by Lefteris Papaleontiou
As published in In Focus Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2013
Without overlooking the earlier peaks and lesser conquests of the modern Cypriot literary output (1880 onward), with Vassilis Michaelides dominating in poetry and Nikos Nikolaides in prose, it could be argued that literature has been cultivated more systematically and with higher expectations during the last fifty years, that is to say during the years of the Republic. Toward the end of British Rule and especially during the 1960s, a young and dynamic “generation” of writers emerged, the so-called “1960s Generation” or the “Generation of the Independence,” albeit flanked by older writers (among whom Costas Montis and Thodosis Pierides excelled in poetry, while Theodoros Marcellos and Yiorgos Philippou-Pierides excelled in prose), and by writers who made their appearance circa 1950 and began to mature and give their best work from 1960 onward (e.g. Pantelis Mechanikos, Theodosis Nicolaou, Andreas Pastellas et al.). At this time, Costas Montis came into his poetic voice in Moments (1958 onward), Thodosis Pierides published some of his best poetic works (Daydreaming on the Walls of Famagusta, 1965; Autumn, 1967), Yiorgos Philippou-Pierides began to compose the mature “tetralogy of the times,” and Pantelis Mechanikos offered his first important books to arrive at the peak of his poetic harvest with Deposition (1975), while Theodosis Nicolaou decided to publish his first but quite mature books (1980 onward).
At the same time, two new literary magazines went into circulation in 1960: Pnevmatiki Kypros (1960 onward) was staffed by older writers of the “conservative” Right, the generation of Costas Montis and Kypros Chrysanthis (who remained in charge of the magazine until his death), while Kypriaka Chronika – with key contributors Christakis Georgiou, Panos Ioannides, Yannis Katsouris, Alekos Constantinides, Evi Meleagrou, Nikos Shiafkalis, Ninos Fenek Mikellides, Takis Hadjidemetriou et al. – served as the main forum for the “1960s Generation.” These periodicals, together with Nea Epochi – a Leftist magazine of varied content (1959 onward) spearheaded successively by Panikos Peonides, Stavros Angelides, Minos Perdios, Achilleas Pyliotis and, in recent times, by Thomas Symeou – and, more recently, with the relatively short-lived Times of Cyprus (1957-1963?) with original director Charles Foley, were the main platforms that contributed to varying degrees to the promotion, evaluation and development of domestic literary production during the transitional period from British rule to the independent Republic of Cyprus.
The challenging conditions surrounding the establishment of the Republic, which was tested and virtually abolished by the inter-communal clashes of 1963-1964, along with a barely averted Turkish invasion, opened a rift on the internal front and refueled the desire for the Union with Greece (Enosis). The seven-year dictatorship in Greece, the break between the Makarios government and the Greek junta, the withdrawal of the Greek Military Division from Cyprus, and the ensuing establishment of EOKA B under Grivas, contributed to a new political crisis, which inevitably resulted in the calamity of 1974.
Political turbulence and disillusionment left a heavy mark on Cypriot literature, which could only be political in its nature and frequently bound by locality. Most writers placed Cyprus and its political problems at the center of their work. Some (especially Pantelis Machanikos) creatively exploited the poetic example of Seferis, especially in his “Cypriot” collection. The poetics of Modernism along with the newer, postwar literary trends (Existential Literature, the Theater of the Absurd, the New Novel) began to fertilize the island’s literary production, yielding their most observable results in the 1960s. Let us attempt to trace its development over the last fifty years, placing emphasis on the literary “conquests” of the period, however only in poetry and prose. Theatrical production and literary criticism paled by comparison, although notable samples do exist in these forms as well.
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Non-Cypriot critics and Neo-Hellenists (e.g. Alexis Ziras, Yiorgos Kehagioglou, G. P. Savvides, et al.) already acknowledge that modern Cypriot poetry has flourished and, at best, enriched modern Greek poetry. The period’s most important poets, who had either concluded their poetic work or found their poetic voice – mainly Costas Montis, Pantelis Mechanikos, Theodosis Nicolaou, Costas Vassiliou and Kyriakos Charalambides – without ceasing to pollinate their poetry with the lessons of modern Greek or international poetry, inevitably drew inspiration from the historical destiny of their homeland and, of course, from the great or small concerns of daily life. The ideology of the Enosis and the invalidation of its vision in relation to the political tensions that characterized the first fourteen years of the newly established Republic, culminating in 1974 and its painful aftermath, fueled the inspiration of most poets.
