Monday, April 25, 2005


Wanderlust, the desire to traverse and explore the unknown is something that has undoubtedly characterised us as a people ever since the demented quest of Alexander to reach the ends of the earth, or the voyage of Cosmas Indicopleustes to Sri Lanka and Ethiopia. This wanderlust was so strong that it transcended the ancient era, with enlightened monks such as Sts Cyril and Methodius making the perilous journey to the Pannonian Plain to Christianise the Moravian Slavs and others like Maxim the Greek traveling to far away Russia in order to spread the Gospel.
The Greek diaspora has seen Orthodoxy diffuse itself over a wide area, though until recently, it was generally confined only to the diaspora communities. With the fall of communism however, hundreds of ‘forbidden’ lands have suddenly become accessible and Orthodox Christianity has seen a remarkable resurgence, not only in its traditional homes but also in the Africa and Asia, as well as the Developed World. Orthodoxy for example, is the fastest growing Christian religion in Britain, while as a whole it enjoys such respect and importance worldwide as has not been enjoyed since before the Great Schism of 1054.
Putting to rest the threadbare stereotype of the Orthodox Church as merely a Balkan “ethnic” or “national” church, native Orthodox Churches now exist in such far flung corners of the globe as Indonesia, and thanks solely to the personality of Patriarch Bartholomeos, Cuba. Much of this resurgence is due to a new type of monk, one who following in the footsteps of St Cyril and Methodius, tread in unknown lands, there to spread the Gospel.
Australia is not so removed from this general resurgence as can be first imagined. It was not so long ago that a cleric from Adelaide, Nectarios Kellis, decided to abandon his home and preach the Gospel in out of the way, third world Madagascar. In less than a decade, as Bishop, he presided over a native Orthodox Church, comprising of 15,000 parishioners, tens of churches, schools and medical clinics spread over Madagascar and Mauritius. His loss, in the same helicopter accident that caused the demise of Alexandrine Patriarch Petros was a tragedy not only for the Church but was also deeply felt in the Greek Australian community, especially within the thousands of families that were inspired by Bishop Nectarios’ superhuman feat and contributed financially to his charitable work there. Regular readers of this publication would remember the inspired interviews he granted us during his several visits here and those lucky enough to have met him, his saintly bearing.
“Australia is now a major centre not only of Orthodoxy, but of missionary activity in general,” Bishop Ignatius remarked to me during his recent visit to Australia in March. Bishop Ignatius was ordained as bishop of Madagascar on 14 November 2004, filling the void left by the untimely death of our own Bishop Nectarios. “I have come to Australia to pay homage to the Church and the community that nurtured such a great hierarch. His legacy will live on both in Madagascar and Australia and I am sure that we will continue to be astonished by further gifts from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in the form of outstanding clerics such as the late Nectarios. Australia is an inseparable and important part of the Orthodox world.”
Much like the later Bishop Nectarios, Bishop Ignatius’ life reads like a Byzantine Odyssey. Originally a monk of Stavronikita Monastery in Mount Athos, he soon discovered that his true calling transcended the contemplative life. “I meditated over and over again on the words of our Lord: «Πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τα έθνη.» I came to the conclusion that this was an unequivocal injunction and I would be remiss in my duties as a monk if I did not obey it. I felt that I should travel to those parts of the world that had not heard of Orthodoxy and preach the word of God. In obeying that injunction, Ignatius soon found himself in Korea, where he worked within the native Korean Orthodox Church there. Subsequent to that, he traveled to Calcutta, where from 1990-2004 he was instrumental in the organisation of a missionary Church that boasts a huge orphanage that houses 200 girls, a stone’s throw away from the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity, a school for the blind, a technical college as well as schools for destitute and impoverished children.
“With the help of God, every Monday the mission in Calcutta distributes food handouts to thousands of poverty stricken families and we have been able to provide mobile medical clinics to service the needs of the poor. Calcutta is the city of slums and thousands of people live in the streets afflicted with diseases that you probably wouldn’t have even heard of.”
