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Tribute to poet Odysseus Elytis

On November 2, 2011 Greece commemorates the 100th anniversary since the birth of poet laureate Odysseus Elytis. To mark the centenary of his birth, 2011 has been designated as Elytis Year by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Odysseus Elytis was born in Heraklion, Crete on November 2, 1911 and died in Athens on March 18, 1996.
A major poet in Greek language, Elytis is also one of the outstanding international figures of 20th-century poetry. Elytis’ poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum of subjects with a rarefied and passionate stylistic touch. The first collections of poetry (Orientations, 1939, and Sun the First, 1943) are joyous and radiant, celebrating the Greek landscape as an ideal world of sensual enjoyment and moral purity.
His experience of the war in 1940s marks a departure from the sunny atmosphere of his early youth and poetry, colouring his long poem Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost Second Lieutenant of Albania (1943). The attempt of Elytis to identify himself with the nation and speak for himself and also for his country reaches its peak with Axion Esti (‘Worthy It Is,’ 1959), his central and most ambitious work for which he was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature.
His experience of the war in 1940s marks a departure from the sunny atmosphere of his early youth and poetry, colouring his long poem Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost Second Lieutenant of Albania (1943). The attempt of Elytis to identify himself with the nation and speak for himself and also for his country reaches its peak with Axion Esti (‘Worthy It Is,’ 1959), his central and most ambitious work for which he was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Centenary Celebrations
The Athens Concert Hall is paying tribute to Odysseus Elytis by holding a two-day (October 31 to November 1) international conference titled Odysseus Elytis: The 20th century in the poetry of Elytis. The poetry of Elytis in the 21st century, exploring new approaches in the interpretation of his work.
On November 2 and 3, there will be an event of original music by George Kouroupos under the title Odysseus Elytis’ This Small, this Great World!, with poetry and prose set to music, representing the main facets of the work of Odysseus Elytis: lyricism, a restless spirit of inquiry, courage, spirituality, sensation and true emotions. Continue reading

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2009 Dedicated to the Poet Yiannis Ritsos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Yiannis Ritsos -together with Kostis Palamas, Giorgos Seferis, and Odysseus Elytis have marked contemporary Greek poetry- and has been among the country’s most widely translated poets. A prolific writer – many of his poems, like Epitaphios and Romiosyni were set to music by renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis. 
Born on May 1st, 1909 in Monemvasia, Lakonia, to landowners, Yiannis Ritsos was often persecuted for his left-wing politics. That combined with the tribulations of his personal and family life (death of his mother and elder brother, his father’s commitment to a mental institution, his own struggle with tuberculosis since 1926) inspired his poetry and led him to receive many distinctions in Greece and abroad. He was awarded the Lenin Prize for Peace in 1977 and the 1956 State Poetry Award for his work “Moonlight Sonata” and was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1968. He died on November 11, 1990.

♦ Marking the Centenary of the Poet’s Birth

In order to bolster research and disseminate the work of Greek authors and bring them closer to the general public, the Ministry of Culture and the National Book Centre of Greece (EKEBI) launched, some years ago, the initiative of commemorating one literary figure every year. This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yiannis Ritsos the two institutions have planned a series of commemorative events such as the publication of a special volume dedicated to the life and work of the poet, the creation of a special website with extensive information on the poet, the preparation of a mobile exhibition which will travel around Greece and abroad, as well as the release of 12 commemorative telephone cards in collaboration with Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE). Also, since March 21, EKEBI has released a series of small-size posters on the Athens tram and metro.

Monemvasia to Honour Poet

A much-anticipated exhibition to take place at the medieval fortress of Monemvasia this summer will mark one of the artist’s lesser known talents. “Ritsos the Artist” will be inaugurated by the French ambassador in Greece, Christophe Farnaud, on July 4 at the restored Agios Nikolaos Church, once the elementary school where Ritsos studied. Apart from some personal items, the show will mainly consist of watercolours, ceramics, and reed roots painted by Ritsos. Running through to August 4, the Ritsos exhibit is one of many events put together by the Monemvasia municipality and the show’s artistic director, composer Pigi Likoudi, to mark the centenary of Ritsos’ birth. [Programme of events in Monemvasia (in Greek)