If Theodosis Pierides chose to sing of his island in lengthy poetic compositions by adopting the exalted tone or analytical language of similar poems by Palamas or Ritsos, Costas Montis chose to express himself mainly in the laconic verses of “moments” and subsequently in the three detailed Letters to Mother. The poetry of “moments” seems to constitute Costas Montis’ highest achievement and a new proposal for Cypriot and modern Greek poetry. Notwithstanding the reservations of some critics and Neo-Hellenists about the effectiveness or the state of completion of these “moments,” we cannot deny the impact of their rapid, extremely condensed and elliptical poetry, which reveals much less and conceals even more. Utilizing poetic tradition, especially the poetry of Kavafis and Karyotakis, along with the poetics of Modernism and newer postwar trends, Montis walks the line between tradition and modernity. Among the most basic and fertile components of his poetic “moments” is the language of subversion, meaning the use of irony, satire, humor and sarcasm. This questioning and “dismantling” of the language become identified with the torn country, with the “wasteland” of Modernism, with modern man’s fragmented psyche and existential anxiety, but must also be connected to the poetry of irony. Whether referring to personal and collective aspects of his place and time, touching on issues or utilizing the Cypriot idiom, Costas Montis generally chooses to illuminate things through an oblique, ironic gaze, i.e. favoring the language of ambiguity, vagueness, suggestion, ellipsis, repetition, word play, etc. His thousands of “moments” appear to be poetic “fragments,” “subjects for unraveling” or even incomplete, ultimately posing a constant challenge to the learned reader, since they continually call on him/her to reconstruct and recompose, while keeping their various “versions” and revisions in mind. In the end they seem to form one protracted ongoing poem, which remains open-ended as it resists and refuses to assume the character of a definitive and coherent composition. However, all three Letters to Mother (1965, 1972 and 1980 respectively) can be considered as the development of “moments,” whose poetic nuclei are analyzed with persistent repetitions and reversions, thereby heightening emotions and moods.
Whatever the case may be, Montis’ Moments have certainly captivated and influenced many younger Cypriot writers from the 1960s (e.g. Dina Katsouri) to more recent years (e.g. Vakis Loizides). Where Montis was anti-Seferian, Pantelis Mechanikos creatively utilized the poetic example of Seferis, even as early as in his first collections. Yet, he gave his best in his third and last collection (Deposition, 1975), which opened with the earlier “Ode to a dead young Turk,” written in April 1964, in the wake of the inter-communal conflict. This poem, with its progressive ideology, stands as a pinnacle in the poetry of Mechanikos and in Cypriot poetry on the whole. Pantelis Mechanikos’ satirical and sarcastic language peaks in Deposition. The poet enlists mythological and historical figures (Venus, Odysseus, Onesilos) and the poetic persona of Rimacho, who first appeared in the poetry of Kyriakos Charalambides, to express anguish – above all, to mock and lash out at the lethargic or fanatical minds, situations and attitudes of Cypriot political, cultural and other life that led to the island’s destruction. The injured desire for Enosis pervades many texts in the collection and links the poetry of Pantelis Mechanikos to analogous poems by Costas Montis, Sophocles Lazarou, Andreas Pastellas, Costas Vassiliou, Pitsa Galazi, Eleni Theocharous, etc.
Theodosis Nicolaou, whose harvest was rather small, wrote his first, youthful poems around 1950, but only started publishing his collections thirty years later (Acts, 1980; Pictures, 1988; The House, 2002). By then, the poet had fully matured, and was ready to converse with poetic ancestors such as Solomos, Kalvos, Papadiamantis, Kontoglou, Kavafis, Seferis, Lorentzatos, and T.S. Eliot. His poetry is anthropocentric and revolves, in parallel, around the religious element. A series of poems outlines the persona of a poetic hero, who resorts to an ascetic stripping down and to isolation, removing himself from petty and ephemeral activities, to seek out the deeper essence of things, divine perfection, and the wonder of poetry. The poem “House” follows the ascetic path of the speaker-author, who is in harmonious contact with nature and admires the wisdom of the divine creation at first, but eventually leans toward the exalted and reconciles with death. Like the shell to the snail, the house stands for the corruptible body that imprisons the soul or binds it to earth. When the soul is finally liberated from the body, it converses with the dead and arrives at a new beginning. Within “House,” more than ever before, the poet compiles all his favorite themes, archetypal images, religious beliefs, as well as the rich distillation of readings and personal experiences that are often channeled into his work as a series of contrasts: life vs. death, the end vs. the beginning, body vs. soul, the dead vs. the living, etc.
