CULTURE

New grammar, magazine and anthology

In a week packed with book events, Kathimerini English Edition followed the first steps of three publications that offer new approaches of different kinds. The weightiest, in every sense, is «Grammar of Modern Greek,» just out from Ellinika Grammata. Co-authors Georgios Babiniotis, professor of linguistics at Athens University, and Christos Klairis, professor of linguistics at the Sorbonne, and their assistants, Amalia Mozer, Aikaterini Bakakou-Orfanou and Stavros Skopeteas, have produced the first grammar of Modern Greek based on the communicative-functional method that has been used to teach foreign languages for the past 20 years. Its publication could mark «an historic moment,» Babiniotis told the press Tuesday, «if it becomes a springboard for new books based on the same methodology.» The grammar moves away from the off-putting, rule-bound, normative grammar «which we didn’t enjoy too much at school,» he said. «It doesn’t say you’re wrong, but shows you how to get it right. «We don’t give rules – we present the richness and dynamism of the language. We don’t get stuck on labels, but we do show what to do with them. The examples in the book are taken from real life and may even shock some people.» The authors hope their work will help revitalize the way grammar is perceived and taught. Who will take the next step of helping teachers embrace the new grammar? Literary fever Just when it seems the market is not overly friendly to such enterprises, editor Dino Siotis has bravely brought out a new Greek literary magazine. Dekata was launched Tuesday night at the Benaki Museum annex on Pireos St. Why does he keep bringing out magazines? «Because that’s what I do,» said Siotis, who is something of a serial magazine-launcher. «This will probably be my last magazine. Mondo Greco, which is published in Boston, will keep coming out but eventually I’ll hand over the reins to the younger generation.» Siotis and his co-director Giorgos Ikaros-Babasakis realize what kind of challenge they are facing. «Bringing out magazines is strictly hara-kiri,» said Babasakis, referring to the ongoing effort needed to attract contributors, make them into a sort of family and organize material. With its striking cover, the new magazine obviously shares the interest in good photography of its English-language stable-mate Mondo Greco (regularly reviewed on this page). As for content, the selection is broad – short stories, commentary, criticism, travel writing, poetry, profiles, politics, reviews and essays. The intention is obviously to make fine writing from around the world available to Greek readers, as well as the local product – though it is surprising to see the great dead – Pasolini, Fellini and Arthur Miller, for example – listed as contributors. And what does Dekata mean? «A low fever, something insidious,» said Siotis. Good luck to the insidious power of literary fever. Anthology The third debut was «An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry,» published by Talisman Press and edited by Nanos Valaoritis and Thanassis Maskaleris, who presented it at the Hellenic-American Union Tuesday with the help of several of the poets anthologized. It is not the first anthology of Greek verse in English but it is the first to classify the poets according to aesthetic, ideological and philosophical trends, rather than assuming that people writing at the same time belonged to the same school. The authors have assigned each poet to one of eight groups – symbolist forerunners, traditional neo-symbolists, the modernist revolution (including mainstream modernists and surrealists), modern existentialists, left-wing poets, the avant-garde, neo-modernists and neo-surrealists. The readings, in Greek and English, offered a taste of the book, though a failure to agree in advance on who was reading what, a faulty microphone, and the rather odd decision to place the poets at ground level, out of sight of most of the audience, and the editors on stage made them hard to follow. Let us hope that this new volume brings modern Greek poetry to new readers.