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One of the oldest Greek bookstores has become history

31 March 2013 / 16:03:14  GRReporter
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Saturday, 30 March 2013, was the last working day of the historic bookstore Hestia located at 60 Solonos Street in the centre of Athens. The bookstore opened in 1885 and operated continuously for the next 128 years. Its transfer from Stadiou Street to Solonos Street 21 years ago resulted in the transfer of many other bookstores on the same street, turning the area into the place with the greatest number of bookstores in Athens.

Through the years until today, the historical Athenian bookstore’s hospitable spaces were a meeting place for writers and bibliophiles, politicians and journalists, despite the existence of new super modern and large bookstores. Hestia’s historical visitors include Freddie Germanos, who used to sit there for hours, turning over the pages of books and talking to anyone who approached him. The bookstore was his second “spiritual home”, and the first one was a few metres up the street. Therefore, under the initiative of the Municipality of Athens, a commemorative marble plaque was put in front of the bookstore. Hestia publishing house will continue its activities. The nice and beloved bookstore, however, has unfortunately succombed to the pressure of the economic crisis.

The story of a great bookstore

In her book “In the country of books, the publishing history of Hestia Bookstore 1885-2010”, Historian Anna Karakatsouli tells the story of the bookstore which is rich in ideas and books. If we think about the fact that during the establishment of the Greek state, illiteracy was almost ubiquitous (in 1879, 69.20% of men and 92.96% of women were illiterate), we can understand the importance of the creation and development of Hestia.

Initially, Hestia weekly magazine appeared. It was founded in 1876 by Pavlos Diomidis, and, in 1881, teacher George Kasdonis from the island of Tinos took it on. It was a year of national revival, when Thessaly and Arta joined the country. Hestia attracted the famous generation of the decade that was full of innovative ideas - modern life, writing of the spoken language - Demotic Greek, etc.

Continuous renewal

Hestia Bookstore was established in 1885 by George Kasdonis and it was originally located at 32 Stadiou Street. Later, the publishing house was taken over by his nephew, Ioannis D. Kolaros, whose name is associated with educational books, the Panhellenic bibliographic newsletter, translations of ancient Greek writers. In 1925, Kolaros’s nephew Konstantinos Sarandopoulos came into the publishing house and took it on after the death of his uncle in 1956. Sarandopoulos created the famous series of New Greek literature, in which the generation of the 1930s published. In 1972, the publishing house passed into the hands of Sarandopoulos’s daughter, Marina (Mania) Karaitidi, who renewed the publishing activity with a new series and names. Today, her children continue her work - Eva Karaitidi in the publishing house and Yiannis Karaitidis in the bookstore. Hestia retained its spiritual role, publishing through all these years Nea Hestia magazine the editors of which were known members of the literary life (Grigorios Ksenopoulos, Petros Harris and today’s Stavros Zoumboulakis). An exclusive piece of research for the magazine enriches our knowledge of the literary environment in the country.

What ranks Hestia first among the best publishers is its continuous renewal, and, on the other hand, maintaining of core values - language, good literature (in an era when all publishers seek bestsellers), staying away from politics and political parties, and constant love of books. Some of the important initiatives in recent history include the two series created by Eva Karaitidi after 1985, when the publishing house celebrated its 100th anniversary. These include a series of translations of important writers such as Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, Louis Celine, and a number of literary writers from the 1980s, such as Petros Tatsopoulos Christos Homenidis, Phaidon Tamvakakis and many others.

Tags: books publishing house bookshop Hestia writers series
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