CULTURE

Chronicling the life and works of Kedros

With its heroic, anti-establishment past and ongoing dedication to promoting fine Greek literature, Kedros is a formidable presence in Greek publishing, a presence accurately reflected in «To Xroniko Tou Kedrou» (The Kedros Chronicle) 1954-2004,» published to mark the company’s 50th anniversary. Ninetta Makrynikola, senior editor at Kedros and author of a benchmark bibliography of poet Yiannis Ritsos, traces the publishing house’s history from its beginnings as a modest business started in 1954 by two former political detainees, husband-and-wife team Nikos and Nana Kallianesis, to the thriving modern publishing house it has become. The couple had already paid for their resistance to repression with imprisonment and exile during the occupation and civil war, and they proved their courage yet again in the dark days of the military junta, risking their own livelihood and personal safety by giving work to blacklisted and exiled writers, publishing books such as the «Eighteen Texts» that outwitted censorship and rallied people to resist. A later spell of detention was to destroy Nana’s health, and eventually Kedros was taken over by Katia Lembessi and her husband Vangelis Papathanasopoulos, who honored the Kedros tradition while taking the company into a new era. Modern classics From the first, Kedros attracted writers of quality, whose books have since become modern classics: Yiannis Ritsos, Stratis Tsirkas, Costas Varnalis, Melpo Axiotis, Dido Sotiriou, Giorgos Ioannou, Iakovos Kambanellis and Menis Koumandareas, to name just a few. The chronicle includes contributions from authors recounting their experience of Kedros in its successive phases – the early days, the time of the junta, from the restoration of democracy (1974) until 1985, and from then to the present day. The stories differ, but the keynote is a shared sense that Kedros was like a second home to its writers, whether exiles, such as Alki Zei, or the publisher’s reader, poet Yiannis Kondos. Many of the accounts are moving, particularly those from the early days, and some are funny. We meet formerly aspiring authors who have since become names to conjure with, hovering outside the tiny Kedros shop in the arcade between Harilaou Trikoupi and Panepistimiou, awestruck at the sight of the eminent writers who frequented the store and too shy to proffer their first manuscripts until encouraged by Nana. All pay tribute to her charm, bravery and devotion to literature, and to Kedros as a meeting place of minds. Old hands and later arrivals praise the current management for retaining the Kedros style and spirit. Doing justice to a vast list of books and writers while avoiding the look of a catalog is a challenge, which designer Xanthippi Micha Bania has met with skill and imagination. Book jackets and photos selected to represent the best of Kedros at their best, and to include all the workers who make up a publishing house, complement this chronicle of a company that has staked out a special place in the world of Greek books.