HQ’s 17th issue takes up culture and language

Language and culture are two sides of the same coin, and in Greece it’s a match apparent in the everyday as well as in more exalted theatrical or musical performances. As such, it’s an obvious fit for a magazine like the Hellenic Quarterly, which sets out doggedly to explain Greek culture and social realities to an English-speaking readership in each new season. Yet only now, in its 17th edition (summer 2003), it takes the matter on foursquare. It is an immense and complex subject even in one’s own language; to take it up in another is even harder still, and you have to give the editors full marks for having the gumption to try. The presentation is mainly translation-based and imperfect at that, but diligence can still yield rewards. Getting there, though, requires plowing through (or skipping over) some essays on «social-economics» topics; one is an insightful essay on the need for an EU constitution by Costas Botopoulos, and another one (with charts) on Greece’s economic role in SE Europe. In the second section, this eases into the main focus with a series of four «foresight scenarios» for life in 2021 in a Greece, says A.D. Papayiannidis, which suffers from «a rather short-sighted foresight.» Four scenarios are presented: «Garden» (not a perfect world, but close), «Two-tier scenario or differentiation pockets» (you’ll have to read to find out), «Competitive-Liberal Model» (think «today plus») and «Instability Scenario» (for stark realists). This effort is, in fact, the result of a scientific collaboration between some major universities in Greece, with 11 working groups and hundreds involved in an online dialogue (Project Technology Foresight:, so much hard thinking has gone into envisioning these alternatives. The other two-thirds of the circa 110 pages is pure literature: A lengthy session on the cover theme, leading off with an essay by George Seferis on, appropriately, the Greek language; another by T.S. Eliot on poetry’s social functions; and the rest by Greek writers on e.g. language in Elytis, the genesis of «Euro-Greek,» an intriguing take on language and silence by Elena Noussia, and essays on translation and (how appropriate) the decadence of language in the media. HQ may bring Greek culture to English speakers, but it also works the other way around, aiming to bring those readers into the world of literary Greece, partly through its essays on books, poetry and language and its useful, one-page reviews of new book releases in Greek. Previews of this year’s Cultural Olympiad performances are also timely. And there is an art theme once again, featuring surrealist oils and sketches by Iannis Nikou with a Daliesque tone and overtly sexual themes that might liven up some bored late-summer lives. It can also be jarring; the back of the front cover features an ad for the Hellenic Festival («experience your midsummer night’s dream») – and on the facing page, the artist’s «Third Horseman of the Apocalypse» suggests a midsummer nightmare. All in the service of art.