Sunday, 28 July 2019

What Sikelianos said to Gatsos about Amorgos

If you know Greek, then someone has put together this youtube channel largely consisting of Greek TV documentaries on some of Greece’s best poets, including Cavafy, Sikelianos, Engonopoulos, Andreas Embirikos, Nikos Gatsos, Kiki Dimoula and so on, which are well worth watching.

Above are a couple of clips from the documentary on the poet and lyricist Nikos Gatsos. The clips are of nice anecdotes, which I’ve recapitulated in English below. See the entire documentary here. Gatsos’ masterpiece Amorgos is available in Greek with facing English translation.

1. The poet Nanos Valaoritis recalls in 1943, after Gatsos had just published Amorgos, that he and Gatsos were walking and talking in central Athens when they ran into an animated Angelos Sikelianos, who said to Gatsos: ‘I was reading your Amorgos on the boat on my way back from Aegina and I said to myself like Homer, like Homer.’

Valaoritis says he was surprised by Gatsos’ apparent indifference to receiving such praise from this most important and prestigious poet, and when asked about his reaction, Gatsos replied. ‘He hasn’t even read it. He’s just saying he has.’

 2. And then, Haris Vlavianos recalls an exchange he had with Gatsos regarding Gatsos’ great friend, Odysseas Elytis. Gatsos asked Vlavianos if he liked Elytis’ poetry. Yes, said Vlavianos. Which of his poems do you like, Gatsos went on rather insistently. The Light Tree and Six Plus One Remorses. Good, you’re on the right path; thank God, you didn’t say Axion Esti.

Vlavianos explains this unusual for Gatsos expression of malice, particularly aimed at his close friend Elytis, as reflecting Gatsos’ slight annoyance with Elytis and his tendency, as Gatsos saw it, to write certain poems that were consciously designed to establish him as the poet of the nation.