Saturday, May 25, 2019


Approximately 300,000 Armenian and 25,000 Assyrian subjects of the Ottoman Empire were killed during the Hamidian massacres of 1895.  It is estimated that 100,000 “Greeks” were also killed, although this may mainly refer to Armenian, Assyrian and Arabic members of the Greek Orthodox church rather than just ethnic Greeks per se. These were massacres were deliberately planed by the Ottoman state in response to Armenian protests at oppressive taxation and ill treatment, along with merging nationalist fervour. They mark the first phase of the Armenian genocide and indeed, the first phase of what turned out to be the genocide of the Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire.
In Trapezounta, the centre of Pontic Hellenism, no Greeks were targeted at that time. Instead between one and two thousand Armenians are believed to have been killed, out of a total community of 9,000. In later phases of the genocide, Armenians of Trapezounta would be taken out into the sea in boats, slaughtered, and thrown into the water. A very brave Pontic Greek woman, a latter day Antigone, rescued many of the corpses washed up into the shore and at great peril, buried them near a Catholic church along the seafront.

Yet during the Hamidian massacres, British consul Henry Longworth, who was an eye witness to the massacre, wrote that after the Turks shot down every Armenian they encountered during a street rampage, joined by "Greeks and Persians," the mob systematically looted Armenian "houses, shops and storerooms throughout the town, killing anyone who resisted."  At that time, it is alleged that certain Pontic Greeks were actively complicit in acts of genocide, as the term is understood in its international legal sense.

British consul Longworth went on to write: "Greeks possibly in fear, refused in the majority cases to shelter the hunted down people in their shops and houses, schools and churches." They closed their homes to the most vulnerable of their neighbours at a time when they needed assistance the most. In so doing they most likely contributed to the horrific deaths of the hapless Armenians, by the marauding Turkish bands. Of course, two decades later, when it was the Greeks of Trapezounta who began to fall victim to the genocidal policies of the Neo-Turks, there exist countless stories of Greeks hiding the children of their Armenian neighbours, or handing them over for protection to the occupying Russian army. These are two ostensibly contradictory modes of conduct that are almost never analysed and are generally effaced from Greek narrative of the genocide, which in part, although this is changing, tends to ignore the experiences of other victim groups, save where these highlight the enormity of the crime visited against the Greeks of Asia Minor.
We don’t know whether other examples of Greeks or indeed Armenians aiding and abetting Turks during the genocide exist, and if they do, why they took place. No doubt, if they exist, they could be understood through the prism of  self-preservation and self-interest. And it is important to point out that the account of the Greek complicity in the Hamidian massacre in Trapezounta is one infinitesimally small event that is almost completely overshadowed by decades of common suffering and mutual assistance. In Greece, Armenian refugees found a home and sanctuary. Assyrians fleeing their homelands in the face of persecution and religious intolerance that has continued unabated since the Genocide, still do, in the present day.

Yet the single fact that some Greeks felt it expedient to persecute their Armenian neighbours deserves our attention. This is because some genocide activists employ the genocide in a manner that can only be termed almost pornographic. They take perverse delight in providing detailed, blow by blow accounts of the harrowing physical, sexual and emotional abuse meted out against the Greeks and other Christians. Their eyes shine with glee and artfully placed tears trickle down their cheeks as they quote statistic after statistic to highlight just how many people were killed, while they try to also quantify the magnitude of the economic and cultural loss. In their accounts, our people are (quite rightly) victims. Their stoicism in suffering grants them a nobility that is juxtaposed against the barbarity of the people who took part  in this heinous crime against humanity. As such, partakers in the narrative are invited to make assumptions about the characteristics of a whole race. Accordingly, entire races are surmised to harbour genocide-perpetrating propensities within in them.
