CULTURE

The early years that lit up an artist’s songs

Lefteris Papadopoulos’s reputation rests on the lyrics to 1,200 songs he has written over the past 43 years, many of which have met with enormous success. There is no doubt, though, that his prose skills match his poetic ones, as is evident from his new book «He is a Bon Viveur, He Drinks Milk» (pub. Kastaniotis, in Greek). The book deals with Papadopoulos’s poverty-stricken childhood and coming of age in Athens, with a strong emphasis on his life as a high school student, from 1947 to 1953. This is something he has already dealt with in his book «The Old Classmates.» But whereas the earlier book focused on a trio of classmates who would later become famous – film director Theo Angelopoulos, painter Alekos Fassianos and theology professor Christos Yiannaras, a leader of the «neo-Orthodox» movement – the main hero of his new one is a classmate Papadopoulos chooses to identify with a pseudonym. As he acknowledges, this classmate had a great influence on him, helping the author appreciate women and passing on his extremely rich vocabulary of dirty words. The book also has its anti-hero, the reactionary schoolmaster who liberally slapped around his charges. The description of the school environment should serve as a warning to those who, exasperated with the laxity of discipline in modern schools, pine for a return to the «good old days.» The book is interspersed with songs, either Papadopoulos’s own or popular ones from the period, giving readers a clear idea of where he got the material and inspiration for his songwriting. The prologue, actually a short story by author Antonis Samarakis, also deals with the origins of one of his most famous songs, «Aristotelous Street.» «The Old Classmates» is now in its 25th edition. This book deserves to do as well.