Theodorakis-Elitis in German? Yup is possible if ALL of us are willing to
Odysseas Elytis (Greek: Οδυσσέας Ελύτης, born Οδυσσέας Αλεπουδέλλης; November 2, 1911 – March 18, 1996) was regarded as a major exponent of romantic modernism in Greece and the world. In 1979 the Nobel Prize in Literature was bestowed on him.
1.1 The war
1.2 Programme director for ERT
2 The Poetry of Elytis
3.2 Prose, essays
4 Reference works
5 Translations of Elytis’ work
7 External links
Descendant of the Alepoudelis, an old industrial family from Lesbos, Elytis was born in Heraklion on the island of Crete, on November 2, 1911. His family later moved to Athens, where the poet graduated from high school and later attended courses as an auditor at the Law School at University of Athens.
In 1935 Elytis published his first poem in the journal New Letters (Νέα Γράμματα) at the prompting of such friends as George Seferis. His entry with a distinctively earthy and original form assisted to inaugurate a new era in Greek poetry and its subsequent reform after the Second World War.
From 1969–1972, under the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, Elytis exiled himself to Paris. He was romantically linked to the lyricist and musicologist Mariannina Kriezi, who subsequently produced and hosted the legendary children’s radio broadcast “Here Lilliput Land”. Elytis was intensely private and vehemently solitary in pursuing his ideals of poetic truth and experience.
In 1937 he served his military requirements. As an army cadet, he joined the National Military School in Corfu. During the war he was appointed Second Lieutenant, placed initially at the 1st Army Corps Headquarters, then transferred to the 24th Regiment, on the first-line of the battlefields. Elytis was sporadically publishing poetry and essays after his initial foray into the literary world.
He was a member of the Association of Greek Art Critics, AICA-Hellas, International Association of Art Critics.
Programme director for ERT
He was twice Programme Director of the Greek National Radio Foundation (1945–46 and 1953–54), Member of the Greek National Theatre’s Administrative Council, President of the Administrative Council of the Greek Radio and Television as well as Member of the Consultative Committee of the Greek National Tourist’s Organisation on the Athens Festival. In 1960 he was awarded the First State Poetry Prize, in 1965 the Order of the Phoenix and in 1975 he was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa in the Faculty of Philosophy at Thessaloniki University and received the Honorary Citizenship of the Town of Mytilene.
During the years 1948–1952 and 1969–1972 he settled in Paris. There, he audited philology and literature seminars at the Sorbonne and was well received by the pioneers of the world’s avant-garde (Reverdy, Breton, Tzara, Ungaretti, Matisse, Picasso, Francoise Gilot, Chagall, Giacometti) as Tériade’s most respected friend. Teriade was simultaneously in Paris publishing works with all the renowned artists and philosophers (Kostas Axelos, Jean Paul Sartre, Francoise Gilot, René Daumal) of the time. Elytis and Teriade had formed a strong friendship that solidified in 1939 with the publication of Elytis first book of poetry entitled “Orientations”. Both Elytis and Teriade hailed from Lesbos and had a mutual love of the Greek painter Theophilos. Starting from Paris he travelled and subsequently visited Switzerland, England, Italy and Spain. In 1948 he was the representative of Greece at the International Meetings of Geneva, in 1949 at the Founding Congress of the International Art Critics Union in Paris and in 1962 at the Incontro Romano della Cultura in Rome.
In 1961, upon an invitation of the State Department, he traveled through the U.S.A.; and —upon similar invitations— through the Soviet Union in 1963 and Bulgaria in 1965.
Odysseas Elytis had been completing plans to travel overseas when he died in Athens on 18 March 1996, at the age of 84. He was survived by his niece Myrsene and his older brother Evangelos, who received a writ of condolence from the mayor of Athens on behalf of the nation at the funeral at the First National Cemetery.
The Poetry of Elytis
Relief depicting Odysseas Elytis in the Venetian loggia of Heraklion, Crete.