The knowledge that some Pontic Greeks, perennially cast as victims, took part in the Hamidian massacres against the Armenians, seems to come in stark contrast to the well-worn narrative of racial stereotype. Given that as a people we are so generous, so valiant, so democratic and so humane, how is it possible that even the slightest proportion of us could have stooped to the level of the perpetrator who will forever bear the brunt of our ire? It is either impossible or a blatant lie. The argument is that as a ‘superior’ people, we are above such acts of bestial brutality that are the preserve of ‘lesser’ races. This is why racial stereotyping of this manner  is so dangerous, as it carries the seeds of future intolerance within it.
Rather than indulge in racial profiling or attempts to explain the event away as a negligible aberration that is not endemic to our people, what this specific Pontic Greek act of participation in the massacre suggests, is that the tragedy of genocide is that this failure to maintain humanity is something that can afflict all of us, regardless of race or religion. All of us are capable of such acts, given the right amount of coercion, suggestion, or encouragement.
Understanding the fact that the seeds of magnanimity and compassion but also of depravity lie within all of us, and that all of us have moral choices to make that are not always without cost when called upon to maintain or transgress the standards of humanity, will assist us in gaining a true insight into humankind’s ability to turn on one another. It will help us to comprehend why the muslim inhabitants of Mosul were able to collaborate with ISIS and commit heinous acts upon the Christians of the city in our own time. It will facilitate understanding of how incited by hate speech in the media, Hutus were able to attack Tutsis, people of the same nationality and murder them in drives in Rwanda. It will help us to place into context, the manner in which Greek was able to denounce and slaughter Greek, during the bloody Civil War. It will also go a long way in explaining why a disaffected socially privileged white person came to nurse grievances that came to be symbolised by the names of obscure historical  figures which he scrawled upon his murder weapons as he live-streamed the slaughter of innocent muslims in the mosques of Christchurch.  No one, and certainly no race is immune from crimes of violence and intolerance.
All these events, demonstrate how the societies in which we live and pride ourselves occupy a precarious existence, perched upon the precipice of order in danger of decent into anarchy, safety, descending into bloodshed.  The Turkish Prime Minister’s latest pronouncement, that the deportation of the Armenians was a perfectly appropriate act,  signifies just why the maintenance of a civil and democratic society, in which human life and its ability to thrive and express itself in safety and within a climate of respect is so vitally important.
The world has failed the victims of the Christian genocide. A hundred years on, most countries, including our own, in the interests of political expediency, choose not to recognise these terrible events as genocide. In so doing, they have arguably permitted would-be perpetrators to understand that they can commit their crimes with impunity. The slaughter of the Christians of the Middle East by ISIS, many in the very deserts of Syria and Iraq where their ancestors were massacred by the Ottomans before them, can be deemed to be a logical outcome of this cynical behaviour. A society that witnesses suffering and yet cannot place it in its historical context in order to condemn it, is a society in peril.
Yes, some Pontic Greek opportunists seem to have aided and abetted the Neo-Turks in their disgusting crimes in Trapezounta, just as some modern Greek opportunists aided and abetted the Nazis in the commission of the Holocaust in Salonica. We remember them with the scorn they deserve. We do not trivialise or seek to hide their crimes. Those crimes do not in any way stigmatise us as a people. Nor do they in any way, defile the memories of the innocent victims of the genocide. Instead, in teaching us that given the right amount of goading, no one is immune from barbarity, they stiffen us in our resolve to call out intolerance where we see it and demand from our leaders that they take the necessary steps to preserve our democratic way of life. A good place to start is by officially recognising the genocide of the Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire, creating the moral opprobrium that will prevent similar massacres ever being repeated in the same region again.

