Modern Greek Literature from the 20th to 21st Century

Modern Greek Literature from the 20th to 21st Century

The first half of the 20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, modern Greek literature opened up not only to the literary currents of Western Europe, such as the French Parnasse and v. a. symbolism (Konstantinos Christomanos, * 1863, † 1911; A. Sikelianos), but also the philosophical ideas and theories of the time (M. Barrès, H. Bergson, F. Nietzsche). The influence of (German) socialism in some literary works is also remarkable (K. Varnalis ). Of even greater importance is the influence of historical events on literature, such as the “megali idea” (irredentist notion of a Greater Greece emerging from the liberation of other Greek-populated areas from Turkey). K. Palamas inspired a large-scale poetry of patriotic self-reflection, or the Asia Minor catastrophe (defeat of Greece in the war with Turkey and expulsion of the Greeks from their hometowns, which have been ancestral for thousands of years [1922–24]), which, if not always thematic, then at least a disillusioned, pessimistic lyric (K. Karyotakis ) as the basis of the mood.

The work of K. Kavafis , which was created outside the Helladic region in Alexandria, Egypt, is free of influences and cannot be assigned to any current, literary school or style. His novel poetry, based on the scarcity of lyrical means of expression, proved to be groundbreaking for modern Greek poetry. The first anthology of his poems, which he wrote from the end of the 19th century, did not appear in Athens until 1935, when the representatives of a new generation began to publish their innovative works.

The representatives of the “generation of the 1930s” broke away from the tradition of K. Palamas and A. Sikelianos of emotionally, symbolist and linguistically overloaded poetry and found a simpler, unpathetic, albeit diverse, expression of modern times: A. Embirikos and Nikos Engonopoulos (* 1910, † 1985) in a surrealist way, J. Ritsos as a socio-politically committed poet, G. Seferis in strict economics of suggestive means, O. Elytis in a new, dazzling iconography. You are the founders of modernity in Greece. One element of her poetry is the frequent presence of Greek antiquity as an echo space of their consciousness as Greeks, but also as individuals, often the influence of Byzantine hymns as a rhythmic structural component.

The prose representatives of the “generation of the 1930s” came up with considerable works in which reminiscences from recent and older history as well as the thematization of social conflicts, mostly carried out in realistic spelling, took up a large space. The urban novel was created in this context, Athens became the preferred narrative space (E. Venesis, S. Myrivilis, A. Tersakis, G. Theotokas, M. Karagatsis). Another step into the modern era took place in Thessaloniki, where a group of authors – the »Thessaloniki School« – cultivated the inner monologue (N. Pentzikis ; Stelios Xefloudas, * 1902, † 1984).

In the first half of the 20th century the actual modern Greek theater also emerged, the founders of which were G. Xenopoulos and S. Melas, but also prose authors who created socio-critical dramas with a historical background.

The second half of the 20th century

During the period of the Second World War, the German occupation and the subsequent Greek civil war between national-conservative and left-wing or communist forces, a politically conscious literature arose from an attitude of resistance, in which the most recent historical experiences and later the persecution of left-wing intellectuals emerged the subsequent governments played a crucial role. Many works of the “generation of the 1930s” that appeared during this period testify to the influence of the events and z. In part, from a change in the attitude of their authors. It was v. a. the trauma of the civil war that produced literature in Greece that only got rid of its ideological baggage in the 1970s.

A loner was N. Kazantzakis, who wrote his most famous novels after World War II.

Decisive for the 1950s / 60s were among others. the trilogy of novels by S. Tsirkas “Taxless Cities” (1961–65) and works by Dimitris Chatzis (* 1913, † 1981), Andreas Frangias (* 1923, † 2002), A. Kotzias and the narrator D. Sotiriou . The prose writers of this time put in z. Sometimes realistic novels and stories or even using modern narrative techniques represent a demystified reality.

In the 1970s, there was a noticeable turn to depictions of inner, individual life. T. associated with the preserved predominance of recent history in literature. This applies to authors such as A. Samarakis and V. Vassilikos as well as to the younger narrators Menis Kumantareas (* 1931, † 2014), T. Valtinos , J. Ioannou and the narrator M. Douka , while J. Chimonas is beyond historical time descended into the deepest layers of human existence.

Also in the field of poetry, numerous works by G. Seferis , O. Elytis , J. Ritsos , other poets of the »generation of the 1930s« and other representatives of modern poetry such as Takis Sinopoulos (* 1917, † 1981) continued to appear in the post-war period. or Miltos Sachtouris (* 1913, † 2005).

The generation of poets who grew up or were actively involved in times of war, occupation and civil war, including: M. Anagnostakis and T. Patrikios , formed the “generation of defeat”. In their poems, composed with deliberately reduced means of expression, they spoke of their betrayed ideal of a more just world.

Various tendencies in poetic expression, including post-Surrealist ones, have been subsumed under the term “Generation of Private Vision” since the 1960s, represented by the poet K. Dimoula and the poets Jannis Kontos (* 1943), Michalis Ganas (* 1944) and other.

The 1970s determined v. a. the poets K. Angelaki-Rooke , Maria Laina (* 1947) and Jenny Mastoraki (* 1949).

The Greek post-war literature also had a few modern dramatists in the field of theater, whose stage works a v. a. is socially critical. These include I. Kambanellis, Loula Anagnostaki (* 1928, † 2017), Dimitris Kechaidis (* 1933) and Petros Markaris (* 1937), who is also known as an author of detective novels.

When a military junta usurped power in Greece in 1967, several writers from all literary genres formed the »Group of 18«, the three anthologies of anti-dictatorial texts (»Eighteen Texts«, 1970), »New Texts« and »New Texts II« (both 1971), published. It was the appearance of a renewed commitment in modern Greek literature, supported by older and younger authors, regardless of their political convictions.

The turn from the 20th to the 21st century

The modern Greek literature of the turn of the century is characterized by the turn of the younger writers to international topics as well as a global perception of the world. Equally dominant, however, is a tendency towards a rural ambience and emphasis on national elements, for example in the works of the three important authors Rhea Galanaki (* 1947), in whose novels a new historicity becomes visible, I. Karystiani , in whose works existential conflicts in Greek as well as S. Sateli , whose monumental works represent a unique, magical Greek world.

Younger poets such as Stratis Pascalis (* 1958) and Thanassis Hatzopoulos (* 1961) cultivate poetry in which feeling and vision take their due place in poetry.

So far, two Greek writers have received the Nobel Prize for Literature: G. Seferis (1963) and O. Elytis (1979).


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Modern Greek Literature from the 20th to 21st Century