CULTURE

Greek authors travel to Israel

Can literature help dispel stereotypes? Can it reduce ignorance and false impressions about a people, a nation or a state? The recent visit of Israeli writer Amos Oz to Athens and the public’s warm reception of his book show that literature does have the power to do exactly that. This week, Greek writers have been invited to join a group of their Israeli counterparts at a conference near the Gulf of Aqaba where they will discuss literary figures who inspire and guide them, the role of translators, the influence of religion on literature and the manner in which national histories become literature, among other subjects. Writers from both countries have been called upon to articulate opinions, to answer each other’s questions and pose queries of their own, to give and receive enlightening insight. Among the topics for discussion on the agenda are «National Disasters in Literature,» «Expressing an Opinion on the Other – Translators and Publishers as Mediators of the Other,» «Future Bridges – Literature as a Means of Understanding the Other» and «Roots in the Earth, Roots in the Air: Heritage and Religion in a Post-Modern World.» The Greek delegation invited to talk on these issues is composed of Takis Theodoropoulos, Rea Galanaki, Thanassis Valtinos, Pavlos Matesis, Stefanos Dandolos, Costas Akrivos, Costas Mouselas, Giorgos Bramos, Dimitris Houliarakis, Thanassis Heimonas and Antaios Chrysostomidis. Amos Oz will be present in the Israeli delegation along with other influential Israeli writers. What do some of the Greek writers feel about attending this meeting and how essential do they consider this kind of talking shop? Rea Galanaki said «I think these meetings are essential, mostly so that they can help break down the stereotypes we may harbor, such as the ones so succinctly and precisely addressed by Amos Oz during his visit to Athens. The issue is a lot more complex than who is good and who is bad, and there are many writers in Israel working toward peace in their region and toward coexistence between the two groups. They also have a lot of Palestinian writers sharing their views. All of this is within the spirit of an integral political approach to the whole issue and it is clear that neither Amos Oz, nor the other writers who attended the conference in Greece, adopt the official Israeli state line.» Takis Theodoropoulos believes that «there is a shared interest between Greek and Israeli writers, because we are both writing in very ancient languages that have survived the passage of time, and despite that we have had completely different historical experiences, especially in the past 30 years or so. I find the encounter fascinating. For many reasons, political and otherwise, Greeks know very little about Israel and Israelis know very little about Greece. What is certain, is that writers are much more serious talkers than politicians.» Antaios Chrysostomidis believes that «it is always good for two cultures to come together. Especially in this case, where there is an issue – the Palestinians’ just struggle for an independent state – which has allowed us to see only one aspect of Israel. Literature is the best means to get to know a country. Therefore, a meeting between Israelis and Greeks is the best way for us to get to know one another. Anyway, most of the Israeli writers I have come to know believe that the only solution to the crisis in the Middle East is the creation of two separate states.»