First published in NKEE on 25 May 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Is there such a thing as Greek-Australian literature? If so, what language should it be written in? Who is its target audience? In what way can it be considered to be Greek? In what way can it be defined as Australian? Does the mere fact that a person of Greek origin writes in English allow their work to be classified as Greek-Australian? What purpose does Greek-Australian literature serve? Is it an assertion or an examination of identity? An exercise in cultural perseveration? An internalisation and reproduction of cultural stereotypes imposed upon us by a monolithic Greek narrative or the discourse of the dominant culture in Australia, seeking to legitimise its violent appropriation of sovereignty in this country by abrogating to itself the right of determining how ethnic minorities will relate to the mainstream and each other? Does such “Greek-Australian” diasporic literature ", as it exists, and its figurations of cultural memory or historical trauma exhibit commonalities with the literature produced within other ethnic communities sharing the same space? How does diversity in race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and physical capability shape or influence the discourse? Which values underlie it? For how long does one have to be in Australia before their writings are considered to be "Greek-Australian" or "migrant writing"? What are the criteria according to which any sense of "authenticity" can be ascribed? What questions, themes or overarching literary characteristics are typically Greek-Australian? Finally, considering that as a community we have a presence in Australia that exceeds a century, what is the significance and purpose of considering these issues?
All these questions and many more are raised for discussion by the upcoming Greek Writers’ Festival, under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria. The organising committee itself constitutes a paradigm of the diversity that currently characterises our community as a whole. George Mouratidis, poet, translator and academic, is completing his doctoral thesis on the literature of the Beat Generation and has just released his debut poetry collection: “Angel Frankenstein” to critical acclaim. A functioning bilingual who writes poetry in both Greek and English, and is currently co-editing the upcoming issue of Cordite, one of Australia's premier poetry journals. He is also legally blind. Trilingual writer Dmetri Kakmi, born in Tenedos, now in Turkey, is the acclaimed author of “Mother Land,” a biographical account of his childhood in an ancestral homeland whose rulers considered him a foreigner. He is also an acclaimed horror writer and essayist who teaches writing and is a long time advocate of LGBTIQ issues. Journalist, poet and social activist Dimitris Troaditis, has penned numerous poetry collections in the Greek language, as well as being the author of a ground-breaking history of the Anarchist Movement in Greece. Original members of the committee also included academic, lawyer and highly regarded poet Dr. Tina Giannoukos, publisher and academic Helen Nickas, and academic and translator Dr. Dina Dounis, the last two having conceived and successfully convened the Antipodes Writer’s Festival in 2012.
Seven years have passed since that festival and the world appears a fundamentally changed place. The Greek community is indeed at a crossroads. The complication and rupture of what was previously considered "social cohesion" occasioned by identity politics, the emergence of discourses of hatred and intolerance both within and without the Greek community, the creation of semantic and ideological echo chambers as a result of the rise of social media, the disintegration of traditional modes of organisation within the Greek community, the emergence of alternate narratives of identity and cultural affinity and the marked retreat of Greek as a spoken and written language in Australia have caused us to fundamentally reassess the manner in which we define ourselves, how this is expressed and our role within the broader cultural and political discourse in Australia, and indeed, within the wider literary community.
In the meantime, writers of Greek background have continued to write. Though it cannot be doubted that Greek is a language in retreat in Australia, almost every other week a Greek language book is launched in Melbourne. Primarily the preserve of the first generation but not necessarily so, the writing of Greek literature serves a number of complex purposes. Apart from acting as a cathartic group experience that assists in coming to terms with cultural and linguistic dislocation and dealing with the trauma of migration, it also signifies an act of socio-economic and gender emancipation given that education and writing was considered traditionally to be restricted to the male elite classes in Greece.
The early Greek writings of such poets and social activists as Dina Amanatidou, Yiannis Lillis and Alekos Doukas have proved influential in providing a sense of “mission” and articulating a unique diasporic perspective that has defined Greek language literature in Australia. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that women have been at the forefront of this process within our community. What, therefore, is the legacy of memorialising the Greek migrant experience in literature? Academic Anna Chatzinicolaou will lead an all female panel discussion at the Greek Writers’ Festival, with Dina Amanatidou and Lella Cariddi about the capacity of literature and storytelling to record and immortalise the migration experience. Using that discussion as a reference point, my own insufficiency will direct a panel with historian of the Greek community Dr. Christos Fifis, poet Dr Tina Giannoukos and translator Dr. Dina Dounis to examine the century old corpus of literature written in this country in order to ask the question: “Is there a definable Greek-Australian literary canon?”