Elytis’ poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum of subject matter and stylistic touch with an emphasis on the expression of that which is rarefied and passionate. He borrowed certain elements from Ancient Greece and Byzantium but devoted himself exclusively to today’s Hellenism, of which he attempted—in a certain way based on psychical and sentimental aspects—to reconstruct a modernist mythology for the institutions. His main endeavour was to rid people’s conscience from unjustifiable remorses and to complement natural elements through ethical powers, to achieve the highest possible transparency in expression and finally, to succeed in approaching the mystery of light, the metaphysics of the sun of which he was a “worshiper” -idolater by his own definition. A parallel manner concerning technique resulted in introducing the inner architecture, which is evident in a great many poems of his; mainly in the phenomenal landmark work It Is Truly Meet (Το Άξιον Εστί). This work due to its setting to music by Mikis Theodorakis as an oratorio, is a revered anthem whose verse is sung by all Greeks for all injustice, resistance and for its sheer beauty and musicality of form. Elytis’ theoretical and philosophical ideas have been expressed in a series of essays under the title The Open Papers (Ανοιχτά Χαρτιά). Besides creating poetry he applied himself to translating poetry and theatre as well as a series of collage pictures. Translations of his poetry have been published as autonomous books, in anthologies or in periodicals in eleven languages.
Orientations (Προσανατολισμοί, 1939)
Port and venetian fortress in Heraklion, Crete
Sun The First Together With Variations on A Sunbeam (Ηλιος ο πρώτος, παραλλαγές πάνω σε μιαν αχτίδα, 1943)
An Heroic And Funeral Chant For The Lieutenant Lost In Albania (Άσμα ηρωικό και πένθιμο για τον χαμένο ανθυπολοχαγό της Αλβανίας, 1946)
To Axion Esti—It Is Worthy (Το Άξιον Εστί, 1959)
Six Plus One Remorses For The Sky (Έξη και μια τύψεις για τον ουρανό, 1960)
The Light Tree And The Fourteenth Beauty (Το φωτόδεντρο και η δέκατη τέταρτη ομορφιά, 1972)
The Sovereign Sun (Ο ήλιος ο ηλιάτορας, 1971)
The Trills Of Love (Τα Ρω του Έρωτα, 1973)
The Monogram (Το Μονόγραμμα, 1972)
Step-Poems (Τα Ετεροθαλή, 1974)
Signalbook (Σηματολόγιον, 1977)
Maria Nefeli (Μαρία Νεφέλη, 1978)
Three Poems under a Flag of Convenience (Τρία ποιήματα με σημαία ευκαιρίας 1982)
Diary of an Invisible April (Ημερολόγιο ενός αθέατου Απριλίου, 1984)* Krinagoras (Κριναγόρας, 1987)
The Little Mariner (Ο Μικρός Ναυτίλος, 1988)
The Elegies of Oxopetra (Τα Ελεγεία της Οξώπετρας, 1991)
West of Sadness (Δυτικά της λύπης, 1995)
Eros, Eros, Eros: Selected and Last Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998) (translated by Olga Broumas)
The True Face and Lyrical Bravery of Andreas Kalvos (Η Αληθινή φυσιογνωμία και η λυρική τόλμη του Ανδρέα Κάλβου, 1942)
2×7 e (collection of small essays) (2χ7 ε (συλλογή μικρών δοκιμίων))
(Offering) My Cards To Sight (Ανοιχτά χαρτιά (συλλογή κειμένων), 1973)
The Painter Theophilos (Ο ζωγράφος Θεόφιλος, 1973)
The Magic Of Papadiamantis (Η μαγεία του Παπαδιαμάντη, 1975)
Report to Andreas Empeirikos (Αναφορά στον Ανδρέα Εμπειρίκο, 1977)
Things Public and Private (Τα Δημόσια και τα Ιδιωτικά, 1990)
Private Way (Ιδιωτική Οδός, 1990)
Carte Blanche («Εν λευκώ» (συλλογή κειμένων), 1992)
The Garden with the Illusions (Ο κήπος με τις αυταπάτες, 1995)
Open Papers: Selected Essays, (Copper Canyon Press, 1995) (translated by Olga Broumas and T. Begley)
Second Writing (Δεύτερη γραφή, 1976)
The Apocalypse (by John) (Η αποκάλυψη, 1985)
Mario Vitti: Odysseus Elytis. Literature 1935–1971 (Icaros 1977)
Tasos Lignadis: Elytis’ Axion Esti (1972)
Lili Zografos: Elytis – The Sun Drinker (1972); as well as the special issue of the American magazine Books Abroad dedicated to the work of Elytis (Autumn 1975. Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.A.)