Bishop Ignatius’ work in India has not been easy. “Be careful what you write… or rather I should be careful what I say,” he says. After 14 years of excruciatingly difficult work, the Church in Calcutta, comprised of 5,000 souls, in small and fragile. “The Indian government seems to look upon our work in Calcutta with suspicion. This is despite the fact that we do not proselytize. We merely help the poor. If they want to espouse Orthodoxy, that is our reward but we do not actively try to ‘grab’ converts. Unfortunately, Indian converts to Christianity are discriminated against. They are denied access to senior positions in government and the corporate realm and are publicly ridiculed. We have come up against many problems but there is no sense to talk of them now,” he hints. This is disturbing yet true. I recently saw an Indian comedy whose purpose was to show that out of two Indian rivals who were after the same girl, the one that prayed to Shiva eventually ended up with her, while the Christian lost out. In Bishop Ignatius’ case, the reality is starker. Despite fourteen years of philanthropic activity, he was recently denied entry into India.
“Madagascar is like a breath of fresh air,” Bishop Ignatius exclaims when asked how he compares his previous experience to it. “There the government actually appreciates the material difference we are making to its citizens’ lives and goes out of its way to accommodate us. There is no nationalistic bigotry here and there is freedom of movement. In India you couldn’t move from place to place without arousing suspicion. In Madagascar, all of the inhabitants are genuinely pleased to see you and work with you. Much of this good favour is based upon the groundwork created by the late Bishop Nectarios and it is on that sturdy foundation that I want to continue building the Church.”
In answering whether a conversion to Orthodoxy results in a loss or discarding of one’s traditional culture, Bishop Ignatius has this to say: “No. The Orthodox Church has always respected and encouraged the retention of tradition, from the time of St Cyril who invented an alphabet for the Slavs and translated the liturgy and bible into their own tongue to make it more relevant to them. It is our respect for our parishioners; traditions that has established our church as a ‘native’ church, rather than an ‘imposed’ one.
Already Bishop Ignatius has applied himself with gusto to the task at hand, looking to establish even more Sunday schools, technical colleges and hospitals. In the immediate future, he is striving to build an orphanage and old peoples’ home. “There is much work to be done. The Church in Madagascar comprises of 15,000 people. We need to cater to their needs, as Madagascar is an extremely poor country with little infrastructure. Their standard of living is extremely low and poverty relief is a priority for us. But it is wrong to confine our activities to just the faithful. This is where Bishop Nectarios was a true pioneer. We need to continue contributing to the wider Madagascan society. Already we have become an important institution within that society. I hope in this to follow in the late Bishop’s footsteps. I draw strength from his example and from the well wishes of the Greeks of Australia who have given so much and continue to do so, so that these people can live a decent, dignified life.”
How then does this itinerant Bishop see us here in Australia? “You are blessed with a strong, vital Church under the guidance of an enlightened Primate in Archbishop Stylianos. With his blessing, I hope to be able to come here often and advise you of our progress. Remember, for us in Madagascar, Australia is a mother Church and we look to her for spiritual guidance and material help. Orthodoxy is a treasure. But like all treasures, if you do not polish it, if you do not use it, it becomes clouded and you can’t see it. When you do apply your own effort to it, it outshines the sun.”
(The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Missions Committee collects funds for the mission in Madagascar. Those wishing to support the work of the Orthodox Mission can make a donation at any branch of the Commonwealth Bank at: Greek Orthodox Missions Fund No. 3215 902128)

First published in NKEE on 25 April 2005

Monday, April 18, 2005


For more than two thousand years the life and acts of Alexander the Great have captured the imagination of a multicultural gamut of authors, historians and poets. The story of the deeds and events of his life has been eagerly received by every nation it has reached so that Alexander’s fame has covered the entire world, creating various ‘claimants’ to his legacy. It is not, however, the literal facts of the credible history of Alexander that has captivated the middle-eastern peoples but rather, the semi-mythical and fabulous legendary history which has sprung up around them. Whereas we in the West read Arrian to appreciate the genius of Alexander, in the east, a different narrative applies.
Enter the history of pseudo-Callisthenes, attributed to Alexander’s companion of the same name. This is ancient history in true “choose your own adventure” style. The various versions of this history, appearing in Greek, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Hebrew and Ethiopic all attribute various elements of Alexander to their own people. Thus for the Persians, he is through an intricate set of coincidences, a relative of Darius, shah of Persia whereas in the Latin version, he visits Rome and anachronistically protects Rome from the Carthaginians.
I came across the Syriac manuscript of pseudo-Callisthenes quite by accident. Of all the versions of this essentially romance of Alexander, the Syriac version is deemed by scholars to provide elements of the oldest, original Greek or Coptic version, said to have been written in Alexandria by Egyptians in 200AD and is used to reconstruct it. It is also the most fun and with the modern film-makers eye, the most amenable to mini-serialisation, as each chapter reads like a larger than life, grossly-exaggerated but thoroughly gripping action half-hour, much like “The Adventures of Hercules,” with Kevin Sorbo. Bad acting, bad plot, bad history but thoroughly engrossing.
