New York.- By Vicki J. Yiannias
Joining the ranks of the growing number of translations of Greek writers into English is a new publication from Cosmos Publishing Inc., The Passport and Other Short Stories, Andrew Hortonʼs translations of a collection of eight short stories that are a representative sampling of the work of the major contemporary Greek writer Antonis Samarakis (1919-2003). Andrew Horton is the Jeanne H. Smith Professor of Film and Video Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
The helplessness of the ordinary man in the face of state power, the nuclear threat, the loss of ideals, public corruption, and the alienation of the individual in an uncaring, consumer society, all frequent themes in Samarakisʼs work, found a particularly receptive audience in the 1960s and 1970s and his work received critical attention and commercial success in continental Europe, especially Germany, Scandinavia and France.
Samarakisʼs works were translated into thirty languages, making him modern Greeceʼs most translated writer after Nikos Kazantzakis.
Several of these themes are present in the bookʼs eight short stories whose titles are The Last Participation, Anatomy lesson, Etc., Mama, The Last Trick, The Knife, Against the Grain, The Conquest, and The Passport. Reminiscent of Kafka, The Passport reflects Samarakisʼs experiences under the military dictatorship of the 1960s, when he was denied a passport unless he wrote something favorable to the regime. While it is autobiographical in origin, The Passport is also a generalized warning against totalitarian regimes.
“Samarakisʼs writings are international,” Professor Horton writes in the introduction to the book, “he explains that he has written in this way because the serious problems of of out times are general and universal and not limited to any particular nation.” Samarakisʼs novel, To Lathos (The Flaw, 1965), which turned out to be an eery prophesy of the military dictatorship that was shortly to be established in Greece, was called “a real masterpiece” by novelist Graham Greene, and “a powerful work” by playwright Arthur Miller. His work was held in high regard by other notables, as well, among them Arthur Koestler, George Simenon, Agatha Christie, and Luis Bunuel.
Professor Horton discussed his affinity for Antonis Samarakis and his work with The Greek News. “I was in Greece in the 1960s teaching at Athens College and came into contact with Samarakis’s amazing short stories and his novel The Flaw. I was so impressed that I interviewed him for The Athenian magazine and then realized that I wanted to help him find an English language audience for his stories.”
What is significant about Samarakis, says Horton, is that “he remains that rare writer who speaks for the average, simple person and who sees the dangers in a modern society for totalitarianism, dictatorships and such that eat away at allowing people to live simple lives. The fact that he has been translated in so many languages means he has hit a nerve across the world. I would add that he loved to say ʽI am not a writer, I am a common person who is writing…!ʼ That says it all . . .add to this that even in the hardest times, for instance when the dictators took away his passport, he never lost his sense of humor or sense that human rights are what really matter in this life.”
Samarakisʼs work was formally recognized in 1982, when he was awarded the Europalia Prize. He represented Greece at conferences of Unesco and the International Labour Organization, and took part in their missions. He was also goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and organized an annual youth parliament in Greece. In 1991 Samarakis was designated Greeceʼs cultural ambassador for Mèdecins sans Frontières.
Andrew Horton is conducting a two-day workshop titled Screenwriting for a Global Market at the Theater of the Hellenic American Union in Athens, October 6 – 7, 2006. Horton notes that the seminar “is good for beginners who have never written a script and for those who have already done so. A major idea is how you can live and work in Greece and write scripts you may sell around the world”. The first day will include general coverage of “the character centered” screenplay using video clips from European and American films and TV. Writing and Launching your own Script is he second dayʼs topic which culminates with what is bound to reassure beginning writers: “What to do when you finish your script! (Film Festivals, support, groups, agents, and more).”
Horton is the author of fifteen books on film, screenwriting and culture, one being The Films of Theo Angelopoulos and another The Character-Centered Screenplay, about which The Library Journal wrote, “Horton walks away with an Oscar in the valuable books for the prospective script writer category with his latest rendering.”
His films include Brad Pitt’s first feature film, The Dark Side of the Sun (to be shown during the workshop) and the European Oscar-winning Virginis (l991, Yugoslavia, directed by Srdjan Karanovic). Currently he has scripts in pre-production in Greece ans New Zealand.