CULTURE

A new version of Mario Vitti’s standard text

Mario Vitti has rewritten his landmark 1971 work «History of Modern Greek Literature» (Odysseas Press). «I was doing the usual revision for a new edition,» Vitti told Kathimerini, «when I realized that it needed to be rewritten. First, because it’s such an exciting subject, and second, because in the 30 years since the first edition, not only have there been many new books and writers, but also many new studies. «In my youth, there were only two chairs of Modern Greek Studies in Greece; now there are 32.» Have your views of the works changed? Not entirely, but they have changed. I love the same writers, only more so. Who are they? There are lots of them. Each writer I read becomes my favorite of the moment. Every era has its own great writers. I find it difficult to accept something I don’t like, but in such cases, one must look at the viewpoint of other critics or the public. In this new version of the book I place a lot of emphasis on the public’s point of view. Besides, the literary historian does not have the right to play a part, to make decisions. His personal preferences shouldn’t be too apparent. You write about the very recent past in the new edition. The Italian edition goes up to 1980. For example, there is not much about Ioanna Karystiani – a fine writer whom I like a lot and who is the same age as Galanaki and Yiatromanolakis – because she started writing later. In my view, the level of literature rose greatly from 1980 on. Time will tell who has the greater or lesser talent. What is the role of the literary historian nowadays? I am flattered that many universities in Greece and abroad use my book. Ideally, I’d like my book to be read for pleasure, in one sitting, like a novel, where every chapter is an adventure. I want it to show how one work is involved in another, how writers follow each other, where the breaks come in each era and the difficulty of getting something new accepted. What direction has fiction taken in postwar Greece? The big changes came with the Thirties generation. The postwar generation produced many novelists, and the rivalry among them had raised the level; many novels that are a pleasure to read. There, I’ve said the word, which is a two-edged sword. Many novels are designed to please, as Hollywood films are. What is the readership for Greek literature abroad? Students of Modern Greek literature and other readers, depending on what is published. This is where Greece has made a big effort in terms of government policy; these days there is an official policy on promoting Greek literature abroad.