Archive for the ‘KALVOS’ Category

The Best Literature Inspired by the Greek Islands

The Greek Islands have been a source of literary inspiration from the ancient times. The unique beauty of the natural landscape , the warm Mediterranean climate and distinct local culture are some of the reasons behind this inspiration. But also this small country’s hardships in the face of political changes and terrifying historical challenges have captured the attention of foreign and local authors. Below we have listed five of the most famous novels which take place in the Greek Islands.


Table by the Sea in Greece © George Pachantouris/Flickr

Zorba the Greek (1946)
Zorba the Greek is perhaps the most famous Greek book by talented Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. The book tells the story of a young Greek intellectual, the narrator, who spends a year in a rural village in the greek island of Crete with Zorba, a simple worker whose character is an antithesis of his own. Zorba is a man full of life and talents, with strong natural instincts and folk wisdom. The narrator slowly, and while experiencing the predicaments of rural life in Crete, comes to realise how weak his intellectual superiority is to Zorbas’ simple understanding of life. The book touched millions of hearts when it was turned into a movie in 1964 starring Anthony Queen. For many the character of Zorba became a popular symbol of Greek soul.


Watching the Twilight in Patmos © Yiannis Theologos Michellis/Flickr
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994)

Another book also turned into a movie is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. Set in the Greek island of Cephallonia during the German and Italian occupation of the Second World War, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin narrates the touching love story of Italian young captain Antonio Corelli and Pelagia, the daughter of the local Greek doctor. The romance that develops under adversary circumstances has to suffer the strikes of fate when Italy joins forces with the Allies and the Germans on the island turn on the Italians. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is an emotionally charged story that works on different levels: It is a love story and war story and at the same time a historic account that reflects many of the bitter untold realities of the country’s wartime suffering.


The Island (2005)

Victoria Hislop’s literary debut, the Island, begins with a woman travelling to the island of Crete in search of her mother’s past. She is surprised to find out that her mother’s native village of Plaka is near the island of Spinaloga, a former Greek leper colony. She will then learn from a family friend the tragic story of her mother’s family through three generations of tumultuous lives and passions. Victoria Hislop was awarded the 2007 British Book Award for the Island, and it also became a popular series for Greek television – To Nisi – and the most expensive television production ever in Greece.

The Two Faces of January (1964)
Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 psychological thriller narrates the story of an American con-artist Chester McFarland and his wife Colette, who find themselves in trouble in Greece when Chester accidentally kills a Greek policeman in his hotel room in Athens. A young American lawyer helps the couple to flee to Crete, where they settle in a hotel. But more trouble emerges there as the trio turn on each other and tragedy falls in the ancient site of Knossos. The story follows the classic Patricia Highsmith breathtaking storytelling pattern that moves the action to different locations: after Crete, back to Athens, and then to a whole new setting altogether in Paris. The Greek island becomes the “far away land” and offers an ideal setting for the emotions to rise and the action to culminate.


Odysseus and the Sirens. An 1891 painting by John William Waterhouse © National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne/WikiCommons
Odyssey (8th Century BC)

The world-famous ancient epic poem by Greek poet Homer is perhaps the one that captures the imagination the most, as it draws on an ancient past of heroes and mythical creatures. Three thousand years have passed since Odysseus found Ithaca again, and visitors from around the world still visit the island in the search of archaeological findings of Penelope’s palace. The epic Odyssey of the Greek hero who wondered ten years in the ancient seas searching for his homeland, Ithaca , will never cease to amaze, excite and inspire.

images giorgos-8emelis-557x260

“Lone Elegy for Anreas Kalvos” by George Themelis

Forgotten voyager

in stagnant rivers wayfaring at night
you came this fiery dawn lighted
by funerary doves in the heart of winter

bitter and resolute

you spoke in a language speckled like crashed marble
and you only wore the black attire of your mourning loneliness

you gazed the railings of dawn and your heart jumped
from one peak to another, from mountain to mountain
trying to wound the clouds with the clang of the brave bird

Castalian swan

Lonely and unapproachable in your entrenched sorrow
what grief pounded your chest and made it echo
unlike the sound of a sorrowful flute, like the winged thunder

(lethal archer, you who aims with a steady arm
lover of the pure blue, the highest precipice
let me touch your waist like an impious man and
let my fingers be severed and my tongue be slit)

you weren’t meant to walk on land
you were meant to be with the eagles and the lions in the gardens of Muses
where the first flash of the day shines lovingly
where the light-blue of the horizon has never been stained by smoke
and you’re meant to strike and break all the chords of the lyre one by one
and the Muse of Virtue will awake on the bed of the wings
undone and naked to take you
over to the immeasurable void of the heavenly deserts

I bring myrtle and cypress branches

But where can I find your shadow, your humble screen
that keeps the ash of your sleep tightly held in a foreign land?

