An unconventional life lived to the full

Antonis Karkayiannis, Kathimerini’s publisher, died of cancer on Wednesday night. He was 79. A communist who spent many years in prison for his political activities, Karkayiannis helped to guide Greece’s pre-eminent conservative newspaper to the center of the country’s politics, economy and society. After starting his newspaper career as a proofreader (a job he referred to with great pride) and copy editor, he served as the closest adviser to Aristides Alafouzos, Kathimerini’s owner, moving from managing editor to executive editor and then publisher. Karkayiannis’s popular daily column covered a wide range of subjects, from the everyday problems of living in Athens to global issues. His writing was filled with the anecdotes of an unconventional life lived to the full and with the wisdom of two of his greatest passions – reading widely and observing human behavior (including politics, of course). He wrote his pieces in longhand, seldom adding or deleting anything once he had put it down, in a style that was direct and original – often funny – with unpredictable opinions. His writing combined the strengths of an earnest youth discovering the world and of a gentle mentor sharing his knowledge with humor. His writing reflected his life, just as his life came through in his words: He was both a perfectionist (who knew all the rules and traditions) and a radical who loved breaking those rules and defying expectations. In conversation, he was always watching slyly to see the reaction to a well-aimed barb, humorous aside or self-deprecating confession. To his colleagues and subordinates he was generous and direct – in both praise and criticism, demanding that he be surprised by their work. If at times he was hard, he was harder on himself. Karkayiannis was born in 1932 to a well-to-do family in the town of Ambelakia, near Larissa. in central Greece. He dropped out of Athens Law School to join the underground communist movement. After his first arrest in 1953, he spent a total of 14 years in detention camps on remote islands and in prison until the end of the seven-year military junta in 1974. Nevertheless, he never shrank from criticizing the Communist Party, whether this involved his condemning the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to spirited attacks on the left for opposing any reforms to Greece’s economy. Antonis Karkayiannis left instructions that he be cremated and that there be no funeral. He is survived by two daughters and a son.

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