Greek literature – contemporary recommendations, and a confession

A day or so ago it became clear to me that I am woefully under-read when it comes to Greek literature, and particularly contemporary Greek literature. It’s an almost complete unknown to me, and I assume (or assumed) that Greek literature was reasonably minor on the world stage.

Appreciation goes to Damon Young (Twitter: @damonayoung) for helping me recognise this

I don’t really know where this idea came from. Unpacking it a little, it could perhaps relate to the idea that the Ancient Greeks were so influential and important that the language and its literature must be in a decline/decadent phase now. But I have no evidence to support this. Contemplating other languages around the world, and I don’t really share this feeling with any other – though perhaps slightly with Italian (for the same reason??). That said, I have read and own a lot more Italian literature, so this prejudice is vague and fading.

This is clearly an issue and something I need to resolve within myself and address. I was surprised to discover I felt this way because, before now, I haven’t really even though about Greek literature at all. Yet my initial reaction was negative. There’s a problem here, and it’s entirely with me.

I spent an hour or so looking through my books, and outside of a couple of novels by Nikos Kazantzakis, I don’t own anything by any Greek writers other than the pre-AD writers.

None!

So, I sent out a query to Twitter – who among contemporary Greek writers are worth looking into?

Happily, the response was significant, and now I have lots of names to slowly address. This is very fine, and the details of the recommendations are below.

I decided also to review a Greek short story writer or two, with the first being Sophia Nikolaidou. You can see the list below (I’ll update as I add more):

  • Nikolaidou, Sophia – Houses Without Windows

Something that jumped out to me was the lack of Greek writers among the journals and publications I own. I am not naming and shaming as such, but these include – Dalkey Archive, Absinthe, Two Lines, Overland, Granta, The Black Herald. Weighty names. Granted, I don’t own everything published under those umbrellas, so it’s entirely possible I am missing many fine Greek writeres, but they weren’t there when I went looking.

At any rate, the below represent recommendations from various Twitter folk. I haven’t read a single word by any of these writers (well, excluding today’s read and review of Houses Without Windows), but I certainly respect the individuals mentioned below. Follow them! And perhaps buy and read some of these authors and their books –

  • Susan Pigman (@1SusyQ) – George Seferis, Constantine Cavafy, Yannis Ritsos
  • Tom (@TomWsf) – The Parthenon Bomber by Christos Chrysopoulos
  • @vivastory38 – Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki
  • Michael Holtmann (@michaelholtmann) – anything translated by Karen Emmerich
  • Ryan Ruby (@_ryanruby_) – Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo; What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos; Amanda Michalopoulou; Christos Ikonomou
  • Marina Sofia (@marinaSofia8) – Ersi Sotiropoulos; Petros Markaris; Nikos Kazantsakis; Christos Ikonomou; Theodor Kallifatides; Ioanna Karystiani
  • Charles Lee (@charlesbrownesq) – Alexandros Papadiamantis; Sophia Nikolaidou; Vassilis Vassilikos
  • Tom (@AmateurReader) – George Seferis; Angelos Sikelianos; Odysseas Elytis
  • Jamie Richards (@JRichWords) – Margarita Karapanou; Vassilis Vassilikos; Giannis Ritsos

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