The Beauty of an… Almost Greek

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The Beauty of a Greek,” is a book by Nikos Engonopoulos, for the translation of which, David Conolly won the 2008 Greek State Prize for Translation.  Having translated numerous literary works for the past twenty years, and having met almost every poet the work of whom he has translated, Conolly knows Greece even more profoundly than the natives. Despite all his experience, Conolly continues to call himself ‘an apprentice.’   Born in Sheffield, England but of Irish descent, Conolly has lived and worked in Greece since 1979 and acquired Greek citizenship in 1998. His acquaintance with Greek culture started as a young traveller to Greece and continued during his studies at the Universities of Lancaster, Oxford and his doctoral degree on how to translate Odysseus Elytis.  As a literary translator,he has published some twenty-five books of translations of work by major 20th-century Greek poets, novelists and short-story writers, while his translations have won awards in Greece, the UK and the USA.  Conolly has taught translation at the Ionian University, Athens University and currently at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Being a genuine and devout admirer of the Greek language and its glowing poetry, Conolly has fairly won the respect of his Greek…compatriots.

Archaeological Findings Repatriated to Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The repatriation of 100 archaeological finds currently stored at Ghent University’s Archeological School in Belgium was decided following a meeting of Greece’s Minister of Culture with the Belgian ambassador and the director of the Belgian Archaeological School in Athens. The Belgian delegation informed Minister Antonis Samaras that the finds come from the School’s excavations at the archaeological site of Thoricos at Lavrio (see picture), southeast Attica. The School’s project of Thoricos was first launched in 1963, and four major areas have been investigated to date: the acropolis, the necropolis, the theatre and the industrial area. The acropolis has yielded the most important finds, while the theatre, probably the earliest in Greece, is of unique archaeological interest. The modern-day name of Thoricos, Lavrio, derives from the word “lavra” which means narrow passage and it is mostly known for its ancient and modern mining galleries. Mine extraction at Thorikos dates back to around 3000 B.C. Silver mining, once one of the chief source of revenue of the Athenian state, reached its peak during the years of Pericles. After a long pause, activities were resumed during the 19th century, contributing to the newly established Greek state’s technological progress for more than a century’s time. Nowadays, the area boasts the Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park, where the rich local legacy comes to the fore. Ministry of Culture: www.culture.gr; Hellenic Culture Organisation: Odysseus portal 

Greek Foreign Ministry: “An Afghan Odysseus”

The awarded documentary “Qadir: An Afghan Odysseus” officially premiered on October 29, and a message from Minister Dora Bakoyannis was read out during a press conference to mark the occasion. The film tracks the nine-year journey of a young Afghan immigrant as he tries to make his life in Greece. In her message, Bakoyannis hailed the final effort as “a programme of developmental cooperation that seeks to sensitize western societies to the problems of the developing world, to show understanding for difference and the importance of encouraging return through developmental activities.”  Co-financed by Hellenic Aid and the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), the film was screened at the ministry, in the presence of Afghan Deputy Culture Minister Omar Sultan. The filming of the documentary – that received 1st Prize at the International Roma Fiction Festival (Factual Section)- took place in Greece and Afghanistan. In an overview of Greek developmental diplomacy over the last five years, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation Theodoros Skylakakis pointed out that Greece had given more than €60 million to Afghanistan’s reconstruction in that time, financing initiatives including emergency aid, health, education, preserving peace and culture.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Qadir – An Afghan Odysseus 

Books about Greece: “Sea of Many Returns” & more

Ithaka and Odysseus’ journeys have inspired many writers. Arnold Zable’s new novel, “Sea of Many Returns,” charts more recent comings and goings from Ithaca, explores the sense of physical and emotional journeying, and continues the renowned author’s fascination with the migrant experience.  Xanthe is compelled to return to the birthplace of her father, Manoli, and her maternal grandfather, Mentor, prompted by family and literary associations. Xanthe is translating Mentor’s manuscript, an account of leaving Ithaca and his subsequent life in Australia. The book takes the reader to modern-day Ithaca, to its mountains, its villages and its harbours, and into the houses of its people.  Secretariat General of Information: Books – Living in Greece   Continue reading

Reading Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Homer :   Where is Ithaca described in detail in Homer’s Odyssey? The island of Ithaki, most have assumed. But Homer says that Ithaca is “furthest towards the dark,” i.e. the west, a group of islands. In their fascinating albeit controversial award-winning best-seller, published by Cambridge University Press in October 2005, titled “Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca”, Robert Bittlestone, enthusiastic Homerist, geologist John Underhill, and classics scholar James Diggle believe the island of Kefalonia is indeed the answer, or rather, its westernmost peninsula Paliki. In the “Odysseus Unbound” website (www.odysseus-unbound.org) you can read more about their project. The book has been updated with the latest developments from the island of Kefalonia and is published in Athens by PolytroponContinue reading