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Pasted bits of a poetic pitcher

25 October 2010 / 13:10:24  GRReporter
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Momchilo Radich is a teacher in French, translator and poet. He was born in Niš, Serbia in 1969. His mother is a Bulgarian and his father is a Serb. He began writing poetry as a teenager and became a member of the Yugoslav literature youth in 1986. He organized poetry readings in different cities of Yugoslavia along with a group of young poets. In 1987 he was awarded the prize for young poets in Loznica. His verses were published for the first time in the same year in the poetic anthology Soda Water for Mutant Thirst. He lives in Athens since 1991. He translated from French to Greek Henri Lechat’s essay Phidias. His first translated book entitled Serbian Tales (2004) came from the Greek publishing house Apopira. He has signed under the Serbian translations of the poetic books by Antonis Fostieris Precious Oblivion and Thought Belongs to Bereavement (2008), the poetries Rose Fear and Here by Maria Laina, and the selection of poems by the surrealist poet Nikos Engonopoulos (2009). In 2010 will be published Croatian Tales in his Greek translation. He has been writing poetry in this language for years. Zdravka Mihailova talked with Momchilo Radich especially for GRREPORTER.

Momchilo, you grew up in Serbia and it is clear you feel this country as your homeland. It is also clear why you don’t write poetry in Bulgarian but why did you chose Greek and not French the lights and shades of which you command?

I would say, paraphrasing Seferis: "Wherever I go, Serbia hurts me".... Can you translate a homeland? Can you love it? You are homesick far from it. It is becoming some images of warmth, sense of scent... It flies away... It becomes distant eyes looking at you and never leaving...

When did I realize that I wanted to be a Serb? In the spring of 1999 the Yugoslav Army accidentally brought down Stealth – the invisible plane, the pride of Nato aircraft ... The plane wreckage fell in a village near Belgrade and people flocked to see the invisible. They climbed a child with an angel’s smile above and laughed heartily. To all apologies for the "collateral damage" they only officially responded with an apology: "Sorry, we did not know it is invisible." Then I wanted to be a Serb, to laugh over evil as a man.

Why do I write in Greek? The most logical answer I could find for myself was that I have liked foreign languages for a long time. It happened to love the Greek language when I was still very small. My parents bought two LPs: The Birds of Hadzidakis and another one containing the song White Boats are Our Dreams (Άσπρα καράβια είναι τα όνειρά μας) ... I did not understand anything ... Later I read Aristophanes and began to study ancient Greek ... The second logical answer is that the Greek words are full of meaning. Sin means to miss the target (η αμαρτία είναι αστοχία). Time (χρόνος) does not mean the same in all languages. Time the secret of which no one could discover. There was a time when I thought how unfair my life was not giving me the chance to learn Greek better, nor ever to study modern Greek. So, I am proud to learn it by myself. I am still learning it. Love of a foreign language is directly proportional to the time you consecrate. And I'm lazy. I have been planning to read some books in Greek for years: biology, chemistry, physics - to learn all the words. But I only read poetry. I would sit down to trace any unknown words only in poetic text and if I like the poem I would read it hundred times.

So, why do I write poetry, why do I write in Greek? Imagine a happy child that comes from a joyful country, a University the child adored, evenings of poetry readings, poets who talk to each other and do not hide in their shells, imagine this child, then, sank into a whisper so that his new friends made comments that they do not hear that child’s voice. Poems are born of pain and my pain was to find my voice again. A voice of spelling mistakes, a strange voice.

Tags: PoetryLiteratureMomchilo RadichZdravka MihailovaMaria Laina
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