The Syriac Alexander is not Greek. Rather he is the son of Olympias via the last Egyptian Pharaoh, Nectanebus, a magician who preserves Egypt from attack by burning the wax models of invading ships in effigy. He magically transforms himself into the God Ammon and commands Olympias to sleep with him in the form of a serpent. Casting aside modern legal issues of rape and bestiality aside, one can only smirk graciously at the way the Egyptians sought to capitalise on the fame of their illustrious ruler.
Growing up as a cuckoo in the Macedonian nest, though with the cognizance of Phillip, Alexander waxes supreme. He is also rather loony. In the tradition of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, he wantonly pushes his real father Nectanebus, living at the Macedonian Court in the guise of a magician into a pit and then learns of his real paternity. He doesn’t seem to bat an eyelid. Indeed what a little brat the Syriac Alexander has turned out to be can be evidenced by the fact that interposed between lengthy attestations as to Alexander’s superiority and nobility, is a lovely long letter written to his tutor Aristotle where he complains of the constraints of continued profligacy, complains that his parents are stingy and asks his tutor, who presumably had better things to do like create philosophy, to intercede with them on his behalf so that they could give him more money for him to go boozing. Timeless and priceless to boot.
For some reason the Syriac Alexander is not only a boozer but also loves to place a bet on the horses. We find him in Pisa racing chariots and killing his opponents after which time this super hero puts down a rebellion at Methone, tells Darius where to stick it when his messengers come demanding tribute, fights in Armenia and then returns to see Phillip murdered by a certain Theosidos. Then its off to Rome via Sicily, a quick dash down to Carthage to get its natives to obey Rome, a quick chat with the god Ammon in Libya who tells him where to found Alexandria, against the opposition of the unimaginative Aristotle and a quick pep-talk to the Egyptians to get them to rise against the Persians. A quick trip to Athens sorts out any opposition that orator Demosthenes had to Alexander’s supreme rule. The conventional story of Alexander’s conquest of Persia is then related, with great embellishment and its all clash and bash until the Macedonians get to India. The main highlight of this section is how the writer, presumably an Assyrian monk known as Jacob of Serugh, has Darius say to Alexander as he dies “into thy hands I commend my spirit,” clearly inspired by the Gospel of Luke at chapter 23, verse 46.
The Syriac Alexander conquers India by using bronze heated robots to scare away Porus’ elephants. He then lands on islands that are actually giant whales that disappear under the waves (now you know from where the Arabs got the idea for Sinbad the sailor), encounters lion headed men, talking trees who prophesise his death, men with eyes and mouths in the breasts and the most disturbing ‘people whose feet are twisted.’ Alexander then arrives in China incognito, though he is discovered and he travels back to Babylon via the cave of Hercules (enter Kevin Sorbo, retired and now running a pub), a bad trip (he descends to the bottom of the sea in a glass cage. Groovy!) and what I assume to be the local brothel, euphemistically called: ‘a land of darkness where beautiful women lived.’ After the Assyrian monk kills off Alexander by having him poisoned through the artifices of cupbearer Iollas and Cassander, he is already thinking sequel.
The addendum to the manuscript then is the most fascinating of all as it is here that ancient Alexander is linked with the monk’s contemporary world and given an unlikely Christian identity. In this metrical discourse, Alexander marches through a land of darkness, somewhere in India. He arrives there after great difficulty, in search of the fountain of life, which he locates by throwing a salted trout into it, which comes to life. However, he is prevented from tasting the water. Instead, he moves beyond that land to the land of the Tubarliki, also known as the Hunaye, whose description is remarkably close to that of the Huns. These are apocalyptically referred to as the hordes of Gog and Magog who obey the Antichrist, who again, is remarkably reminiscent of Attila the Hun. The ensuing battle between Alexander aided by sixty-two kings and the king of the Tubarliki is a cross between Armaggedon and the Roman victory against the Huns at Chalons in 453 AD. Alexander then builds a great brass and iron door to keep Gog and Magog out. An angel appears to him and prophesises the coming of Christ and the end of days. The end shall draw near when the children of Gog and Magog break loose and overrun the earth. (Keanu Reeves where are you?).