In his mature poetry (The Great Shaman, 1977; Porfyras, 1978; Pietà, 1983; The Annunciation of Lygeri, 1988, etc.) Costas Vassiliou dynamically challenges poetic tradition (e.g. Solomos, especially in Porfyras) and, among other things, bridges the satirical, anti-conformist language of Costas Montis and Pantelis Mechanikos, or creatively converses – often subversively – with the above poets, as well as with Andreas Pastellas and Kyriakos Charalambides. Costas Vassiliou yields a challenging and complex poetic harvest, a dense weave of intertextual symbols, allegories and personae-masks from mythology, history and literature, to enthusiastically “play” with lofty subjects (e.g. country, religion, the ideology of Enosis), or to mock contemporary situations and mores, especially of Cypriot life, in a harsh language. Pietà is not simply a lamentation for the premature loss of Pantelis Mechanikos; it evolves into a constant struggle and a bloody confrontation between the poet and his poetic personae, Rimacho [Ριμάχο], Rimacho [Ριμαχό] and Rimachona. Not only do the themes of the “anxiety of influence” and the angst of the new poet to surpass or “slay” his poetic ancestors take root, but many other themes are also satirized, such as literary current affairs, the modern tragedy of Cyprus, etc. Costas Vassiliou remains a heretic and an anti-conformist in his subsequent works as well, either by utilizing the Christian myth and of folk songs (e.g. The Annunciation of Lygeri), or by revisiting themes such as freedom and poetry, the poet-prophet, the unfulfilled vision of Enosis (Lambousa), or by systematically utilizing the modern Cypriot idiom intending to satirize (O Kanollos, 1997; Ilantron, 2000; Our Aunt Yugoslavia, 2009).
Contrary to the ascetic and detached Vassiliou, who remains almost unknown to and unappreciated by critics, Kyriakos Charalambides won critical attention early on. More systematic in his production and with broad inspirations, he cultivated a fairly impassable and complex poetry early on, with a rich and layered language. The Vase With The Shapes (1973), which was noticed by G.P. Savvides and Nora Anagnostaki, gave birth to the emblematic persona of Rimacho to help the “twin-souled” poet distance himself and shed light on things through his poetic hero’s “naïve” gaze. The poetry of the Kyriakos Charalambides peaks after 1974, mainly with poems and poetic compositions inspired by the Cypriot tragedy: Famagusta Reigning (1982), The Dome (1989), Methistoria (1995), etc. Of course there are many other poems of varying themes that draw from Pan-Hellenic and global history and mythology and speak to the human condition. Whether composing a hymn and elegy for his occupied city, or erecting his poetic dome to house the unburied dead and missing of the Turkish invasion, or composing on various historical and mythological themes, the poet tries to approach things from a broader perspective, with expansive inspirations and unfamiliar techniques, utilizing a wide range of literary resources and conversing with eminent poets. Several poems of more recent collections (Methistoria, Dokimin, 2000; Kydonion Milon, 2006) advocate a Kavafogenic historicism aiming at a more sophisticated rewrite of the “official” History through poetry, or endeavoring a re-reading of historical events in Cyprus or elsewhere. Thus, the Cyprus problem is rendered through a complex web of rhetorical techniques and postmodernist experimentations in approaching and de-mythologizing history.
