EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR NEW TRANSLATORS OF GREEK LITERATURE
“We invest, hope and expect”
Author, Ordinary member of the Academy of Athens
Here you will be updated regarding the program, its members, their CV’s publications as well their “work in progress”
is a initiative operating under the auspices of the Academy of Athens. It is funded by the Kostas and Eleni Ourani Foundation and the Petros Haris Foundation The existence of trained translators is of vital importance for the promotion and dissemination of Greek literature abroad. Though numerous factors are involved in the commercial success of a translated work, the main factor remains the quality of the translation. The programme is designed to meet the need in Greece for a translator training programme and has its aims:
the education and professional training of new translators of Greek literature into major foreign languages the creation of a new generation of ambassadors of Greek letters and culture on a par with the notable translators and Hellenists of the past offers scholarships each year to selected foreign students to enable them to live in Greece and improve their Greek, to acquire the necessary skills to become literary translators and to acquaint themselves with Greek literature.
Victoria A. Reuter is a literature and cultural studies scholar who received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford. From 2013–2015 she was a Literary Translation Fellow for the Academy of Athens and Petros Haris Foundation where she translated contemporary Greek fiction into English. Her current project, Snapshots of Modern Greece, aims to present the Modern Greek short story to English readers with accompanying critical commentaries.
Society of Modern Greek Studies Online Journal: Provias, Vangelis. Trans. Victoria Reuter. “Happy Death” and “The Letter”. From Black Parade Shoes. MGSO Vol.1 (2015), T25-32.
Related Conference Papers:
Precarious Narratives and Topographies of Crisis in the Fiction of Christos Economou, Austere Subjects Panel, ACLA Annual Meeting, Harvard University March 17–20, 2016
The Poet as Translator & Translator as Poet: The Case of Anghelaki-Rooke & Holst-Warhaft Greece in Translation an International Conference, Oxford University, Department of Medieval and Modern Languages, October 5–6, 2012
Translator for Thesswiki: A Literary Walk Through Thessaloniki, 2016
Work with academics from Aristotle University on the award-winning crowdsourcing project that digitizes the cultural and literary history of Thessaloniki, Greece’s arts capital. http://www.lib.auth.gr/en/thesswiki
Fish in a Fishbowl
BY MARIOS HAKKAS
The man with a loaf of bread tucked under his arm is the same man who about two years
earlier held a watermelon. It was July then and naturally there were watermelons. Now it
is April and there is only bread. Of course there were watermelons then, though never in
April—it would be unnatural. He makes his way to the bakery for a loaf like the rest of
Food was bought-up quickly amidst the wave of panic. He waited in line for around half
an hour and in the end left with a piping hot loaf of bread. Others took five or six, him,
just one. For his purposes, one would suffice. He wedged it under his arm and got back
on the road.
The proper thing to do when one had a loaf of bread was to go straight home. Our man
here though, could not. In his neighborhood they had started making arrests at dawn and
that morning he had just barely managed to get dressed, duck out, and find a suitable
excuse to distance himself as well as camouflage his movements.
All people, even primitive ones, know that objects have use-value. In advanced
commerce-based societies all things naturally have additional worth, exchange value they
call it. In Greece, aside from these two well-known and often discussed uses, there is a
third: camouflage, which plays an important role in the extraordinary circumstances that
one so often experiences in this place. The camo value of a thing is directly proportional
to the ingenuity of the camouflaged individual and the perceptiveness the police officer
that one attempts to deceive. In other words, the sharper the officer the more compelling
a cover the camo-object needs to be for the law of camouflage to work.
On the long July days during the Royal Coup, our man, truth to tell, always a man of
extremes, joins the political demonstration carrying a watermelon (for camo value). And
if something kicks up and there’s trouble, he slips away showing the police his
watermelon saying, “I am just a peaceable man on my way home”.
Indeed, he did go home. He put on his pajamas and slippers, and there on the porch cut
up the watermelon and ate it all the way down to the rind (it’s camo-value of no more
use). That was his supper. These last few years he gobbled up anything he came across.
He has gained weight and will go on a diet from now on. The extra pounds hang out in
front on his belly, like a paunchy watermelon. Even when he says he will, he knows he
won’t, he finds exercise boring. He is bored. He also can’t be bothered to varnish the
wrought-iron gate, jewel of the patio though it is. And then there was the goldfish with its
bowl and the water that needed changing every now and then. This too bored him.
These past few years he has had a Capuan residence of his own: a little house with a
balcony that looks out towards the mountain. After spending half his life in prison cells
and army-issue tents, experiencing so much deprivation, when he finally found himself a
free man he became immediately entangled in real estate affairs, saved some beans, and
bought himself this house where he lives alone.
On marriage he would not decide. “You never know what will happen”, he said, every
time it was brought up. “Marriage bounds you to the world of responsibility, and
children. Me, I have a past and an uncertain future”.
Even without marriage, with just this house, he had developed a strong attachment to this
world and an unbridgeable gap with the past. It was not just that its four walls were
decorated with frames, that its windows had no bars, its doors opened at his whim, it was
because these were the things that had caused him to sever ties with his old life. It was
also the living room set and the bed with a comfortable spring mattress. The potbellied
stove on winter nights, the refrigerator on hot summer days, its ice cubes, and a hundred
other little things. At first glance they did not seem to live up to his youthful idea of ‘the
heroic’ but instead remind him of all the hard-knock spaces he had occupied.