Odysseas Elytis: Analogies of Light. Ed. I. Ivask (1981)
A. Decavalles: Maria Nefeli and the Changeful Sameness of Elytis’ Variations on a theme (1982)
E. Keeley: Elytis and the Greek Tradition (1983)
Ph. Sherrard: ‘Odysseus Elytis and the Discovery of Greece’, in Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 1(2), 1983
K. Malkoff: ‘Eliot and Elytis: Poet of Time, Poet of Space’, in Comparative Literature, 36(3), 1984
A. Decavalles: ‘Odysseus Elytis in the 1980s’, in World Literature Today, 62(l), 1988
Translations of Elytis’ work
Poesie. Procedute dal Canto eroico e funebre per il sottotenente caduto in Albania. Trad. Mario Vitti (Roma. Il Presente. 1952)
21 Poesie. Trad. Vicenzo Rotolo (Palermo. Istituto Siciliano di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici. 1968)
Poèmes. Trad. Robert Levesque (1945)
Six plus un remords pourle ciel. Trad. F. B. Mache (Fata Morgana. Montpellier 1977)
Korper des Sommers. Übers. Barbara Schlörb (St. Gallen 1960)
Sieben nächtliche Siebenzeiler. Übers. Günter Dietz (Darmstadt 1966)
To Axion Esti – Gepriesen sei. Übers. Günter Dietz (Hamburg 1969)
The Axion Esti. Tr. E. Keeley and G. Savidis (Pittsburgh 1974 – Greek & English)(repr. London: Anvil Press, 1980 – English only)
The Sovereign Sun: selected poems. Tr. K. Friar (1974; repr. 1990)
Selected poems. Ed. E. Keeley and Ph. Sherrard (1981; repr. 1982, 1991)
Maria Nephele, tr. A. Anagnostopoulos (1981)
What I love: selected poems, tr. O. Broumas (1986) [Greek & English texts]
Mikis Theodorakis was born on the Greek island of Chios and spent his childhood years in different provincial Greek cities such as Mytilene, Cephallonia, Patras, Pyrgos and Tripoli. His father, a lawyer and a civil servant was from Galata (Crete) and his mother was from an ethnically Greek family in Çeşme (in what is today Turkey).
Theodorakis’s fascination with music began in early childhood; he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. In Patras and Pyrgos he took his first music lessons, and in Tripoli, Peloponnese, he gave his first concert at the age of seventeen.
He went to Athens in 1943, and became a member of a Reserve Unit of ELAS. During the Greek Civil War, he was arrested, sent into exile on the island of Icaria and then deported to the island of Makronisos, where he was tortured and twice buried alive.
During the periods when he was not obliged to hide, not exiled or jailed, he studied from 1943 to 1950 at the Athens Conservatoire under Filoktitis Economidis,. In 1950, he finished his studies and took his last two exams “with flying colours”. He went to Crete, where he became the “head of the Chania Music School” and founded his first orchestra. At this time he ended what he has called the first period of his musical writing.
Studies in Paris
In 1954 he travelled with his young wife Myrto Altinoglou to Paris where he entered the Conservatory and studied musical analysis under Olivier Messiaen and conducting under Eugene Bigot. His time in Paris, 1954–1959, was his second period of musical writing and a time of intense artistic creation.