Of course, the contribution of the “1960s Generation” is not limited to Costas Vassiliou and Kyriakos Charalambides. A number of other poets (Pitsa Galazi, Andreas Thomas, Panos Ioannides, Avra Katsouri, Dina Katsouri, Theoklis Kouyialis, Sophocles Lazarou, Costas Michaelides, Irene Panayi, Myrianthi Panayiotou, Michalis Pashiardis, Andreas Pastellas, Demetris Potamitis, Phoivos Stavrides, Nassos Flogas, Andreas Christophides, et al.) have offered valuable poetic texts of variable themes and styles. Although the limited scope of this presentation precludes specific discussion of these poets, we can say that, in general, they finally emerge from the “shadow” of Palamas or from the protracted influence of the post-symbolist poetry, and become more receptive to the modernist developments of the inter-war and early postwar years. As a rule, they aim to synchronize their poetic steps to the stressful rhythms of the modernist poetry of T.S. Eliot, or to utilize the ironic language and historical sensibility of Kafavis, often with the mediation of the “Cypriot” poems by Seferis. Moreover, the poetic examples of Ritsos, Vrettakos, Elytis, Anagnostakis, Katsaros, etc. are not unknown to them. Overall, their verse is liberated from the traditional forms of meter. Quite often, personal concerns and existential impasses are fused with the local political problem or with universal concerns. The disillusionment and ideological denigration caused by political developments are inextricably bound to more personal and existential or humanistic (e.g. pacifistic) concerns. The humanism of Costas Montis and Pantelis Mechanikos seem to guide most of these poets, who often attempt to see things from a global or internationalist perspective (e.g. above all they are focused on modern man’s existential anxiety, and are haunted by the prospect of a nuclear holocaust, the Cold War, the plight of so-called Third World, etc.). A significant portion of this production moves within this climate, albeit certainly not without lacking divergence and specific characteristics in the work of the most important or ambitious poets.
Immediately after 1974, a new and sizeable poetic “generation” emerges – the so-called “Generation of 1974,” marked by the tragic events of the coup and the Turkish invasion. At an early stage of their poetic journey at least, some poets (e.g. Loukis Zafiriou, Doros Loizou, Christos Mavris) appeared more convergent: they wrote about current affairs, often in rough and heated anti-conformist verses, following the example of certain representatives of the Greek “Generation of 1970” (e.g. L. Poulios, or even Y. Markopoulos), while drawing in parallel from the example of the political post-war poets. Even though the “Generation of 1974” has not given its last, some of its representatives or even among the poets who appeared after 1980 (e.g. Eleni Theocharous, Yiorgos Moleskis, George Moraris, Nasa Patapiou, Louis Perentos) have begun to articulate – especially in more recent works – a more personal and meaningful poetic voice. Many others, despite having occasionally written remarkable poems, have either ceased to engage with poetry or have not evolved markedly in comparison to their earlier work.
Younger poets, who began to publish after 1990 or 2000, appear more detached from the theme of 1974, and more methodical in their rhetorical means. While not ignoring collective events, this most recent poetic “generation” places more emphasis on the personal and private space, typically employing a more simple, low-tone and unpretentious language, which is often more stern than the pompous and pretentious or prose-like language that characterizes the work of older poets. However, some of the poets who have appeared in more recent years have managed to give praiseworthy and structured poems, or works that promise much more (e.g. Christiana Avraamidou, Alexandra Galanou, Zelia Gregoriou, Linos Ioannides, Yiorgos Kalozois, Eleni Kefala, Vakis Loizides, Panayiotis Nikolaidis, Eftychia Panayiotou, Michalis Papadopoulos, Stephanos Stavrides, Nena Filousi, Yiorgos Christodoulides, et al.).
We ought to mention here that, after 1974 and especially during the last two decades, the use of Cypriot idiom in poetry has gradually increased. It seems that this reversion to the local dialect, which had been thwarted for political or ideological reasons at one time (especially during the last decades of British rule and in the 1960), now functions as a gesture of self-awareness or is used to illuminate specific components of locality. Initially Costas Montis, and then the worthy representatives of “1960s Generation” (mainly Vassiliou, Polyvios Nicolaou, Myrianthi Panayiotou, Michalis Pashiardis, Andis Hadjiadamou and Kyriakos Charalambides) wrote remarkable poems in the idiom, refuting those who would argue that the Cypriot dialect had nothing more to offer poetry beyond what had already been given by Vassilis Michaelides, Demetris Lipertis and Pavlos Liasides. Few among the “Generation of 1974” or the younger poets (e.g. Tassos Aristotelous, Leonidas Galazis, Panayiotis Nikolaides, Anthony Pillas, et al.) have attempted idiomatic poems, and not always with equal success. Indeed, the Cypriot idiom, which is used more systematically in theatre, also returns to prose, mainly in short stories and narrations, sometimes with noteworthy results (e.g. Costas Vassiliou, Maria Savva, Andis Hadjiadamou).