Occupying the middle space between Greek language writing and literature written in English, it is important to acknowledge the existence of bilingual literature, which assumes diverse forms, such as in the interspersion of song lyrics or expressions in Angela Kosti’s poetry, the Greek/English interplay of George Mouratidis’ poetry which denotes a hybrid linguistic reality occupying the same plane simultaneously or what lies behind conscious choices to write in one or the other language. If literature is a vehicle through which we make sense of the world, what happens to writing when the author writes in a language other than his or her own? What is the impact of bilingualism or multilingualism on an author’s aesthetics and praxis and their negotiation of a largely monolingual literary and cultural landscape? Dr. Tina Giannoukos will speak to acclaimed authors Maria Tumarkin and Ouyang Yu, a prolific bilingual poet, translator and novelist, as well as yours truly, about this topic, one that has seldom if ever occupied the minds of the Greek community before now.
The participation of a large proportion of non-Greek panellists in this year’s Greek Writers’ Festival is not coincidental. As the organisers point out, the Greek-Australian community does not exist in isolation. It constitutes a vital, relevant component of the broader cultural, political and literary dialogue and it is for this reason that the festival inspires and fosters such necessary discussions with culturally and linguistically diverse writers and performers from across the ethnic spectrum and across generations. Writers and performers from the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Australian First Nations, as well as the LGBTIQ communities will all take part. The theme of the festival being "diasporic dialogues," it is contended that all communities in Australia have a lot to share and learn from one another, not only as migrants, children of migrants, or variously marginalised minorities, but also as artists. Thus, Aboriginal activist Gary Foley, Aboriginal author, academic and activist Tony Birch, Aboriginal Greek author Dylan Coleman, along with a rich cross-section of acclaimed and emerging writers, poets, and performers including Michael Mohammad Ahmad, Lee Kofman, Ramona Koval, Sami Shah, Ouyang Yu, Lucy Van, Ling Toong, Sharifa A. Tartoussi, Krishnamurthy Prasad, and a host of others will smash stereotypes and give Greek-Australian literature, through a shared and holistic appreciation, an ecumenical reach far beyond what could have been imagined by its ‘founding fathers,’ as it were. For instance, the erudite Prof. Vrasidas Karalis will chair a discussion about gender identity and art as rebellion and with much-loved authors Mary Koustas and Maria Katsonis in “Growing up Greek and Rebellious,” a panel discussion that officially opens the festival from a unique feminist perspective. Another discussion chaired by Prof. Karalis, this time in the Greek language, will consider the influence of existentialism, humanism and religious traditions in Greek-Australian writing, with acclaimed "first generation" poet Nikos Nomikos and myself, Other discussions lead by poet and researcher Dr. Lucy Van examine how literature from marginalised communities challenges the colonial monolingualism of Australian literary landscape with irrepressible ΠΟ., Dylan Coleman and Sista Zai ("The Politics of Language"), or, in another panel, analyse the relationship between the written word and the visual image in avant-garde poetry and the narrative possibilities that can be produced in "The Word and the Image" multi award-winning poets Bella Li, Stavros Messinis and the inimitable Thalia. Indeed, such a vast array of key questions and their implications for the future can potentially establish Greek-Australian literature, and the Greek community more broadly, as a key participant in the multicultural narrative.
Punctuated by bilingual poetry readings, music performances, writing workshops by such luminaries as award-winning Young Adult author Will Kostakis and acclaimed poet and Editor-in-Chief at the Melbourne Poets' Union Dr. Tina Giannoukos, open mic events, book launches and a homage to one of the most important literary institutions within the Greek community, the Greek Australian Cultural League of Melbourne, this year’s Greek Writers’ Festival will highlight the art of writing as it pertains to our people, as a mirror of our own multi-faceted complexity. Along with the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival and the annual Film Festival, it serves as an invaluable tessera in the comprehensive mosaic of our Antipodean hypostasis, one that provides ample scope to pose existential questions about our continued presence and relevance both to the Greek and to the Australian social and cultural narrative, permitting us to distinguish an ontopathology of identity that is uniquely our own.

