NEWS

Quality stifled by old network

What is the situation in the world of university writing today? Is it better than in the past? What kind of books are given to Greek students? The situation is much better, in the sense that the number of decent books reaching Greek students is much greater than it was in the past. Distinguished foreign works have also been translated and published, in beautiful editions, while slowly and gradually, a worthy community of Greek writers is emerging who write books capable of competing for readers nationally and not simply printed for a captive audience. However, these changes are due to force of circumstance and in the teeth of a powerful status quo which has stayed basically unchanged for the past 30 years, costing the Greek State 10 billion drachmas (29 million euros) yearly. Of this, a significant amount is spent on supporting quite a number of university publications which have long ceased to correspond to existing educational needs. And since no one appears to be demanding a radical overhaul of the whole system, such as that attempted by George Papandreou in 1995, at least some technical improvements could be made so that such great public outlay not remain on such a low level. As a writer and teacher, which subject do you love best? If I could choose just one – general enough so that it is comprehensible to a non-specialist – it would be this one: the biological appropriateness of natural laws, the so-called human principle. This is the idea – conceived for the first time in the second half of the last century – that life is the result of an astounding coordination of all the laws of physics… It’s as though the whole universe conspired, for about 15 trillion years, to manage, at some point, in certain of its nooks and crannies, such as planet Earth, to create «us.» A piece of living matter that could reach self-knowledge, discover the laws that govern it [the universe] and write its history, from the Big Bang until today. However materialistic that sounds, and it indisputably is, the human principle gives us a viewpoint on the phenomenon of life that has poetry and metaphysical depth which we find only in the great creation myths of the past. Let’s say it’s the myth of our age about us and our place in the world. Twelve years ago, in 1991, if I remember rightly, you raised the subject of overpriced university publications. What happened in the end? I don’t even want even to hear that story again. I spent two years of my life bringing a case in the public interest – «as a Greek citizen with the requisite courage» as it said on the indictment served on the publishers by the Athens appeals court – only to find myself without any kind of support from state bodies, and the target of an unprecedented campaign of intimidation. I was sued four times by the parties involved and – despite being cleared four times as well – my life narrowly escaped turning into a nightmare. Meaning, that if you had to go through the same thing again, you would do it differently? I would like not to have seen the murder. I wouldn’t like to finish on such a pessimistic note. Neither would I, but you asked me to tell you about my real feelings… One last question. From the point of view of a teacher, scientist and citizen, how do you see Greece today? On a very general level, the only thing I can say is this: That in the tug of war between public and private, the country has leaned much too much toward the latter, not so much as a process of economic transformation, which is necessary, but as a mentality… And perhaps the country, and we ourselves, ought to be restoring the balance between these two opposites in the near future.