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Contrary to the common argument, Cypriot creative prose, at least of the last fifty years, is not of inferior quality compared to poetry (although the two are not comparable). The “1960s Generation” continues to dominate in prose until the present. Of course, older writers and some younger ones, who appeared after 1974, have offered significant or mature prose: short stories, novellas and, more rarely, novels.
The pinnacle of the prose of Yiorgos Philippou-Pierides is the “tetralogy of the times,” i.e. the four collections of short stories (Hard Times, 1963; Still Times, 1966; Times of Wealth,1975; Times of Trial, 1978), which synthesize a monumental fresco of Cypriot life from the period of British Rule to more recent years. The author artfully sculpts his language without excess, in a low-tone narration, having learnt from the tradition of realistic prose. Supported by a solidly structured narration, he depicts – in a sympathetic way – the customs, attitudes and perceptionsof humble or ordinary people, who fall victim to history or social prejudice, while criticizing or satirizing the detached and ensconced bourgeoisie, which strangles their dreams and sensitivities, and is characterized by “posturing” and exhibitionism, or sinks into opulence and materialism.
In contrast, Theodoros Marsellos is primarily interested in man’s inner landscapes, exploring relationships, obsessions, phobias, neuroses and psychoses. His short story collections (Thief of my House, 1975; Five Short Stories, 1993) and novellas (Foreign and Fleeting, 1975; Utopia, 1981) paint nightmarish atmospheres in a simple narrative style, according to the example of Kafka, bringing to the surface his protagonists’ existential or other concerns, the “fear of the void,” their alienation and isolation from society, and even from themselves. In general, plot and action are rudimentary, the narrative flows without outbursts or affectation, always in low tones and in a measured and evocative writing, focused on the marginal and the minimal through which the great issues of life emerge, the persistent concerns of modern man.
After his youthful but remarkably praiseworthy short stories, which were collected in an enhanced edition in 1970, Costas Montis published the novella Closed Doors (1964), aiming to refute or “correct” both the historical narration of Bitter Lemons (1957) by Lawrence Durrell and the post-colonial novel The Bronze Age (1960) by Rodis Roufos. Yet Costas Montis arrived at the height of his prose with the novel Master Batistas and the Others (1980), which stands among the few peaks of the Cypriot novel in the 20th century. The author sought to palpate his distant family history and childhood experiences, as well as his national identity (Greek Cypriot of Venetian descent), attempting successive dives and folds in the space-time of Cypriot history (from the end of Frankish and Venetian Rule to around 1974), while recording, in parallel, the island’s political adventures and memorializing personal and collective events. Of primary importance to the text are personal experience, childhood and adolescent memories and stories, especially the fairytales of his grandmother and the realistic narrations of his father or of others, as these relate to the family or to the broader social and historical context. At a second level, we bear witness to the adventure of writing through a persistent, self-reflexive and modernist commentary, which reveals the writer’s effort to bring narrative cohesiveness to disparate material and to subordinate it to a legitimate literary genre, the novel. Of course, Master Batistas and the Others transcends the traditional historical or autobiographical novel; the writer parodies, albeit not consciously, the narrative strategies both of the historical and autobiographical novels, and delivers modernist blows to the conventions of fiction writing. Among the novel’s most notable qualities is precisely Montis’ insistence on exposing the literary adventure, or on fertilely experimenting by combining diverse things such as poetry, prose, narration, lyricism and folk wisdom to combine a variety of linguistic and stylistic peculiarities, to knead the historical testimony with the fairytale narrative, or to replace the official History with micro-history, mitigating and averting the tragic, unbearable and emotional with light and humorous escapes and parentheses.
Moving on to the “Generation of 1960,” and without overlooking the important contributions of earlier writers (to the above a few names of older authors should be added, such as Loukis Akritas, Nikos Vrahimis, Nikos Nikolaides, G. S. Economides, Yiangos Pierides and Maria Roussia), we could say that the “generation” of Evi Meleagrou, Panos Ioannides and Yiannis Katsouri significantly renewed Cypriot prose. Already during the 1960s we can follow the concerted efforts of this new generation to bring something new to creative prose, not only in the short story, which had given ripe fruit since the inter-war period, but also in the neglected novel. Indeed, several representatives of the younger generation were experimenting with the cultivation of a rather modernist novel, which departed from the traditional narrative, enabling them to express the stressful pace of political, sexual or other concerns of the modern era. Such worthwhile or interesting experimental novels, novellas, and other narrations were written before 1974 by Tassos Stephanides (The Son of the Waters or Revelation, 1960), Tassos Psaropoulos (The Hangman. The diary of Fouskos, 1962), Lina Solomonidou (Here Lies, 1964; The Journey, 1969), Rena Katselli (My Sister’s Notebooks, 1967; In the Mountains of Tramountana, 1973-1974), Avgi Sakalli (The Blue Man, 1967; The Woman with Dark Glasses, 1970; Who am I?, 1973), Mary P. Stavrou (The Fifth Seal, 1970), Maria Pattichi (Waiting Room, 1973), et al. The presence of female writers in the cultivation of prose has, by now, been clearly felt.