The Syriac history of Alexander by pseudo-Callisthenes is an absolutely delightful precursor of the modern middle-eastern soap where anything can and usually does happen. My favourite element would have to be the exquisite mangling of Greek names, Kudkanor for Cynaegirus and Tirmastenis for Demosthenes to quote but a few. Ultimately, pseudo-Callisthenes is proof of how tremendous Alexander’s achievements were, that they lifted him in the minds of others, out of the bounds of reality and well into the ether of myth, where he became more relevant and contemporary to entire nations. We leave you with the final chapter in the Syriac saga for your amusement: “And Alexander went and worshipped in Jerusalem ands put ships to sea and went to Alexandria and when he died, he gave his royal throne of silver to be in Jerusalem.” So where is it? I can feel an Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft sequel coming on.
First published in NKEE on 18 April 2005
Republished in Zinda magazine 19 October 2005

Monday, April 11, 2005


Hugh Gilchrist probably doesn’t know this, but I owe my tertiary entrance rank and indeed the fact I passed my history CAT (now known as the SAC) quite a long time ago to him. That rather mundane story has its inception a few years even before that when as a young teenager, I would peruse my uncle’s bookshelves. Finding a newly purchased copy of “Australians and Greeks: Volume I, the early years,” a ritual was established. Every time I would visit my uncle I would immediately remove that weighty tome from the shelf and delight myself in learning that Alexander of Byzantium reached Sumatra in the 11th century according to the Buddhist scriptures known as the Yavanaraja-vrttana, that in the 17th century Konstantinos Ierakis was the prime minister at the court of King Narai of Thailand and indeed, that the correct Greek term for the platypus, as coined in the Athenian magazine ‘Pandora’ in 1856 is none other than the tongue-stretching «ορνιθόρρυγχος.» In this volume, the entire prequel to my family’s arrival was revealed. For Gilchrist masterly described the trials and tribulations, not only of the first Greek migrants, but also the relationship of Australia to Greece, something which our own ‘home-grown’ historians, bent on recording internecine strife and quarrels between community groups, seem to forget.
What emerges is a narrative that blasts once and for all the myth that Greek-Australia’s primary history is that of the period of post-war mass migration or that the bland label of ‘economic refugee’ is of universal application. Through Gilchrist’s research, a quirky, excitingly romantic narrative is uncovered, where our founding fathers aptly enough turn out to be Mediterranean pirates, and where especially in the case of Catherine Crummer, literature collides with fact. Immortalised in Dumas’ classic ‘The Count of Monte Christo,’ Crummer escapes the court of Ali Pasha at Ioannina and ends up in Australia, as the wife of Major James Crummer, a NSW magistrate. Through Gilchrist’s extensive research, we learn that the story of the emerging Australian nation, from its very inception is not confined to the conventional ‘Anglo-Saxon’ narrative taught at schools and that from the beginning, the Greek people have managed to weave their way inextricably into the warp and weft of the fabric of our country. Applying great perspicacity, Gilchrist does not merely confine himself to telling the story of the early Greek arrivals, some of which, especially the shopkeepers had a tremendous effect on the business culture of young Australia. Through the pages of his history, he examines how Greek neo-classicism affected Australian society, both culturally and physically through architecture and tourism and it is here that the origins of the excellent relations between the Australian and Greek peoples lie. It was essentially Gilchrist’s argument, that the fibres of Australian history are composite and worth dissecting under the electron microscope of cultural sensitivity, that impressed my VCE Australian history teacher, who knew absolutely nothing about the importance or even the mere existence of Greeks in early Australian society, enough to give me a decent mark. Thanks Hugh.
My obsession with Hugh Gilchrist did not end at VCE however. His account of the early founders of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria deeply moved me. Outstanding individuals in their own right, I could not understand why their deeds had been largely forgotten, save by a few elderly gentlemen with broad Australian accents living out their twilight years in remembrance of a very different Australia. I found myself in Carlton cemetery, locating the graves of some of these early ‘fathers’ such as Lekatsas and musing over how much we have forgotten in the space of hundred years. My enthusiasm seems to be infectious. A year after graduation, I received a phone call from a friend who had moved up to Canberra. “Guess what?” he said, “I met that Gilchrist dude you were raving on about all the time. Really good bloke.”
