‘The Ecumenical Mikis’ reveals a man of parts

«If Mikis Theodorakis is ecumenical, like Patriarch Vartholomaios, we’ll have to start calling him Your Holiness,» quipped Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos at a good-humored presentation of Cypriot journalist Costas Serezis’s book, «The Ecumenical Mikis Theodorakis.» Leading figures in the arts and politicians of the left and right joined Theodorakis the composer, the activist – the man of parts – at the launching. Venizelos praised the composer’s «coupling of music and poetry,» while critic Costas Georgousopoulos said Theodorakis had «grafted the beauty of the East onto the trunk of the West» in his music. Theodorakis expressed his misgivings about being the subject of biography, describing previous efforts as «mummification,» but he spoke warmly of Serezis’s account. Biographer and composer first met in 1973, at Nicosia airport, when Theodorakis was returning to Paris where he was living in exile during the military dictatorship. But their friendship began to develop in 1990, when Serezis followed the composer on tour. His account of these tours and the warm welcome the composer received at home and abroad is lavishly illustrated with photographs, many of them previously unpublished, posters and musical scores. The launching ended appropriately with Aliki Kayialoglou singing two songs by Theodorakis. EKEBI titles The National Book Center (EKEBI) has published several titles in the past year, including three albums commemorating Greek writers. The year 2001 marked 50 years since the death of Angelos Sikelianos and Grigoris Xenopoulos, and 150 years since the birth of Alexandros Papadiamantis, and the Culture Ministry and EKEBI arranged a series of activities in their honor. The albums introduce the life and work of the three writers to specialists and the general public. All three contain brief biographies of the writers, extensive excerpts from their work and many photographs. Fine books Two major EKEBI publications produced specifically for last fall’s 53rd Frankfurt Book Fair, where Greece was the guest of honor, had their official launch at the Byzantine Museum on January 30. «Greece: Books and Writers» was reviewed here on November 8, 2001. «The Publishing Centers of the Greeks from the Renaissance to the Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment,» written by book historians Constantinos Staikos and Triantaphyllos Sklavenitis and translated by David Hardy, is a handsome companion volume to an exhibition of the same name. The authors set the story of Greek publishing around the world firmly in its historical context, while an apt selection of illustrations help bring outstanding cultural moments to life. Speaking at the launching, British Hellenist Roderick Beaton commented: «Greek literature doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. What’s needed,» he noted, «is public relations.» EKEBI is certainly doing its part to further the cause of Greek literature abroad by publishing fine volumes such as these. Tribute to Greeks abroad Though the Greek Diaspora is a living part of Greece, it is frequently honored by the home country in words rather than deeds. A new publication presented at the Old Parliament yesterday by Alexandros Publishers goes some way toward redressing the balance. The «Atlas of the Greek Diaspora» is a two-volume work written by a team of historians from Greece and abroad that highlights the little-known history of Greeks around the world. Welcoming the publication, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos noted both the great loss of manpower Greece suffered when such a large proportion of its population went abroad in search of a better fate, and the benefits their migration brought to Greece. Professor Richard Clogg, who has written two books on the history of modern Greece and is now writing a new work on the Greeks, described the book as «a valuable aid to the study of Greek history.» With its 900 photographs, selected maps, sketches and text, the atlas will be welcomed by Greeks in the mother country and abroad.

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