Ithaca’s usual fare plus a look at eroticism in Greek prose and poetry

Elias Maglinis writes on «Extremes of Eroticism in Modern Greek Literature» in the special feature of Ithaca’s February 2003 issue. He focuses on postwar literature, locating its influences in the Greek literary past and European literature and cinema. From the work of Giorgos Ioannou – which contains no erotic scenes yet is redolent with the erotic – to the in-yer-face sexual extroversion of Costas Tachtsis, Maglinis examines varying approaches. He notes a connection between Ioannou’s writing and that of Aristotelis Nikolaidis, which are on the surface very different, yet which share «a sense of the sacred.» Maglinis gives a careful account of the numerous authors he discusses, and it would be interesting to see him attempt some explanation of why so many of these modern Greek writers – Margarita Karapanou, Ersi Sotiropoulou, Nikos Nikolaidis, Vangelis Raptopoulos, Sotiris Dimitriou and Michel Fais deal with sex as violence, exploitation and alienation. Portraits In the same issue, Katerina Schina adds to her now established series of Greek literary portraits with an account of Constantinos Theotokis in «The Self-Taught Sage of Greek Letters.» Recounting how Corfu-born, multilingual Theotokis studied abroad but only found his true path as a writer when he adopted local themes, Schina emphasizes that though his subject matter is often harsh, the writer never moralizes but analyzes social phenomena with detachment. Ithaca’s interview this month is a particularly interesting one, with poet and translator Katerina Angelaki-Rooke. She talks frankly and with passion to Elena Houzouri about the factors shaping her poetry – her family, says the poet – and the role of the body in her work: «Everything begins and ends with the body, everything,» says Angelaki-Rooke. And she talks about the comforts of translation, which she describes as «the other joy of my life which I’m not in danger of losing, for here the passing of time, experience and repetition only go to improve the result. And since my great master is language – maybe, I think, poetry is the means by which I serve language – by translating it I enrich it, in other words, I constantly discover new richnesses in it.» Photography In the photography section, Nina Kassiani reviews photographer Nelly’s «Santorini 1925-1930» and in the regular Cities of the World feature, poet Costas Mavroudis shares his experience of Bucharest, and how it was entwined with his memories of the person who first told him about that city. Mariza Decastro explores how the immense treasure house of classical mythology is made available to children in modern Greek books, and selects titles which she find appropriate for different age groups, always taking their visual presentation into account. The usual presentation of recent publications includes brief reviews of novels, short stories, poetry and biography, and a new page introduces a best-selling book, Stelios Kouloglou’s novel «Never Go to the Post Office Alone,» which has sold 400,000 copies. In the gastronomy section, with her usual zest, Aglaia Kremezi reviews two books of recipes based on traditional cuisine: «Argyro Barbarigou’s ‘Recipes of the Aegean’ and Stratis Panagos’s ‘Panorexia: Ouzo Appetizers from Lesvos,’ which is in English. The panorexia of the title refers to «the great variety of foods that can accompany ouzo.» Ithaca, now a monthly publication, is issued by the National Book Center (EKEBI), with the aim of making Greek books and writers better known among publishers and agents abroad. Its recent revamp and an ongoing effort to improve quality deserve to pay off. And it is equally informative for readers based in Greece.

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