Hugh Gilchrist is certainly as most fascinating bloke. Born in 1916 in Sydney, he graduated in Arts and Laws from Sydney University, where he edited the student newspaper Honi Soit and helped found the National Union of Students,
After wartime service in the army in Australia and New Guinea he entered the Department of External Affairs and served in Canberra, London, Berlin, Paris, Greece as a member of the UN Special Commission on the Balkans, Jakarta and South Africa. Later he was Australia's High Commissioner in Tanzania, Ambassador to Greece (1968 - 72), head of the Foreign Affairs Department's Legal Division and Ambassador to Spain,
Since retiring in 1979 he has served on the Australia Council's Literature Board and as a consultant to the Department of Foreign Affairs, and has received grants from the Australian Government to pursue historical research. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia has awarded him its Gold Cross of St Andrew and in 2002 the Australian Hellenic Council conferred on him its Niki Award for services to Greek-Australian relations. A great philhellene, he has named his daughter Athene, while his granddaughters are named Zoe and Ariadne, maintaining a Greek connection.
On 10th April, the third volume of Hugh Gilchrist's award winning history, Volume III, the Later Years covering an age of war and migration, when world crisis brought Greeks and Australians into intimate contact was launched at the Greek Orthodox Community of Οakleigh, courtesy of that organization, along with the Greek Australian Cultural League of Melbourne and the Melbourne University Friends of the Australia Archaeological Institute after a fascinating and inspired address by Professor Stathis Gauntlett of LaTrobe University.
‘The Later Years’ records the largely unknown or forgotten stories of thousands of Australian Greeks, who fought for their adopted country in World War II. It reports heroic exploits like those of Angelo Barbouttis, who destroyed two barges full of Japanese soldiers in New Guinea. It also describes the heroic Cretan and mainland Greeks who looked after the Australians who fought on in occupied Greece, including Lela Karayianni, shot by the Nazis having saved dozens of Australians in Athens. Before the Shrine of Remembrance Trustees seek to impose further restrictions on the Greek Community’s National Day Parade, they would do well to read these sections of Gilchrist’s book over and over again.
New generations of Greek Australians making their mark in the professions and other walks of life are covered. So are all aspects of Greek society in wartime and post-War Australia, the Church, the Press, education, politics and social life.
Most importantly, in this book, Gilchrist examines the background and context to the mass wave of post-war immigration to Australia. At the same time that immigration programs brought large numbers from a troubled post-War Greece, Australian diplomats laboured to secure Greece's place in its neighbourhood, while aid workers delivered help, funds and commodities to a suffering population. Famous Australians, including Patrick White and Dr Evatt, took a close interest in Greek affairs. Hugh Gilchrist follows these issues through to the establishment of Greece's permanent diplomatic mission in Australia in the 1950s.
In a period of trade, travel and communication Hugh Gilchrist’s panoramic eye also surveys bi-lateral economic relations, even records the Greek ships which came to Australia, many sunk in the War, others bringing migrants to a new home. This remarkable trilogy deserves a place in very Greek home. Written in English, it is accessible to all those of us who seek to understand how it is that we came to be here and why we are the way we have become. It is indeed a lasting tribute to our community that Hugh Gilchrist saw it worthy of his historical endeavours. Our lasting tribute to our own community should be to read it.
first published in NKEE on 11 April 2005

Monday, April 04, 2005


One of the major achievements of the Greek people and one which indeed has won them renown as the foundation of 'western' civilization is literacy. Literacy not only empowers the individual by the provision of a ready record of thought, it also ensures that a given individual or group can immortalize their own existence in that written medium for all to perceive, thousands of years later. One of the seeds of Greece's greatness then, is that she left enough written records not only of history, but also of the remarkable thought process of some of the most outstanding intellectuals ever to have existed. While the Hephthalite Huns or the Scythians may have had unique insights into human existence that are worthy of praise, such praise can never be made, as they could not write, and their entire history is thus but a grey blur. On the other hand, we have left plenty of documentation to prove how busy we have been. A little advertising and a paper trail can therefore go a long way.
It comes as no surprise that the Greeks, not content with writing intellectual dissertations with increasingly longer 'big' words on hard surfaces or indeed on long, unwieldly but also expensive rolls of papyrus, would develop new and improved receptors of the written word. one of these, parchment, created from cured animal hides was said to have been invented in the Greek city of Pergamum in Asia Minor in the second century BC. Unlike papyrus, parchment was durable and inaccessible to forgery and could also be sewn together into books, the Codex, sparking off the book craze that has possessed the Greek people ever since.
It says much for the priorities of Greek culture that one of the major concerns of the Hellenistic rulers of Alexandria and Pergamum was the collection of books into vast repositories called libraries as well as of authors to write them. Byzantium continued this tradition throughout its thousand year history, producing remarkable reproductions and commentaries of the ancient philosophers and mathematicians, medical manuals, theological treatises and even the Suma, the first encyclopaedia. It is primarily through these books and the copies made by the Assyrian monks in Mesopotamia, that our ancient writings have survived.