His symphonic works: a Piano concerto, his first suite, his first symphony, and his scores for the ballet: Greek Carnival, Le Feu aux Poudres, Les Amants de Teruel, received international acclaim. In 1957, he won the Gold Medal in the Moscow Music Festival; President of the Jury was Dmitri Shostakovitch. In 1959, after the successful performances of Theodorakis’s ballet Antigone at Covent Garden in London, the French composer Darius Milhaud proposed him for the American Copley Music Prize – an award of the “William and Noma Copley Foundation”, which later changed its name to “Cassandra Foundation” – as the “Best European Composer of the Year”. His first international scores for the film Ill Met by Moonlight and Luna de Miel, directors: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, were also very successful: The Honeymoon title song became part of the repertoire of The Beatles.
Notable works up to 1960
Chamber Music: Four String Quartets; Trio four piano, violin, cello; Little Suite for piano; Sonatina for piano; Sonatinas No.1 and No.2 for violin and piano;
Symphonic music: Assi-Gonia (symphonic movement; Piano Concerto “Helicon”; Symphony No.1 (Proti Simfonia); Suites n° 1, 2 et 3 for orchestre; La Vie et la Mort / Live and Death (for voice and strings); Œdipus Tyrannos (for strings; later for quartet and symphony orchestra); Piano Concerto;
Ballets: Greek Carnival; Le Feu aux Poudres; Les Amants de Teruel; Antigone;
Filmscores: The Barefoot Battalion (Greg Tallas); Ill Met by Moonlight and Honeymoon (Powell and Pressburger); Faces in the Dark (David Eady).
Back to Greek roots
Mikis Theodorakis shortly after his return to Greece, 1961.
In 1960, Theodorakis returned to Greece and his roots in genuine Greek music: With his song cycle Epitaphios he started the third period of his composing and contributed to a cultural revolution in his country. His most significant and influential works are based Greek and world poetry – Epiphania (Giorgos Seferis), Little Kyklades (Odysseas Elytis), Axion Esti (Odysseas Elytis), Mauthausen (Iakovos Kambanellis), Romiossini (Yannis Ritsos), and Romancero Gitano (Federico García Lorca) – he attempted to give back to Greek music a dignity which in his perception it had lost. He developed his concept of “metasymphonic music” (symphonic compositions that go beyond the “classical” status and mix symphonic elements with popular songs, Western symphonic orchestra and Greek popular instruments).
He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus, gave many, many concerts all around Greece and abroad… and he naturally became involved in the politics of his home country. After the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis in May 1963 he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth (“Lambrakidès”) and was elected its president. Under Theodorakis’s impetus, it started a vast cultural renaissance movement and became the greatest political organisation in Greece with more than 50.000 members. Following the 1964 elections, Theodorakis became a member of the Greek Parliament, associated with the left-wing party EDA. Because of his political ideas, the composer was black-listed by the cultural establishment; at the time of his biggest artistic glory, a large number of his songs were censored-before-studio or were not allowed on the radio stations.
During 1964, he wrote the music for the Michael Cacoyiannis film Zorba the Greek, whose main theme, since then, exists as a trademark for Greece. It is also known as ‘Syrtaki dance’; inspired from old Cretan traditional dances.