Lina Solomonidou’s preeminent work of prose is the fictional chronicle Experiences-Cyprus 1974 (1977), which incorporates narrations and testimonials of ordinary people and of victims of the war and coup, with interviews with persons responsible for the coup and with other protagonists or ‘extras’ in the Cypriot tragedy, even with Turkish Cypriots who remained in the free areas and with Turkish army defectors. Additionally, the work incorporates diary entries and other testimonials from that time, press reports, news and other media that compose a kaleidoscopic mosaic of the 1974 calamity. Of course, this is not an ordinary chronicle or compilation of testimonials. The work is guided by the firm hand of the writer, who knows how to edit and orchestrate her primary historical source material. It is obvious that the author attempts to approach things from various perspectives. Beyond simply documenting evidence, she relays her personal reactions, while seeking to understand the statements and attitudes of her respondents and to illuminate their past. As much as she endeavors to maintain a balanced and objective presentation of her “hot” historical material, her personal political and ideological views and concerns, her acute perception and humanitarian gaze often surface.
The first Cypriot conquest in the novel takes place with Eastern Mediterranean (1969) by Evi Meleagrou. It is situated in Nicosia during the first inter-communal conflict, the “bloody Christmas” of 1963. Primarily from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Margaret, and secondly through the eyes of Uncle Ionas, we travel back in space (most often to the Nicosia within the walls and the Turkish Cypriot neighborhoods in particular, just before the 1963 inter-communal conflict made them out-of-bounds through the establishment of the so-called Green Line) and in time, to render fragmented scenes from the 1955-1959 struggle against the British and from the island’s human geography. Like the protagonists of Jean Paul Sartre’s novels, Margaret, Ionas and the other fictional characters are disinclined to the material world. They claim their personal freedom and rights to love, while joining freedom and social responsibility, or facing the ominous Other. Inventive character depictions are offered in the novel’s monologues; in particular, the heroine’s unspoken thoughts printed in brown ink, while the diary entries of the young freedom fighter Cornaros, who was hung by the British colonialists, are printed in purple.
The second, more ambitious and exceptionally complex novel by Evi Meleagrou, Penultimate Season (1981) is a continuation of Eastern Mediterranean. Using complex narrative techniques, she seeks render the political adventures of Cyprus during the 1964-1974 decade, i.e. from the inter-communal conflicts to the coup against the Makarios government. In this work, too, external things are retroactively illuminated, in the way that they resonate within the psyches of the main narrating characters. The author’s gaze is, of course, primarily political; she endeavors to detect the political and ideological origins of the people who caused the rupture of the internal “front.” Central to this novel is once more the character of Uncle Ionas, who expresses the Nationalist Unionist perspective, while Margarita is now limited to a secondary role. Compared to Eastern Mediterranean, in Penultimate Season the world of Turkish Cypriots is illuminated more systematically and openly. In particular, the novel’s third chapter is set in the Turkish Cypriot sector of Nicosia, where Turkish Cypriot refugees moved (in some cases unwillingly) after the riots of 1963-64.
