Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Remembering Odysseas Elytis

The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Odysseas Elytis, the Greek Nobel laureate poet. It has been named “Elytis Year” by Greece’s Culture and Tourism Ministry to honor the contribution of the artist to Greece’s and the world’s poetic scene.

Odysseas Elytis was born in Crete on November 2nd, 1911, although his family descended from the island of Lesbos in the northeastern Aegean Sea. Although he studied law at the University of Athens, he did not later follow this vocation. What he instead became known for was his distinct style of writing poetry, which contributed to the poetical reform that began right before the outbreak of World War II. In contrast to other Greek poets, who placed their emphasis on Ancient Greece and Byzantium, Elytis’ poems focused on contemporary Hellenism. Elytis spent several years in Paris, at first of his own accord and then in self-exile from 1969 to 1972, when a military junta was ruling Greece. There, he attended philology and literature lessons in the Sorbonne and was acquainted with and well-received by top members of the avant-garde, like Matisse, Picasso, and Chagall. Later on in his life, Elytis also wrote essays about contemporary poetry and art problems. However, his most renowned piece is arguably the poetic work Axion Esti, written in 1959, which was set to music by the famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Even though Elytis’ poems are written in Greek, they have become known to a wider audience due to their translations into 11 languages and, of course, Elytis’ reception of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979. His death on March 18, 1996, was mourned by the whole of Greece.

One of the major events in Greece that will be held during “Elytis Year” to commemorate the poet will take place in the Athens Concert Hall during the fall of 2011. On October 31st to November 1st, a conference titled “Odysseas Elytis: The 20th Century in the Poetry of Elytis. The Poetry of Elytis in the 21st Century” will present his poetry and explore new manners of interpreting his works. On November 2nd, the 100th anniversary of his birth, and also on the following night, there will be poetry readings accompanied by the music of Georgios Kouroupos.

Special events to commemorate what would have been Elytis' 100th birthday:

- In the month of march, the National Book Centre of Greece (EKEBI) launched a nation-wide poetry campaign in Elytis' honor. This campaign included poetry readings by famous modern Greek poets at different bookstores, as well as the creation of "poetry corners" in the libraries of Thessaloniki where visitors could read about Elytis and view audio-visual materials. Throughout Athens, Thessaloniki, Mytilini, and Zakynthos, public transportation vehicles were decorated with verses of Elytis' poems for the public to read and enjoy.

- The Culture and Tourism Ministry of Greece declared the year 2011 the year of Elytis in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

No comments: