CULTURE

Greek writers caught in between eras

We Greek fiction writers and critics who were born in the 1950s and emerged onto the literary scene in the 1980s are a group that experienced two completely contrasting eras in our adolescence and young adulthood. On the one hand there was the reverberation from the delayed triumph of modernism in Greek arts and letters; on the other was the invasion of the differently oriented, the mass democratic, postmodern, contemporary spirit, which in the past two decades has completely defined Greek life. That doubly divergent experience – or the absence of obvious common ground – may be one of the reasons why we could not cultivate a unified image or see strong connections and unbreakable bonds allowing us to automatically use the term «our generation» (conditions which did not apply to the large group of poets born in the 1940-1955 period, who became the famous 1970s generation). What are our experiences? In adolescence and early adulthood we managed to participate actively in or to experience the reverberation of the great stream of anti-dictatorship politicization, left-wing organizations and Marxist ideology, the students’ movement, occupations of the Law School and the Polytechneio, the restoration of democracy, mass student meetings and militant demonstrations. Dominance of modernism In the field of literature we saw the dominance of modernism: Eliot, Pound, Seferis, Elytis, Embeiricos, Engonopoulos, great European and American writers with books like «Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,» «Mrs Dalloway,» «As I Lay Dying,» «A la recherche d’un temps perdu» and Greek works such as «Drifting Cities,» «Famine» and the Novel of Kyria Ersi.» We lived in the constellation of grand literary theories, believing, in other words, that systematic thought could largely understand the mysteries of artistic creation by means of the tools developed by Russian Formalism, the Prague School, structuralism, New Criticism, phenomenology and psychoanalysis. It was a time of heavy politico-ideological, theoretical and artistic outlines. Those outlines imperceptibly disappeared, however, leaving behind only reflections of themselves. The evaporation of belief in left-wing political organizations coincided with the democratic euphoria and populist pap brought in by PASOK’s rise to power. In intellectual life, the grand concepts faded and retreated alongside growing awareness of the limits to interpretation of artistic phenomena by the intellect. Between two eras The classics of modernism continued to be perceived as classics, but the majority of the younger generation of writers espoused values very different from flow of consciousness narration or a belief in the lofty destiny of art. The postwar writers and critics that preceded our generation produced work inspired, to a great extent, by its principles. The writers and critics who came after us were formed in the equalizing postmodern era, where literature and other writing acquired equal gravity, and parody, imitation and improvisation dominated the artistic spectrum. Suspended between the two eras, our earlier certainties shattered, but without being the product of the new events, we who were born in the 1950s and began publishing in the 1980s are not in fact children of any era – neither among those who spent their whole life in the period of strong outlines and of seeking artistic depth and original literary creations, or among those who grew up in the era of slippery, undefined meanings, the era of subscribing to the superficial and fortuitous. Not having lived through stable experiences, we select any elements from each era that we feel speak to us more persuasively and suit us better. Just to demonstrate the point, what else is there in common among writers such as Zyranna Zatelli (1951), Vassilis Gouroyiannis (1951), Ioanna Karystiani (1952), Apostolos Doxiadis (1953), Ersi Sotiropoulou (1953), Vassilis Tsiambousis (1953), Thomas Skassis (1953), Takis Theodoropoulos (1954), Giorgos Skambardonis (1954), Sotiris Dimitriou (1955), Gerasimos Dendrinos (1955), Lena Divani (1955), Thodoros Grigoriadis (1956), Soti Triantafyllou (1957), Michel Fais (1957), Aris Sfakianakis (1958), Costas Akrivos (1958), Vangelis Raptopoulos (1959), Petros Tatsopoulos (1959), and Vassilis Boutos (1959), or critics such as myself (1954), Evgenios Arantisis (1955), Pantelis Boukalas (1957), Michel Fais (1957), Costas Voulgaris (1958), Vangelis Hadzivassileiou (1959) and Mari Theodosopoulou?