Apart from Meleagrou, three other notable novelists from the Kypriaka Chronika group gradually progressed from the short story to the novel. Panos Ioannides, after the publication of four books of important and heretical short stories (In Cyprus the Ethereal…, 1964; Cyprus Epics, 1968; Kronaka, Vol 1. 1970; Kronaka, vol II, 1972) that satirize and mock historical figures that were falsely elevated to heroic status, the hollow rhetoric, the arrogance of power, the unfair dealings, the eudemonism and moral aberrations of Cypriot life, he presented his first novel in 1973 (Census), an equally heretical and original story, which could be read as a parody of the biblical myth, yet is far more serious undertaking, since the “secular drama” meets “divine Comedy,” while even the absurdity of life is reflected through the divine drama or supplemented with metaphysical mystery and mystical imagery. Then follows his most important collection of short stories (The Unseen Aspect, 1979), inspired by the Turkish invasion of 1974 and its painful aftermath. With his second novel (The Unbearable Patriotism of P.F.K. – An Aristophanian Parable, 1989), Panos Ioannides gives an equally scathing and delightful social satire in the form of an Aristophanian parable – something that affords him the opportunity to taunt and ridicule the ethos of a certain Cypriot socio-economic class, the moral decadence, corruption, servitude, selfish and naïve, even inane, eudemonism of the years following 1974, particularly of the 1980s. With his two most recent novels, Panos Ioannides moves to different themes: Deva (2006), subtitled with “Like a novel,” is an autobiographical and “family chronicle,” focusing on the love for animals. The massive America ’62 – De Profundis (2008) renders John F. Kennedy’s United States in the early 1960s.
A stop in the short story yield of Yiannis Katsouris is his third collection (Give Us on This Day, 1979), where the author releases the emotional charge of the coup and the Turkish invasion, channeling his anger and anguish in a catalytic and bitter humor that touches on satire and sarcasm. Noteworthy are also his two subsequent collections (Jim Londos and Paraschos Boras, 1997; The Porn Shepherds and The Honorable Walking Stick, 2006), which recount the author’s personal childhood experiences. Yiannis Katsouris published his first novel (Stylianou Ascent, 1990) rather late; it contains elements of the coming of age novel, although the presence of the autobiographical and political dimensions is undeniable. At the heart of the narrative is a large group of children and adolescents who live within the walls of Nicosia. They are beginning to understand the world around them, the sociopolitical context, their relationships with Turkish Cypriots and the British colonialists, while simultaneously becoming initiated in love, death, and the adult world. Its easily readable, vivid and realistic narration, its sensitive and demythologizing sociopolitical gaze, and its humorous and playful language emerge as the enduring elements and basic virtues of this novel, as well as of the rest of Katsouris’ prose. His second novel (Naive Uncle Michael, 2001) focuses on the world of economic migrants and Cypriot expatriates, who remain suspended between their birthplace and their new homeland. His last novel (According to Evagoras and Eugenia, or The Cuckold Races, 2009), Yiannis Katsouris satirizes love and business customs, and especially the double life and business acumen of senior and junior clergy or laity.
The fourth writer of the group of Kypriaka Chronika, Christakis Georgiou, initially published two noteworthy collections of short stories where he attempted to render, in a modernist narration, modern man’s existential anguish and alienation. He subsequently worked on long-form prose: his first work (Hours 1950, 1981), which has the breadth and composition of a novel, places its action in the 1950s and in British colonial prisons, where political and criminal convicts rub shoulders and clash with lifers of different races and nationalities, with locals and foreigners, mainly Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The author depicts the prisoners’ world and prison life quite effectively. The modern techniques utilized by his short stories subside significantly in this novella, whose simple narrative is delivered with simple and pictorial rhetorical means, albeit within a loose and slow-moving construction. More ambitious and complex are the next two, rather plethoric, novels by Christakis Georgiou (Archipelago, Twenty Years Of Birth, 1990; Archipelago, The Trap, 2002). Following the tried and true strategies utilized in Ungoverned States by Stratis Tsirkas and Eastern Mediterranean by Evi Meleagrou, Christakis Georgiou seeks to render, through fiction, various aspects of Cypriot history from the years of British Rule until the pivotal year of 1974.
This study does not afford us the time to look at the contribution of the newer writers who emerged after 1974. However, we ought to mention that some (e.g. Myrto Azina, Efterpe Araouzou, Christos Argyrou, Aris Georgiou, Yiannis Garpozis, Titsa Diamantopoulou, Lefkios Zafiriou, Chrystalla Thoma, Olga Kozakou-Tsiara, Chrystalla Koulermou, Daphne Lordou, Andreas Maloris, Niki Marangou, Nikos Nikolaou, Savvas Pavlou, Elena Rembelina, Emilios Solomou, Stephanos Stavrides, Yiorgos Charitonidis, Christos Hadjipapas, and perhaps others) have given valuable narrations, particularly in the categories of the short story and the novella, albeit more rarely in the novel. Most of these writers, especially the younger, appear more detached from the politics of their country and era, and depart from the Cypriot historical context to look at global issues. Some writers are more experimental in their techniques and utilize the language of subversion. Many novelists, especially women, are choosing to move into the realm of dream and of the surreal to recount bizarre stories about troubled love, interpersonal relationships and metaphysical concerns, or to approach issues of everyday life from unorthodox and unexpected angles.
