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No crisis has ever been able to destroy arts

25 October 2013 / 12:10:07  GRReporter
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Zdravka Mihaylova, for GRReporter exclusive

Rhea Galanaki was born in Heraklion, Crete in 1947. She studied history and archaeology in Athens, and is the author of novels, short stories, poems and essays, and a founding member of the Society of Greek Writers (1981). She won the State Award twice (in 1999, for her novel "Eleni, or Nobody" and in 2005, for her collection of short stories "An Almost Blue Hand"). She was also awarded the prize for prose of the Kostas and Eleni Ourani Foundation - Academy of Athens (in 2003, for her novel "The Age of Labyrinths"), the "Nikos Kazantzakis" prize of the Municipality of Heraklion, Crete (1987) and the prize of readers of the National Book Centre in 2006 for her fictional chronicle "Silent, Deep Waters." Her novel "The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha" is the first Greek book included in UNESCO’s Collection of Representative Works (1994) and "Eleni, or Nobody" was on the final list of the three books contending for the European Prize "Aristion" (1999). Her works have been translated into fifteen languages ​​including Bulgarian. She had worked with director Theo Angelopoulos on the script of his last and unfinished film "The Other Sea".
- Your novel "The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha" (Bulgarian edition of Lada publishing house, Sofia, 1998) marks the beginning of a series of creative experiments addressing the issue of the ambivalent, dual identity regarding the relationship between the province and the centre, the East and the West, the male and the female, between Christians and Muslims... The motif of the people torn between two communities or two religions is clearly seen in "The Story of Olga" ("Homocentric Stories", Agra Publications, 1985; the collection of short stories was reprinted by Kastaniotis in 2004, under the title "An Almost Blue Hand"). How is this topic, in which you are deeply involved apparently, changing and evolving in your subsequent works?
- Everything that you are saying is true. The duality of some of my characters is apparent and another dominant motif in my work, namely that of return (νόστος), often fits in this fundamental duality. I do not know whether its development is linear or if it follows a circle; in any case, it is subject to a literary differentiation in my separate books because, in each of my novels, the architectonics and the style change in accordance with the theme, characters, or other signs. Each theme entails its own literary device but the stamp of the author is always easily distinguishable. I would add, as it is a long-known fact, that human drama is caused by the clash between two situations, as in classical tragedy in which it is caused by the conflict between two principles, namely the divine and human origin. I have not added new things; I have just taken the risk of raising issues, equally modern and unanswered, or with different interpretations over time, in a specific historical context, after a long absence of the historical present in modern Greek prose. I started from historical present to go so far as to explore those and other issues, even in modern societies. As usual, I lean on a deep, poignant emotion provoked in me by a person, an event, suppression or perhaps grievance, to build my own original stage set around them.
- In one of your interviews you said, "Too early I have become the victim of a fairy tale." Is your native island of Crete, with its abundance of so many myths and legends, to blame for this?
 - Every child can become a "victim of a fairy tale" just like every adult can become a "victim of love". It is the same thing. I do not believe there is a special connection with Crete, although the myths of neighbouring Knossos (I was born and raised in Heraklion) are indelibly carved on the hard drive of my childhood memory, as evidenced by some of my writings. My decision to study archaeology and history is largely the result of the charm of the myths and legends, but also of the stories about the misadventures of my family in times of peace and war which I heard at the family table.
- In the novel "Fires of Judas, Ashes of Oedipus" (Kastaniotis, 2009), the arrival, in the year 2000, of a young Greek woman of Jewish descent in a Cretan village in order for her to become a teacher there as well as the Easter custom of burning the effigy of Judas, offer you the opportunity of dissecting the "inaccessible" modern closed mountain communities on the island. Conflicts and contradictions between law and lawlessness, love and rituality, murder and suppression abound. How does the ancient Cretan tradition attribute the fate of the mythical Oedipus to the biblical Judas and why?

Tags: Rhea GalanakiZdravka MihaylovaArts and crisisLiteratureBook publishingWriters
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