As Published in In Focus, Vol. 8, No. 8, Dec. 11
For a decade now, the Cyprus PEN Centre has been publishing a series of small volumes in English dedicated to accomplished Cypriot writers – poets, prose writers and essayists – under the general title Literary Profiles.
A select team of Cypriot and Greek critics, academics, and researchers of Cypriot Literature has undertaken the writing of the series, which to date includes 53 titles.
The translation has been undertaken by an equally choice team of translators. In some cases the featured writers give PEN the permission to use the already translated texts.
Recently, the Cyprus PEN has published two new volumes in the series, one dealing with the work of Tefkros Anthias, a writer of the older generation, and the second on Niki Marangou, a new writer. We give, below, two brief descriptions of the above-mentioned publications.
Tefkros Anthias, literary pseudonym for Andreas Pavlou was born in Kontea, in 1903. His family was poor and he studied with great difficulty, selling from a young age pamphlets with his poems which dealt with historical facts and current affairs. He published his first collection Flowers of love in 1922 and then went to Athens, where he experienced poverty and hardship but met and made friends with important writers. From 1924-26 he taught in schools in Greece and returned to Athens in 1927. There he lived the life of a vagrant, sleeping on benches and pavements. His life inspired him to write the poems of the collection Whistlings of a Vagrant (1929), which was received with acclaim. It was considered the emblematic work of vagrancy, and constituted a caustic expression of social protest.
He became a member of the communist party in Cyprus which was under persecution and followed the path of a militant man of letters. In response to his excommunication Anthias published a new comitragic epic called Purgatory.
For his involvement in the 1931 uprising against the Colonial government Anthias was sentenced to five months imprisonment and later confinement to his birthplace of Kontea and to the village of Antrolykou in Paphos. As he was constantly persecuted he was forced to state that he would cease to be involved in politics.
He wrote for the theatre and played a leading role in the foundation of “Prometheus” (1945-46) the first professional dramatic theatre troupe in Cyprus. In 1948 he moved to London where he one of the founding members of the Greek Faculty, where he taught. He also worked as a journalist and returned to Cyprus seven years later. In the meantime the EOKA struggle had begun against the British and he is again in detention, which this times seriously shook his health.
He wrote in 1953: “I, too am a worker, even if the pen is my only tool. How could I separate myself from the popular army, which continually battles for its rise, and which has already won the fight on the one-sixth of the earth? My silence would be a betrayal of human life.”
Anthias died in 1968, leaving behind a significant body of work in prose and poetry. His writings reflect his time. As critic Costas Nikolaides wrote “militant poetry of high tones may not work today…Yet there is the other Tefkros Anthias, the introspective and sensitive poet, who when in an internal dialogue, reveals the deeper human drama, aspects and nuances of genuine feelings, and succeeds in eliciting emotional responses.”
She has published books of prose, poetry and children’s fairy tales and won state prizes for her literary work. In 1998 she won in the Cavafy prize for poetry in Alexandria. In 2004 her poem “Roses” was chosen to be hung in waiting rooms in NHS Hospitals in the UK in the project “Poems for the waiting room”. In 2006 she received the Athens Academy poetry award for her book DIVAN. In May 2008 her book THE DEMON OF LUST was nominated in Athens as one the ten best short stories of the year for the Diavazo awards. Her poems are included in the “European constitution in verse” of the Brussels Poetry Collective (2009) and in the cd «Nachrichten von der Poesie» (Random House) edited by Joachim Sartorius. In July 2009 in Curtea de Arges in Romania she was shortlisted for the European Poetry Prize.
She had seven exhibitions of her work in painting. She lives in Nicosia and has a daughter who is a painter.
She said about her work: “I suppose that one of the most interesting things on me curriculum vitae is that my mother comes from Macedonia, North Greece and my father from Famagusta. This gave me a wide view of the Greek World as I grew up at its eastern point. We have been lucky as a generation to witness extremes. High technology and my grandmother weaving, gypsies with dancing bears and computers.
Six years in Berlin confused me enough. I needed the torpid summer noons of Nicosia to remind me again who I was.
I did various jobs, taught pottery to blind children, worked for the theatre, ran a bookshop. The central point in my life has always been the passion with language, with the Greek language in all its forms, contemporary, ancient, Byzantine. I like to play with the language. This is why I opened a bookshop, so I could have all the books I wanted. This is why I sink in books, I go back to University, searching for words, looking for new games. I use words like colours to illustrate images. Some of them come from afar.”
Her novel “From Famagusta to Vienna” has been translated into English, German, Rumanian, Bulgarian, Arabic and Turkish. Her first novel “Is the panther alive” is a description of Famagusta of the 60s. Her recent novel “Yezoul” is a contemporary novel, pieced together from half-remembered and rediscovered scraps of history: The book invites the reader on a journey to 19th century Athens, to Aegina, Corfu, Constantinople, Cairo, Famagusta but also the contemporary world of Starbucks and Bodyshop. “In Niki Marangou’s world,” writes critic Alexis Ziras, “Eastern listlessness coexists with sensuality and the brilliant intellectuality of Western tradition.”