It was true; as much as he tried he could not break with the past. He went on as best he
could, going to demonstrations whenever he was summoned and listening to turntable
records the ones that sing only about the tough times of old.
It was nice to listen to the records, songs of sorrow and hardship, and of the extraordinary
efforts people made irrespective of whether or not anything came of them. They allow
one to hold on to those heroic moments when you took a stand for your cause, a gesture
he too had made. It was nice to sit in the recliner and reminisce about the woes of the
past, no longer stingingly fresh but wrapped up in myth, like something that had never
even happened to him. “Ah how it goes, it all passes. Difficult years though they were,
they had a kind of beauty, their story.” He was quite comfortable in his house with his
memories and record player, it was a nice life for him until the dust kicked up again, the
devil be damned, why did he want to take to the streets yet again and start that stone arolling?
It was so nice ensconced there in that house but now that there was growing unrest where
had he to go? On what unreliable door to knock when everyone, family, friends, and
associates all had the same cause for alarm? Many of them had probably already been
caught while the rest, like him, wandered around clutching a loaf of bread.
He made a wide circle around the city-center passing Vyronas, Dáfni, and finally
Kallithea. It was a good exercise. It had been a long time since he walked so far and the
day was a bright one, made for a long stroll. Unconsciously he began to nibble on the
heel of the loaf as optimistic thoughts tumbled in, “Bah, it can’t last long this situation.
Sooner or later they will fold”.
Now, if one would like to analyze this aphorism, one will notice that the vagueness of the
first (sentence) continues into the second due to the use of the third person perspective.
Of course using the first person singular in this case indicates some show of emotion, a
personal preparedness for the inevitable. “How will they fall? Naturally, like ripened fruit
on the branch, or by firmly shaking the tree?” “They will be thrown out by the people”,
he corrected, slightly embittered because he too considered himself a part of ‘the people’
and therefore could not remain a mere onlooker. Yes, but then again, one had to go to the
heart of city where it was all going down and take part in it. Or, did he believe in the
theory of the avant-garde, that leaders were needed, and that he should therefore remain
slightly more removed from it all?
“I can’t”, he thought, “my feet refuse to go there. Even if I set out with the intention, I
find it impossible. Let the others take action; leave it to the young to go to the center.”
He had come to a neighborhood where a second cousin of his lived. He was hesitant to go
to her house but his mouth was sour from cigarettes and he was in need of a coffee.
Finally, he went.
“How’s it going?” asked his cousin’s husband, a robust lad with a robust wage.
“How’s it going?” was his reply, not knowing what else to say.
“We’ll have some football this Sunday, will we?”
“How should I know?”, he said stepping inside.
“Well fuck me! What have we got here?” he exclaimed dramatically grabbing his
forehead. “You’ve got a radio and you’re telling me you only use the damn thing to listen
to marches, never any football!”
Our man sucked down his coffee hot as it was trying to get out of there as soon as he
could, away from his cousin’s husband and the fanfare and pomp that poured from the
radio. Nearly running out of there he took to the road again with a quick, nervous gait. It
was the first time he had walked like this, to the mental tune of a march, and since, he
thought, he was already annoyed with himself for having gone to this house in the first
place, why not just go with it. He could even hum along:
Oh, how much I love thee!
He noticed the man in front of him was walking to the same beat, the same rhythm, as if
tiny loudspeakers attached to his ears were broadcasting the famous march. He was
encumbered by a bag that was bursting with foodstuffs and which caused him to fall out
of step but, he would immediately give a skip and a hop and be right back on it. He
overtook him from behind and then two blocks later he disappeared into a doorway.
There was probably a woman waiting for him still in her nightgown, his neighbor across
the way drinking ouzo, and his brother-in-law already setting up the backgammon.
Nothing changed for him. Just one limping step which he caught and then got right back
to the rhythm of his day, back to his house where he could sleep.
With a small adjustment he too could walk like this, always uneven. It would be nothing
really, just accept the situation and then head home. Of course at home there was no
woman in a nightdress waiting for him, no brother-in-law, no neighborhood group of
friends, but he had that little fish in a fishbowl and who else would change its water? A
bit of a thing, this little fish, but it too was a responsibility. He imagined the paths and
lanes one could cut across in that small glass bowl. His movements all grace flaunting a
golden belly and fins, mouth opening and closing rhythmically. Suddenly his breathing
became labored, he was suffocating, wriggling, drowning. And like a ball of lead his
body sunk to the bottom of the fishbowl.
He took a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. “It’s
no good” he thought, “I have to go”. He would take better care of the fish. After all, it
was the only thing he had to do today, change the water. For the rest of it, the serious,
grand things, for those he had no more strength.
He returned to his home that April afternoon with his mind made up. There he would bar
himself in and there they would come to take him away. Night was falling as he entered
Translated by Victoria Reuter
Hakkas, Marios. Άπαντα [Apanda, Collected Works]. Kendros: Athens, 2008.