First published in NKEE on 18 May 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019


I lament the absence of artful nonsense words in the modern Greek language, especially since such words have been with us since times ancient. Yet to φλυαρεῖν, ληρεῖν, φληναφεῖνor ὑθλεῖν (and it is significant that so many words existed to describe those whose discourse was nonsensical) in ancient times, was not to rejoice in babblement and the dextrous reconstruction of words and meaning, of the type that Edward Lear or Lewis Carrol rejoiced in, but rather, to signal that the speaker-of-nonsense is mentally impaired or just foolish.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Aristophanes rejoiced in words. Coining such terms asΝεφελοκοκκυγία (Cloud cuckoo land), to describe an imaginary kingdom of birds in the sky, or κομπογακελορρημόνα (fancy phrase-trusser) to describe Aeschylus, or the inspiredσκοροδοπανδοκευτριαρτοπώλιδες to denote the swede and cabbage sellers of Lysistrata, or even the magisterial in scope:«λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφαλλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων», a type of all in dish translated as: “plattero-filleto-mulleto-turboto-cranio-morselo-pickleo-acido-silphio-honeyo-pouredonthe-topothe-ouzelo-throstleo-cushato-culvero-cutleto-roastingo-marowo-dippero-leveret-syrupu-gibleto-wings,” he created a tradition of the coinage of immense polysemic compound words that endured until times Byzantine, wielded especially as deadly weapons of insult. Thus:
A “Πρεσβευτοκερδοσυγχυτοσπονδοφθόρος” is he who destroys (phthoros) treaties (spondai) and throws them into confusion (synkhyzo) by being an ambassador (presveutis) motivated by greed (kerdos). In the aftermath of the ratification of the Prespa Agreement and the Greek Prime Minister’s working visit to Turkey, the jury is out as to whether we need more diplomats of that nature.
According to a Byzantine commentary on Lucian, the Paphlagonians, who came from north west coast of Asia Minor, west of Pontus, were called pig-assed by the rest Byzantines (χοιρόκωλοι) because they were seen as dirty and hairy.
On the other hand, "Ἑλληνοθρησκοχριστοβλασφημότροπος" was a term  invented to denore those whose character (tropos) is inclined to revere pagans (Hellinothriskos) and blaspheme Christ, an apt enough term, which I propose to re-introduce into the Greek language to describe on-line Facebook Olympian evangelists.
You didn’t want to upset Konstantinos of Rhodes. The scholar Leon Choirosphaktes did, and even though his surname means “the pig-killer” Konstantinos coined the more extreme “Κασαλβοπορνομαχλοπρωκτεπεμβάτης” to level towards him, with devastating effect. This labyrinthine portmanteau word describes he who mounts the anuses of whores, prostitutes and lewd women.
Descending further into the real of smut, the term “Κουκκουροβουκινάτορες φουκτοκωλοτρυπάτοι” was used in a demotic poem with the intent to mock the eunuchs of Emperor Ioannis Tzimiskis, Vasileios Lekapinos and Patriarch Polyeukros. This savage word refers to men with shrivelled penises and gaping posteriors.
The problem is, however, that these words, as ingenious as they sound actually mean something. Not so with Lewis Caroll’s poem the Jabberwocky which appears in his timeless classic “Through the Looking Glass” and which is my favourite poem of all time:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.”
How does one translate the highly psychological, deeply Freudian and incomprehensible Jabberwocky into Greek? 

In German, its Der Jammerwoch, in Russian Бармаглот (Barmaglot), in French, Le Jaseroque, in Latin, Mors Iabochii or Jubavocus or even Taetriferocias. Apparrently, translating the Jabberwocky into ancient Greek or Latin was a favourite party pursuit of Oxford Dons of old, who competed with each other in the erudition stakes. Further, Lewis Carroll himself asked Robert Scott, Dean of Rochester and co-editor of the magisterial Liddell and Scott Oxford Greek Lexicon to render the poem in ancient Greek. For some unknown reason, Scott refused.