Main works of this period
Song cycles: Epitaphios (Yannis Ritsos); Archipelagos (Songs of the Islands), Politia A & B (Songs of the City), Epiphania (Giorgos Seferis, Nobel Prize 1963), Mikres Kyklades (Odysseas Elytis), Chrysoprasino Fyllo (Golden-green leaf), Mauthausen (Iakovos Kambanellis), Romiossini (Yannis Ritsos), Thalassina Feggaria (Moons of the Sea)
Oratorio: To Axion Esti (Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize 1979), cf. Theodorakis on Axion Esti
Music for the Stage: The Hostage (Brendan Behan); Ballad of the Dead Brother (Theodorakis); Omorphi Poli (Beautiful City); Maghiki Poli (Magical City); I Gitonia ton Angelon(The Angels’ Quarter, Iakovos Kambanellis)
Film scores: Phaedra (Jules Dassin), The Lovers of Teruel (Raymond Rouleau), Five Miles to Midnight (Anatole Litvak), Electra and Zorba the Greek (Michalis Cacoyannis), To Nisi tis Afroditis (Harilaos Papadopoulos)
During the dictatorship
Photo of Mikis Theodorakis
M. Theodorakis (1971)
On 21 April 1967 a right wing junta (the Regime of the Colonels) took power in a putsch. Theodorakis went underground and founded the “Patriotic Front” (PAM). On 1 June, the Colonels published “Army decree No 13”, which banned playing, and even listening to his music. Theodorakis himself was arrested on 21 August, and jailed for five months. Following his release end of January 1968, he was banished in August to Zatouna with his wife Myrto and their two children, Margarita and Yorgos. Later he was interned in the concentration camp of Oropos. An international solidarity movement, headed by such personalities as Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, and Harry Belafonte demanded to get Theodorakis freed. On request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, Theodorakis was allowed to go into exile to Paris on 13 April 1970. Theodorakis’s flight left very secretly from an Onassis owned private airport outside Athens. Theodorakis arrived at Le Bourget Airport where he met Costa Gavras, Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin. Theodorakis was immediately hospitalized because he suffered from lung tuberculosis. Myrto Theodorakis, Mikis’s wife and two children joined him a week later in France. They arrived from Greece to France via Italy on a boat.
Main works under the dictatorship
Song cycles: Ta Laïka (The Popular Songs, Manos Elefteriou); O Ilios ke o Chronos (Sun and Time, Theodorakis); Songs for Andreas (Theodorakis); Arcadies I-X; Nichta Thanatou (Nights of Death, Manos Elefteriou);
Oratorios: Ephiphania Averoff Giorgos Seferis, State of Siege (Marina = Rena Hadjidakis), March of the Spirit (Angelos Sikelianos), Raven (Giorgos Seferis, after Edgar Allan Poe);
Film score: Z (Costa-Gavras).
Resistance in exile
While in exile, Theodorakis fought during four years for the overthrow of the colonels. He started his world tours and gave thousands of concerts on all continents as part of his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Greece.
Mikis Theodorakis at a concert in Caesarea, Israel, in the 1970s.
He met Pablo Neruda and Salvador Allende and promised them to compose his version of Neruda’s Canto General. He was received by Gamal Abdel Nasser and Tito, Yigal Allon and Yasser Arafat, while François Mitterrand, Olof Palme and Willy Brandt became his friends. For millions of people, Theodorakis was the symbol of resistance against the Greek dictatorship.
Main works written in exile
1. Song cycles: 18 lianotragouda tis pikris patridas (18 Short Songs of the Bitter Land, Yiannis Ritsos), Ballades (Manolis Anagnostakis), Tis exorias (Songs of the Exile)
2. Oratorio: Canto General (Pablo Neruda)
3. Film scores: The Trojan Women (M. Cacoyannis); State of Siege (Costa-Gavras); Serpico (Sidney Lumet)
Return to Greece
Theodorakis on a visit in East Germany, May 1989.
After the fall of the Colonels, Mikis Theodorakis returned to Greece on 24 July 1974 to continue his work and his concert tours, both in Greece and abroad. At the same time he participated in public affairs. In 1978, through his article For a United Left Wing, he had “stirred up the Greek political life. His proposal for the unification of the three parties of the former United Left – which had grown out of the National Liberation Front (N.L.F.) – had been accepted by the Greek Communist Party which later proposed him as the candidate for mayor of Athens during the 1978 elections.” (Andreas Brandes) He was later elected several times to the Greek Parliament (1981–1986 and 1989–1993) and for two years, from 1990 to 1992, he was a minister in the government of Constantine Mitsotakis. After his resignation as a member of Greek parliament, he was appointed General Musical Director of the Choir and the two Orchestras of the Hellenic State Radio (ERT),[disambiguation needed] which he reorganised and with which he undertook successful concert tours abroad.
He is committed to heightening international awareness of human rights, of environmental issues, and of the need for peace and for this reason he initiated, together with the Turkish author, musician, singer, and filmmaker Zülfü Livaneli, the Greek–Turkish Friendship Society.