Perhaps the north wind has taken it, a lucky charm
perhaps the earth has taken it on its marble bed
under the quiet frozen wings of the deep night
that it won’t hear the bubbly glasses amid the smoke and flames
the rushing wind hitting and breaking the window panes

~ From the George Themelis, Collected Poems I, (1969)
~Translated by Manolis Aligizakis
Γιώργου Θέμελη ‘Ελεγείο μοναχικό του Ανδρέα Κάλβου’

Λησμονημένος ταξιδευτής.

Οδοιπορώντας μες από νύχτες κι ασάλευτους ποταμούς
Ήρθες το φλογερό ξημέρωμα, που τ’ άναψαν
Μες στου χειμώνα την καρδιά εντάφια περιστέρια.

Πικρός κ’ αλύγιστος.

Μιλούσες μια γλώσσα κατάστικτη σαν τα σπασμένα μάρμαρα
Και δεν φορούσες παρά μονάχα μαύρα, το πένθος της μοναξιάς.

Αγνάντευες ψηλά τα ηώα κάγκελα και πήδαγε η καρδιά σου

Από κορφή σε κορυφή, από ένα βουνόν εις άλλο
Και γύρευε να πλήξει με κλαγγή γενναίου πουλιού τα σύγνεφα.

Καστάλιε κύκνε.

Μοναχικέ κι απρόσιτε μες στην κλειστή σου θλίψη,
Ποια οδύνη σού έσκαφτε το στήθος και τόκανε να ηχεί,
Όχι σαν ήχος λυπημένου αυλού, σαν πτερωτή βροντή.

(Θανάσιμε τοξότη, που σκοπεύεις μ’ εύστοχον χείρα.
Εραστή του καθαρού γαλάζιου και του ψηλού γκρεμού.
Άσε ν’ αγγίξω την καμπύλη σου σαν ένας βέβηλος
Κι ας μου καούν τα δάχτυλα κ’ η γλώσσα ας μου κοπεί.)

Δεν ήσουνα για να πατάς στη γη.

Να τριγυρνάς ήσουν μ’ αετούς και λέοντες στους κήπους των Πιερίδων
Εκεί που φέγγει ερατεινή η πρώτη αρχή της μέρας
Και που καπνός δεν έθλιψε ποτέ το γαλάζιο των αιθέρων.
Και να χτυπάς και να συντρίβεις μίαν προς μίαν της λύρας τις χορδές όλες
Και να ξυπνάει η Μούσα η Αρετή μες απ’ την κλίνη των ανέμων,
Αμάργαρη κι ολόγυμνη, και να σε παίρνει απάνω
Μέσα εις το χάος αμέτρητο των ουρανίων ερήμων.

Μυρτιά φέρνω και κλαδιά κυπαρίσσου.

Μα πού να βρω τον ίσκιο σου, την ταπεινή σου οθόνη,
Που σφιχτοκλεί της στάχτης σου εις ξένην γην τον ύπνο.

Ίσως να την επήρε ένας βοριάς και να την έχει γκόλφι,
Ίσως να την επήρε πίσω η γη σε πέτρινο κρεββάτι
Κάτω από τα ήσυχα, παγωμένα, πτερά της βαθιάς νύχτας,
Να μην ακούει τ’ αφρίζοντα ποτήρια μες σε καπνούς και φλόγας,
Τον βίαιο άνεμο που χτυπά και σχίζει τα παράθυρα.
~ Από τη συγκεντρωτική έκδοση Γ. Θέμελη Ποιήματα I (1969)
~ From the George Themelis, Collected Poems I, (1969)
~Translated by Manolis Aligizakis