Ronald Arbuthnot Knox, for example, attempted a version in 1918 in Classical Greek, entitled Ἰάμβρωξ Ἰαμβικῶς, which approximates the style and meaning of the original text. His elegant version, in iambic metre reads as follows:
«καυσπροῦντος ἤδη, γλοῖσχρα διὰ περισκιᾶς
στρυβλοῦντα καὶ στρομφοῦντ’ ἂν εὑρίσκοις τόφα,
δεινὴ δ’ ἐπέσχε σωθρία βορυγρόφας,
ῥάθαισι δ’ ἀντιποικὸν  ὕμνησαν ῥάθαι
ἔκγριμμα· τὸν δὲ πρέσβυν ἐξαυδᾶν κλύω·
‘παῖ, παῖ, φύγοις ἄν ἐμπέδως Ἰάμβροχα,
ἔιτ’ ὄνυχι μάρπτων εἴτε δὴ δάκνων τύχοι
γνάθοισιν, ἀπρόσοιστον· ὣς δ’ αὔτως φυγεῖν
ὄρνιθα δεινὸν Γυπογῦπ’· οὐδ’ ἂν φθάνοις
ἐλθὼν δαφλοισβῷ πρὸς λόγους Βανδράρπαγι.
ὁ δ’ ἐν χεροῖν εὔκοπνον ἐξάρας ξίφος
θήρας ὅμως μετ’ ἴχνος ὀλγώδους ἔβη·
τέλος δ’ ἀπειπών, πολλὰ συννοούμενος,
πλείστην ὅπου παρέσχε φλαττόθρατ σκιάν,
ἔστη δι’ ὀλίγου· χὠς ἔβοσκεν ἀργίλας
θυμῷ μερίμνας, ἐμπύροισιν ὄμμασιν
σμύζων Ἰάμβρωξ ἔπτετ’ ἐκ ψυδνῆς νάπης,
δῆλος δὲ βορβολισμὸς ἦν ποτωμένου·
ταύτην δὲ καὶ δίχ’, ὡς ἐσεῖδε, καὶ τρίχα,
ἔνθεν τε κἄνθεν διάτορον πληγὴν νέηων,
ἔσνιξεν, ἐξέσναξεν εὐκόπνῳ ξίφει,
εῖθ’ οὗπερ ἔκτα κειμένης τεμὼν κάρα
γαυχούμενος κατῆλθεν· ἀσπαστὸν δ’ ἰδὼν
ἐλθόνθ’ ὁ πρέσβυς, τοιάδ’ ἐξεφρίγκασεν·
‘ὦ χαῖρε λάμπωψ· ὡς Ἰαμβροχοκτόνον
τόδ’ ἀγκάλισμα παιδὸς ἀσμένως ἔχω.
ὦ τρισβακαρτὸν ἦμαρ· ὦ καλοῦ καλά.»
So impressed was the discerning populace with his effort that the Morning Post, where the translation was published, commented that “dust collected in the Shrewsbury Sixth Form Library (where Knox was Master of Greek), is found, when chemically analysed, to be comprised of Greek particles.”
Of course, Knox was aided by the fact that the seemingly nonsense words in the text were actually ascribed meaning by Carroll, thus, “Bryllig,” (derived from the verb to bryl or broil), signified “the time of broiling dinner, i.e. the close of the afternoon,” “Slythy” meant “smooth and active,” “Tove” was a species of Badger with  smooth white hair, long hind legs, and short horns like a stag, that lived chiefly on cheese. “Gyre”: was a verb derived from ‘giaour’ meaning infidel or dog that denoted scratching like a dog and a  “Borogove” was held to be an extinct kind of Parrot. They had no wings, beaks turned up, made their nests under sun-dials and lived on veal.
