Posts filed under 'Greek literature'

Translation Tuesday: “The Hot-Air Balloon” by Vassilis Alexakis

In reality, it’s like all words, with good and bad attributes, capable of protecting a thought as much as betraying a meaning.

This week’s Translation Tuesday features microfiction by Vassilis Alexakis. “The Hot-Air Balloon” begins and ends in an ambiguity, thickly described. The prose is structured around a choice without mooring, a choice that presents itself only to give way to the realization that a language system is something that only appears all-encompassing. By intellectualizing the feeling of infinite choice within a closed system and the eventual choice to leave it, Alexakis acutely describes a weightlessness only obtainable by those who walk between epistemologies. In the end, it is the feeling of the transcendence of the system, thematized as an air-balloon, that prevails. It is only through a meditation on words that we can unmoor ourselves from a system. This airy story depicts well the critical posture, especially of those with multiple languages to rely on.

I was asked to write a definition for a word without knowing which one. I had no hesitation. The more arduous a task, the more it fills me with joy. If I’d been given a word, I would’ve felt some pressure; I would’ve felt trapped. Now that I’ve briefly surveyed the entirety of the lexicon, I feel free as if I were being carried in a hot-air balloon.

Is it a masculine or feminine-gendered word? From my point of view, this question is of no concern. Besides, it’s not uncommon for a word’s synonyms to be of the opposite gender. READ MORE…

Words Containing Multitudes: Theodor Kallifatides on Writing The Siege of Troy

A basic human need is also to remember and be remembered. That is why we put one stone on top of another, we paint, we sing, we write.

In September, we were honored to present Theodor Kallifatides’s The Siege of Troy as our monthly Book Club feature. This poignant, multilayered novel intertwines a modern coming-of-age wartime story with a psychologically profound retelling of the classic Iliad. In the following interview, Assistant Managing Editor Josefina Massot speaks with the author on overcoming writer’s block, writing about Greece in a foreign land and tongue, and humanizing ancient heroes.

Josefina Massot (JM): You had an unexpected bout of writer’s block at age seventy-seven, back in 2015, after almost fifty years of uninterrupted literary output. The Siege of Troy was, I believe, the first novel you wrote once you overcame it. Did your writing process change at all as a result? What was it like, rediscovering your narrative voice in novel form?

Theodor Kallifatides (TK): Yes, it affected me and my writing greatly. I felt free from all expectations, from all demands from the publisher, the public, and myself, and my writing got wings it never had before. I did not care about anything except doing justice to my deepest feelings and ideas. I got back both my eyes. Before it, I always had—as most writers do, I dare say—an eye on what people would think about my work. Suddenly, I simply did not care. I was free. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “The Space Between” by Christos Asteriou

“We slip between the spaces left by bodies, through the holes in the teeth, and slide down the subway escalators upside down.”

I’ve been living with Lata since the beginning of the summer. It’s true that I’m only fifteen and she’s around the same age, that we don’t have a single thing to call our own yet—no money, no nothing—but what’s the big deal? Lata and I, we know how to make things work no matter what. We haven’t found a long-term place yet, that’s true, too. We’re usually all over the map—on rooftops, in warehouses—but not every day of the week because we go back home often. I go to my mom’s and she goes to hers. She’s the one that really makes a scene, screaming and crying and saying a whole bunch of things I can’t understand. Of course, she always ends up cooling it and putting her arms around Lata; once she starts in with her broken Greek, everything goes back to normal. My mom, on the other hand, cooks dinner whether I’m there or not in the evening, and waits for me to show up with my stories about the outside world. It’s hard out there, I tell her, the old buildings are really tough and they chase us away. Her eyes open wide and she gives me a strange look. They put up scarecrows and wooden signs on the rooftops, as if we were unwanted birds, and if, after all this, we don’t heed their warning and lie down to sleep up there, there’s always someone who busts in and breaks it up with a gunshot in the air. On the other hand, you’ve got to have real balls to vault the obstacles on those new places, they’re super difficult, and they too want us out of there. I show her with my hands how you’re supposed to do the moves, how to jump over obstacles rhythmically, one-by-one. Like a primitive beast lost in the crowds of civilization, a mad rabbit let loose in the megalopolis. My body taut, my calves like stone, my lungs full of grimy air: that’s how I make it through the heart of the storm, see? That’s how the mind opens when you jump into space, how your thoughts breathe in oxygen. She starts yelling at me about how if I don’t shape up and get it together I will never find a job, about how I’ll get killed one day—all the usual babble. Don’t shout, I tell her, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How could you? Don’t worry—there’s no reason to. Everything will be fine: you see me now, there’s no obstacle anywhere that scares me anymore. And you know what, I like living like this; I like having you and Lata; I like walking on air. And if anyone asks me, I’ll tell them straight to their face: I don’t want to change anything at all, I want to stay like this forever.

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