The bibliophile tradition did not die out during the Ottoman occupation. While it was most difficult for books to be published given the widespread illiteracy that prevailed in the Empire and the risk of being accused of treason, the book and indeed literacy remained esteemed. St Kosmas constantly exhorted his flock to learn to read, while restless polymath's, usually Epirots such as Nikos Gyzis would flee to Venice and set up printing presses there. The legacy of these first modern book publishers can be felt today. Many of the liturgical books to be found in the monasteries of Samos for example, were printed in Venice a century and a half ago. Similar printing presses were set up in the Northern Epirot town of Moschopolis in the 18th century and later in Constantinople and Central Europe. Their contribution to the literary heritage o Greece has been great, with works such as Rigas Pheraios' famous call for liberty "Thourio," being widely disseminated throughout enslaved Greece. Greek printers were also responsible for the dissemination and publication of the rationalist texts of the European Enlightement, introducing unknown concepts such as liberalism and freedom of choice to a Greek nation thirsting for the freedom that came with new ideas.
As compared with other nations, Greek writers and printers tend to be prominent members of Greek society, who are well respected and extremely close to the people. The great national poet Kostis Palamas' funeral during the German occupation captured the imagination of Athenians who spilled out into the roads to accompany him to his finally resting place, using him as a symbol of freedom. People looked to such distinguished scholars and authors as George Seferis and Kostis Tsatsos to speak out against the junta of the seventies while until his recent death, popular journalist and writer Freddy Germanos could be seen out and about in the streets of Athens, unencumbered by western notions of celebrity, enjoying the approbation of an adoring public.
Here in Australia, respect for 'the book' has not diminished through our long journey and sojourn here. We have all been exhorted "να μάθουμε γράμματα" and from the outset, the early migrants have sought to convey their feelings, ideas and thoughts into print. It therefore should come as no surprise that the first Greek books to ever have been published in Australia were so published at the turn of the twentieth century, not long after the Greek Community was founded. Indeed, we have produced outstanding poets and authors in this country, among the early pioneers being the recently deceased Stathis Raftopoulos, whose poetry encompasses the entire history of our sojourn here and whose "Ελευθερίας Απάνθισμα" published in 1943 was a stirring protest against fascism and Giannis Lillis, an accomplished writer in English, Greek and Albanian.
What is particularly heartening about the publication of books in this country is the fact that the whole 'scene' eludes the elitism that usually accompanies it and is extremely broad based. The fact that first-generation migrants, dispossessed of formal education through the vicissitudes of war and poverty could arrive in Australia, struggle to establish themselves here and yet, still find time to develop their own literary skills, represents a triumph of the human spirit. In particular, the various memoirs that are now being published in the wake of the first generation's swansong constitute an important and lasting link with our founding fathers, who offer us the possibility of their advice and experience, beyond the obscurity of time, while the various poetical and other works published almost on a monthly basis here in Melbourne, are a breath of fresh air and a worthy addition to the corpus of Greek literature.
Interestingly enough for this age of cynicism, local Greek poets and authors enjoy a general respect from the wider Greek community, proving that the age-old respect for the written word and its purveyors that has characterized us since times ancient is with us still. On the whole, these pen presdigitators have escaped the natural inclination for their peers to engage them in infighting or ensure that their poppies are cut down before they grow too close to the sun and this is to the community's credit, as the number of works published steadily increases.
This year, the Federation of Kozanitan Organisations held the 4th exhibition of community-published books. Held at the Thessalonican Union building, this remarkably successful exhibition not only showcased but a small sample of our remarkable literary activity here in Australia but also paid deserving tribute to those pioneers who have ensured that this important facet of our heritage has remained with us to this day and indeed, their descendants, who ply their trade knowing full well that a ready market for Greek works is diminishing and could be lost within a generation. Let us hope that this is not so, and that the demise of the first generation will not signal the total obliteration of our continued local literary heritage. Yet its survival is incumbent upon us, not only taking an interest and reading the works of local authors but also ensuring that our level of Greek is adequate enough to understand these and take a stab at emulating them ourselves. This rather bookish Diatribe leaves you this week with the email address:, wherein community cultural doyen, Iakovos Garivaldis has painstakingly compiled a worthy list of books published in this country. Take a peek. You will be astounded.

First published in NKEE on 4 April 2005