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This review is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

OPPOSITE VIEWS Surrealism in Greece: an anthology, edited and translated by Nikos Stabakis (University of Texas Press) $65

Hellenica: Novelty Within or Beyond Language: anthology of young Greek poets. Introduction by Alexis Ziras (Gavriilidis Editions)

The views of modern Greek literature from within and from abroad are opposing ideas. In terms of poetry, the most famous modern Greek poets, Cavafy and Seferis, represent internationally a mythic vision in which they are the modern protagonists of a tradition that goes back to ancient times, capturing the imaginations of a range of international poets in this way. But this version of events ignores other literary developments in modern Greece. One of the most significant, the impact of Surrealism and French literature of the twentieth century, was a major influence for the 1979 Nobel Laureate Odysseus Elytis, for example, a poet read and studied avidly in Greece, but now forgotten internationally because his work, like so many others, falls into the gap between the national literature and the view from afar. These two recent anthologies, however, can be seen as attempts to close that gap, to resuscitate the international audience for Greek poetry by presenting alternatives to the presiding view.

The concept of Surrealism in Greece has itself never quite been validated by either of its nationalist or French antecedents. Critics have decried the ‘founders’ as a group of disenchanted Moderns, bourgeois Athenians who took up a French literary trend and tried to import it. But, while the truth is always more complicated, it is difficult to argue the goals of the poets and artists who have responded to Surrealism in Greece - and to clarify to what extent they qualify as ‘Surrealists’ - since ...

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