recipient— merely the person addressed or, in some cases, the public or even, primarily, the author himself or herself? As for the letters' subject matter, is it really what it...


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