In completing this schematic presentation, it could be argued that Modern Cypriot Literature is on track and that, in general, it tends to follow the developments of contemporary Greek and world literature. The time has come for the more worthy examples of this production – through the appropriate infrastructure – to reach the Hellenic world and to be evaluated within the context of Modern Greek Literature. Cypriot themes, the idiom, or other elements of locality – as long as they are embedded in noteworthy in literature – should not impede the reception of Cypriot literature by Greek literary critics, Neo-hellenists, and other readers. Such “local” and idiosyncratic ingredients may prove to be more fertile and viable, even enrich the diversity and polyphony of Modern Greek Literature.
• Costas Vassiliou, “Aidos Argeioi – or The Face of Odysseus. Comment on Cypriot poetry,” Akti 6 (1991) 187-194.
• Leonidas Galazis, “New Cypriot poets,” Diavazo 499 (2009) 94-99.
• K.G. Giangoullis, The Cypriot Idiom in Literature – From the 11th Century to the Present, Nicosia 1986.
• Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex, Critique of Cypriot Literature, Alpha-Omega Publications, Nicosia 1970.
• Photis Demetrakopoulos, “On Seferis and Cyprus.” Athens, Epikairotita, 1992.
• Lefkios Zafiriou, Modern Cypriot Literature: A Grammatological Sketch, Nicosia 1991.
• Alexis Ziras, “Fantasy, dream and realism. The ‘contradictory terms’ of contemporary prose.” Diavazo 499 (2009) 78-84.
• Alexis Ziras, “Modern Cypriot Poetry: Thematic, linguistic and stylistic stratifications.” Simeion 4 (1996) 225-246.
• Yiannis Ioannou, “The socio-cultural context of the poetic production of the 1974-1990 period.” Anatomy of a transformation. Cyprus After 1974. Edited by N. Peristianis & G. Tsangaras, Nicosia, Intercollege, 1995, pp. 253-273.
• Yiannis Katsouris, The Theatre in Cyprus. Vols. I & II. Nicosia 2005.
• Yiorgos Kehagioglou, “History and poetic ethos: Cypriot examples of the fifteen years between 1974 and 1989.” Lexis 85-86 (June-August, 1989) 616-627.
• Yiorgos Kehagioglou, “Contemporary Cypriot Literature within the context of Modern Greek Literature: A regional, local, marginal, independent, autonomous, self-contained or sovereign literature?” Nea Epochi 214 (1992) 19-33.
• Yiorgos Kehagioglou, “Cyprus prose between 1974-1994: Trends and stops,” The Anatomy of a Transformation, ibid, pp. 229-251.
• Yiorgos Moleskis, “Ideological trends in Modern Cypriot Literature.” Politistiki 14-15 (1986) 50-56.
• Theodosis Nicolaou, Literary and Critical Texts, edited by Lefteris Papaleontiou, Athens, Gavrielides, 2008.
• Lefteris Papaleontiou, Stochastic Adjustments. On the Broader History of Modern Literature, Athens, Gavrielides, 2000.
• G.P. Savvides, The House of Memory, Athens, Spoudastirio Neoellinismou, 1997.
• Kyriakos Charalambides, Olisthiros Istos. Vols. I & II, Athens, Agra, 2009.
• Andreas Christophides, The Rational and the Paradoxical. Centre for Studies of the Kykkos Monastery, 1995.
• Phoivos Stavrides, Lefteris Papaleontiou, Savvas Pavlou, “Bibliography of Cypriot literature,” Nicosia, Microphilologika, 2001.
• Tributes in the magazines: Logotechnia 2 (Feb. 1979); Anti 236 (08/07/1983); Diavazo 123 (17.07.1985) and 499 (2009); Politistiki 14-15 (1986); Antipodes, Melbourne, 23-24 (1988); I Lexi 85-86 (June-August, 1989); Simeio, Nicosia, 4 (1996); Hellenic Studies, Canada, 15.2 (2007).
Translated by Irena Joannides