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A "cousin" of Michelle Pfeiffer’s "flew over the Nazi's nest"

10 February 2011 / 16:02:22  GRReporter
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PFEIFFER: My neighbour in Germany where I was born and educated was Pavlos Floros (1897-1981), a Smyrna-born Greek writer and poet who belongs to the mid-war generation of cosmoptilan Greek authors influenced by European literary and ideologiocal movements. He told me a lot about his beloved country and strongly urged me to visit it. I learned ancient Greek and Latin in a classical gymnasium, so I had an idea about Greece when I first visited it in 1965 – I could read but not speak modern Greek. Pavlos adviced us to stay overnight at the “Fryni” hotel in Palio Faliro. It was all brass and mahogany – very romantic, very Greek and I had married one year before. If one crossed Possidonos boulevard one could have a swim in the sea. We went to Pireus to fetch a boat – and there she was – to “Marilena” ready to sail to the Cyclades. My wife’s name is Marlene, so how strange I thought the ships name has to be feminine noun but it was neuter!? We left Pireus at 8 am and arrived on Naxos at 11 pm accompanied by shouting islanders, goats and chickens – we were very happy, even the rubbish was beautiful! There were only two hotels on Naxos in those days and in a Kafeneion we met kyrios Michalis who offered us a double bed room with hot shower for 15 Drs per night in his hotel ‘Dionysus’ underneath the old Venetian castle “To Kastro”. When we reached the hotel his wife Poppi told us that the double bed room cost 20 Drs per night because her husband was from Apiranthos, a mountain village on Naxos “where the liars and thieves live” – we took the room anyway. Next morning I asked kyrios Michalis to have a hot shower. “Wait a moment please in few minutes you will have hot water in your bathroom”. He went up to the rooftop, I’m curious behind him saw that he lit a fire under a 200 litre oil drum standing on a tripod and connected with a hosepipe to the water system. How clever – how Greek – how very artistic - we fell in love. We came back every year for a long time, but spending the winter in Germany until 1973. 1974 we decided to move to Greece, i.e. Naxos. Since then we have been living and working on Naxos in the old Venetian (Frankish) Castle in the house of the former office of the governor of the Duke. After 30 years having my studio in the former Ursuline convent, my studio is now in the former horse stables of the Palazzo Coronello near the East gate of the castle. As a visual artist it is important to speak about Light! As Paul Klee said: “Only in North Africa the light is better than in Greece.” And there is Love, because as we learned in time: “A country like Greece  has a lot of shade. . . . Because there is so much light.” In 1980 we became Naxian citizens.

QUESTION: Being a long-time resident of Naxos one could assume you’re on friendly terms with two of the most prominent Greek personalities born there – the resistance fighter, left-wing thinker and eternal rebel Manolis Glezos who together with A. Santas took down the German swastika flag from the Acropolis in 1941 during the German occupation of Greece, and world-famous playwright Yakovos Kabanellis whose activities during the Resistance resulted in his arrest by the Germans in 1943 and his detention at Mauthausen concentration camp till prisoners there were liberated by the Allies? One of his most famous narrative works ‘The Balad of Mauthausen’ - telling the story of two prisoners there falling in love - was set to music by Mikis Theodorakis. Would you share your impressions of matters you happen to have discussed or exchange you might have had with Glezos and Kabanellis?

PFEIFFER: I was introduced to Manolis Glezos in the beginning of the 1980ies when he opened the “Free University” on Naxos and gave a lecture about the grim conditions in 1942/1943 in Greece when many people were starving and dying. As he learned I was born in Germany he went away from me, his beautiful blue eyes cold like a glazier. Later he learned about my father and we became closer. After I’ve read Spyros Meletzis’ book ‘With the Resistance Fighters in the Mountains’ (Με τους αντάρτες στα βουνά)) and learned about his brother Nikos, who was killed by the Germans, I painted the portrait of his brother on a bigger scale because there is only a small passport photo. This painting could now be seen at the “Nikos Glezos library” in Apiranthos on Naxos. From then on we became really close. I remember a lunch in Apiranthos with Manolis Glezos, Prof. Giorgios Alexandros Mangakis, who did the opening lecture on occasion of the Japan project “ECO & EGO” in the town hall of Naxos 2004 and Prof. Vassilis Sfiroeras, the historian who once told me that most of the intelligence comes from the mountain villages in Greece. He gave a talk at the opening of my exhibition “Winged Words”. The lunch in the famous “Leftheri’s Restaurant” was arranged because the three friends wanted to help me with a project, which I never executed but perhaps one day it will be realized. It was one of my “green projects” i.e. I plan to colour the criss-crossing stonewalls in the highlands of Naxos with drinking cans and plastic shopping bags. I’ve met Manolis Glezos last time when he did a civil memorial service for his brother Nikos, I was the only “Xenos” (φορειγνερ) invited on this occasion in the Culture Centre of Apiranthos. Manolis Glezos said: “There is a German here today, not because the Germans killed my brother but Klaus, a friend, is invited today because he painted a portrait of my brother.”. . . I was so embarrassed. Everybody looking at me, I wanted to be a mouse – disappearing in a small hole.

Tags: Klaus PfeifferPrinzhornthe island of NaxosNazisMental patientsVisual arts
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