A region’s complex history and culture

The idea of the Mediterranean region as a political, economic and cultural entity became the thread linking the thoughts of three intellectuals at the Athens Concert Hall last week in the Megaron Plus series of events. Spanish author Jorge Semprun, Syrian-born poet Adonis and Italian art critic Philippe Daverio embarked on a complex discussion on the subject of European and Mediterranean culture. Coordinated by Greek poet, author and international relations consultant Dimitris Analis, the international panel joined forces to present the region’s multiformity as well as its close ties. The starting point turned out to be a common realization: Why is it that the Mediterranean region is no longer leading the pack, even though it continues, albeit indirectly, to nourish and inspire? Listening to the speakers, the overall feeling was that the approach to the subject was determined more by individual cohesion – quite impressive in the case of Semprun – than by different point of views. After all, it was the Spanish author’s presence which prompted the public to flock to the concert hall in a calm and orderly fashion. Semprun – whose latest book «Twenty Years and a Day» was recently published in Greek by Exantas, translated by M. Panayiotidou – used to-the-point political thinking; he was composed, charming, serene and, above all, self-confident. The last quality was not obvious in the case of the other two speakers: Adonis’s approach was far too theoretical for such a political discussion, while Daverio was consciously flattering the audience, using postmodern, sensational analogies from the historical past and present. The prominent Spanish author spoke about Central Europe’s Jewish intellectuals of the 1930s, who were in search of an ideological outlet at a time when Europe was suffocating between Nazism and Stalinism: «Back then, the rationalism of Greek thought was the only way out of barbarity,» said Semprun, adding, however, that putting forward only the Judeo-Greek element is one-sided and disregards the Roman-Arabic component. According to the author, Europe’s opening toward Mitteleuropa (he used this term for Central Europe though he spoke in French) is a reminder of the pan-European school of thought which was inspired by Greek culture. Given his aversion to any kind of chronological order, Semprun offered a mixed historical tour in financial terms. He spoke about liberalization and the countries of Reformation and the exclusion of the Mediterranean region from the road to modernization – as the latter was not behind the discovery of the market economy. A champion of European integration, Semprun applauded the transformation of Spain following the country’s entry in the European Union and used harsh words against anti-rationalist General Franco. He stressed that not only does Spain need Europe but vice versa: Spain offers the continent an opening toward North and South America, through the vehicle of the Spanish language. According to Semprun, the Mediterranean offers a basis for a unifying supranational, democratic Europe built on peace, not war. Daverio referred to Charlemagne’s French-German axis, still in existence today, and spoke of the region’s historical centers, such as Rome, Alexandria and Venice. Adonis spoke on the subject of the complex dimension of monotheism, which ultimately shreds Mediterranean unity.