Like Carroll, Knox imports some inventive word play from English into Classical Greek. «Σωθρία» is a conflation of σαθρός, meaning unsound, and νωθρία, meaning sluggishness, which is close to the meaning that Humpty Dumpty ascribes to the word ‘mimsy’ in the original text, as something miserable and flimsy. The tone of the poem is Aeschylian, evoking the same type of iambic verse employed by the old master in the dialogue sections of his tragedies.
Knox’s version works because as Lewis Carroll once wrote of his poetic creation: “A perfectly balanced mind can understand it.” The Greek verses augment Max Eastman’s praise of the original: “these verses are superior to most rhymes, not only because of their musical perfection, but because they combine a completer nonsense with a more meticulous possibility.”
In a 1964 article, on the other hand, M. L. West published two versions of the poem in Ancient Greek that exemplify the respective styles of the epic poets Homer and Nonnus. He called the Jabberwock Λαλίομψ and the poem Λαλίομφα. The Homeric version departs from the original in that it ingeniously seeks not to capture the style of Carroll’s original, but rather, sets out to re-tell the story of the Jabberwock as if Homer was reprising the Odyssey:
«Θῆρά μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα πολύφλοισβον Λαλίομφα».
(Tell me oh Muse of the roaring Jabbering beast).
The part where the hero divests the Jabberwock of his head is perhaps, the most inspired segment of the epic:
«λίπε δ᾽αὐτόθι θῆρ᾽ἀμέγαρτον πλὴν κεφαλῆςτὴν δ᾽ἂψ αὖτις προένεικεν γαλόμφωνΓαλόμφων, rather than Knox’s γαχούμενος, to signify gallumphing, is a word that cries out for introduction into the modern Greek language.
Mary Matthews provides a brilliant version where the lines "and burbled as it came" are rendered: καί βύβληθεν ὡς ἦλθεν, while "came gallumphing back is expertly rendered as «αὐτός ἀπήλθεν γαλυμφῶν.» She also uses the delightful «σνίκερ-σνάκων» for snicker-snack, as opposed to Knox’s more sophisticated but less charming: «ἔσνιξεν, ἐξέσναξεν».
Sadly, there appears to be a dearth of interest in rendering the immortal poem into Modern Greek, the Modern Greeks being a no-nonsense people who demand to be taken at their word, meaning that their word must be intelligible. The recent demise of the great Greek comedian Harry Klynn is thus a great blow for all devotees of nonsense everywhere, for it was he who coined the great nonsense word, prophetically to describe modern buzz-words that are devoid of meaning, in the most decorous and enduring:  «Ουγκάγκα μπουμ μπουμ χι γκάπα γκουμ μπιρλί γκαγκά, αούγκιγκι αούγκιγκι μπάγκαλα γκαούγκα γκα.» I am thoroughly convinced that these were the words the Jabberwock burbled as he whiffled through the tulgey wood and that Klynn, more than anyone, presciently understood the nature of the threat the Jabberwocky represents to all of us.
In absence of a Modern Greek version, I am now attempting a very tenuous version in my native Samian dialect:
«Tς βρασιάς ήταν γκ οι γλίτσδις ασβοί
γυροφέρναν γκι τρυπόυσαν στου βναλάκ᾽ αυτοί.
Όλου χουλοσκασμέν᾽τς ήταν οι βωρουγάλ᾽
γκι τα τεμπλογούρνα σκούζανι πάλ᾽…
Κι τουνε καθάρσες τουν Τσαμπουνοθηριό;
Έμπα στ αγκάλιζιμ, λαμπρούσκομ πδάκιμ.
Μέρα τχερή, τνη καλώ καλή,
μπουρμπούλζι απ᾽τ᾽χαρά᾽τ.
As I tentatively translate, I realise why the Jabberwocky had to die. From the ancients with their immense vocabulary to denote one, until the present, no one likes a Babbler.

First published in NKEE on 11 May 2019