‘Eden’ tribute to the Russophile Embiricos

«I’ve come to know two Edens during my lifetime: One is called Andros, the other, Russia…» the late surrealist poet and psychoanalyst Andreas Embiricos once noted. Considering his affinity for Russia, and, moreover, the poet’s heritage – his mother, Stephania Kydonieos, was half-Russian with roots in Kiev – Russia has good reason to be taking part in events marking the 100th anniversary since the poet’s birth. As a child Embiricos, who spoke fluent Russian throughout his life, spent most of his summers on the family estate in the Crimea until the outbreak of World War I. The poet eventually revisited much later, in 1962, when, along with two colleagues, Odysseas Elytis and Giorgos Theotokas, he was invited to the Soviet Union by the Greek-Soviet Friendship Association on behalf of President Nikita Krushchev as part of an overall policy by the leader to foster closer ties with foreign writers. During that trip, Embiricos, an avid photographer, shot 20 minutes of footage which, as part of the Russian tribute, made its debut public screening last week at Moscow’s Mayiakovski Museum. It was also the location for other events organized by Lomonosov State University of Moscow’s Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature faculty and its president, Dimitris Gialamas, such as the presentation of a collection of Embiricos’s works translated into Russian, as part of a series titled «Hellenic Library.» Held under the auspices of the Culture Ministry, the series’s presentation was attended by the honored poet’s son, Leonidas Embiricos, his widow, Vivika, philologist Frangiski Abadjoglou, a specialist in Greek surrealism, and Stavros Petsopoulos of the respected, high-caliber Greek publishing house Agra. Linguistic experiments Other highlights included performances of musical adaptations based on Embiricos poems translated into Russian that were organized by the St Petersburg Philharmonic’s Greek director, Theodoros Kourentzis, and an exhibition of photographs and personal belongings. Of all the numerous Embiricos tributes held throughout 2001, the events in Russia were the only ones held abroad. Embiricos’s translated works in Russian, a project undertaken by the Greek Embassy’s Educational Department, consist of 35 poems and prose covering all the writer’s phases. Elena Sartori, a 23-year-old Russian philologist and a specialist on the poetry of Embiricos and Greek surrealism, translated and edited the text and also provided its introduction. «Embiricos experiments with the language. By using different linguistic levels, from religious to common, he unites the divided scholarly and popular linguistic traditions of his period,» Sartori writes in her introduction. «In doing so, a peculiar potential is created which allows the reader to sink deeper into the world of association. During the 1930s, such a style of writing was provocative for commonly accepted preferences, ones accustomed to the lifeless official form or vernacular.» This seems to have been the main problem when translating the text’s idiosyncratic qualities into Russian. Sartori, however, was greatly assisted by her references to religious and Slavic linguistic traditions. The objective of the aforementioned activities, naturally, is to acquaint the Russian public with modern Greek literature. «The Russians are a people who know about poetry, literature, and the arts in general. They are expressing great interest in our literature and this is being bolstered by the policy implemented by Lomonosov’s Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature faculty,» its president, Dimitris Gialamas, told Kathimerini. «According to information provided by the library for foreign literature, among the 40 most common languages, Greece holds 39th place in terms of number of works translated,» he pointed out. From 1950 until today, a mere 160 titles have been translated from Greek to Russian. It is this gap that the Lomonosov University will be trying to fill. An initial effort was made last year by Sonia Ilinskaya, who translated the complete collection of Cavafy’s writings, which, Gialamas said, proved immensely successful. «The publication was considered the most important event of 2000 in the field of translated poetry,» he said. There is plenty more publishing activity to come throughout the new year. Titles to be released include an anthology containing work by 15 Greek surrealist poets; a double edition on Kalvos and Solomos; lyrics of Demotic songs; Karyotakis; poets of the postwar generation; Seferis; Tachtsis; along with three novels by Kazantzakis, and one each by Hristos Homenidis and Mitsos Alexandropoulos.

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