CULTURE

The life of Penelope Delta

A fairy-tale life in a book illustrated like a fairy tale. The life of author Penelope Delta unfolds in a new edition published by Olkos Editions with the aid of the Benaki Museum. Combining photographic and artistic material along with letters and diary notes, Valentini Tselika’s «Afigisi Zois» (Narrative of a Life) coincides with the official opening of the Benaki Museum’s Historic Archives department, situated at Delta’s villa in the northern suburb of Kifissia. It is the same house in which Delta committed suicide when the German army entered Athens in 1941. A woman known for her great wisdom, Delta showed a brave attitude toward life combined with a strong sense of duty. Following Delta’s own life, the book begins with the Benaki family living in Alexandria, Egypt. The family – Delta’s relatives on her father’s side – were illustrious members of the city’s thriving Greek community, founding schools, churches and hospitals while offering generous amounts of money for their maintenance. Through their charity work, the family had provided the Greek community with opportunities for an improved standard of living, together with education and intellectual development. Through rich and original photographic material, the book follows the life of the Greek community including the uprisings, the disasters, the city’s reconstruction, and the impressive villas. Readers take a look at Delta’s ancestors, her grandparents and parents – who forced her to marry Stefanos Deltas – and siblings, and the family environment in which she grew up in and which formed her character. Oppressed by her mother’s despotic behavior, Delta’s life was ripe with contradiction and doubt, traits which proved pivotal to her psychological balance later on in life. This is also the reason why she never stopped defending children in her writings. Correspondence with noted intellectuals as well as her own works make up for the second part of the edition. Manuscripts, notes, letters, diaries and book covers shed light on Delta’s writing process. In 1930, she was honored by the Athens Academy. Delta moved permanently to the Kifissia mansion in 1916, bought by Emmanouil Benakis in 1912. In 1977, the house was donated to the Benaki Museum by Delta’s daughter, Alexandra Papadopoulou, and has since then housed the museum’s rich archives.