From 1981, Theodorakis had started the fourth period of his musical writing, during which he returned to the symphonic music, while still going on to compose song-cycles. His most significant works written in these years are his Second, Third, Fourth and Seventh Symphony, most of them being first performed in the former German Democratic Republic between 1982 and 1989. It was during this period that he received the Lenin Peace Prize. He composed his first opera Kostas Kariotakis (The Metamorphoses of Dionysus) and the ballet Zorba the Greek, premièred in the Arena of Verona during the Festival Verona 1988. During this period, he also wrote the five volumes of his autobiography: The Ways of the Archangel (Οι δρόμοι του αρχάγγελου).
In 1989, he started the fifth period, the last, of his musical writing: He composed three operas (lyric tragedies) Medea, first performed in Bilbao (1 October 1991), Elektra, first performed in Luxembourg (2 May 1995) and Antigone, first performed in Athens’ Megaron Moussikis (7 October 1999). This trilogy was complemented by his last opera Lysistrata, first performed in Athens (14 April 2002): a call for peace… With his operas, and with his song cycles from 1974 to 2006, Theodorakis ushered in the period of his Lyrical Life.
For a period of 10 years, Alexia Vassiliou teamed up with Mikis Theodorakis and his Popular Orchestra. During that time, and as a tribute to Theodorakis’s body of work, Vassiliou recorded a double album showcasing some of the composer’s most consummate musical creations, and in 1998, Sony BMG released the album entitled Alexia–Mikis Theodorakis.
Theodorakis is Doctor honoris causa of several universities, including Montreal, Thessaloniki, and Crete, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2000.
Theodorakis holding hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
Now he lives in retirement, reading, writing, publishing arrangements of his scores, texts about culture and politics. On occasions he still takes position: in 1999, opposing NATO’s Kosovo war and in 2003 against the Iraq War. In 2005, he was awarded the Sorano Friendship and Peace Award, the Russian International St.-Andrew-the-First-Called Prize, the insignia of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of Luxembourg, and the IMC UNESCO International Music Prize, while already in 2002 he was honoured in Bonn with the Erich Wolfgang Korngold Prize for film music at the International Film Music Biennial in Bonn (cf also: Homepage of the Art and Exhibition Hall Bonn). In 2007, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the distribution of the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent.
A final set of songs entitled: Odysseia was composed by utilizing poetry written by Costas Kartelias for lyrics. Created in 2007, Theodorakis achieved the distinction of producing one of the largest works by any composer of any time.
Main works after 1974
Song cycles: Ta Lyrika; Dionysos; Phaedra; Beatrice in Zero Street; Radar; Chairetismoi (Greetings); Mia Thalassa (A Sea Full of Music); Os archaios Anemos (Like an Ancient Wind); Lyrikotera (The More-Than-Lyric Songs); Lyrikotata (The Most Lyric Songs); Erimia (Solitude); Odysseia;
Music for the Stage: Orestia (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos); Antigone (dir.: Minos Volanakis); Medea (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos)
Film scores: Iphigenia (M. Cacoyannis), The Man with the Carnation (Nikos Tzimas)
Oratorios: Liturgia 2; Missa Greca (Thia Liturgia); Requiem;
Symphonic music and cantatas: Symphonies no 2, 3, 4, 7; According to the Sadducees; Canto Olympico; Guitar Rhapsody; Cello Rhapsody; Trumpet Rhapsody;
Operas: “The Metamorphosis of the Dionysus” (Kostas Karyotakis); Medea; Elektra; Antigone; Lysistrata.
Theodorakis has spoken out against the Iraq and Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has condemned Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for establishing closer relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was guilty, he said, of “war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza.”
2010-2011: Calling for revolution
In December 1, 2010, Mikis Theodorakis founded “Spitha: People’s Independent Movement”, a non-political movement which calls people to gather and express their political ideas. The main goal of “Spitha” is to help Greece stay clear off its economic crisis. On May 31, Mikis Theodorakis gave a speech attended by appropximately 10,000 Greeks in the center of Athens, criticising the Greek government for the loan debt it has taken from the International Monetary Fund. It was also the first time in many decades that he called for revolution.[cit