Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Christianopoulos: no to state prize, yes to Tsitsanis
I noticed (here) that in the Greek State Literature Prizes for 2011 announced yesterday, the poet and rembetologist Dinos Christianopoulos was awarded the most prestigious distinction, the Great Prize – for his overall contribution to Greek letters. Not that Christianopoulos was enamoured by the award:
‘I will not appear to receive the award or stretch out my hand to take the prize. I don’t want their prize or their money… I’m against any kind of honours. There is no more disgusting ambition than to want to stand out; this horrible 'triumph over others' (υπείροχον έμμεναι άλλων), left to us by the ancients. I am against prizes because they diminish man’s dignity.’
You can go here for an interview in Greek with Christianopoulos, in which he discusses Elytis, Ritsos, Seferis, Kiki Dimoula, Hellenism, the Macedonia name issue, the future of the Greek language and so on. While Christianopoulos doesn’t seem to have a good word to say about the above-mentioned poets, he heaps praise on another ‘poet’, Vassilis Tsitsanis.
‘It's been some 25 years since Tsitsanis’ death. Normally, you would have expected him to be forgotten. But the opposite has happened. He is more loved and in demand than ever. A similar phenomenon to Cavafy. Even though many years have passed since their deaths, their worthiness hasn’t been extinguished; rather it has soared.’
Christianopoulos has not only published three books on Tsitsanis and rembetika, but also created Η παρέα του Τσιτσάνη, to perform songs from Tsitsanis’ repertoire. The video above is from a concert Η παρέα του Τσιτσάνη gave on Greek TV.
You can go here for examples of Christianopoulos’ poetry, in Greek with English translation. Below is his Ithaca:
I do not know if consequences forced me to leave
or because I needed to escape from myself—
from that narrow-minded Ithaca of little grace
with its Christian organizations
and its stifling morality.
At any rate, this was not the solution, but only a half-measure.
From then on I wallowed from street to street
acquiring wounds and experience.
The friends I once loved have now vanished
and I have remained alone, fearful that someone may see me perhaps
to whom I had once spoken of ideals...
Now I have returned with a final attempt
to seem irreproachable, integral; I have returned
and I am, dear God, like the prodigal who has forsaken
his vagabond wanderings, embittered, and returns
to his good-hearted father, to live
in his bosom a private prodigality.
I bring Poseidon within me,
who always keeps me far off;
but even if I could put into harbor,
could Ithaca possibly find me the solution?