New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Leandros Papathanasiou’s PELLA Publsihing Company, Inc. has closed its doors, but its legacy of singularly important published works lives on.
A lover of literature and an inspired master printer, Papathanasiou, president and founder of Athens Printing and PELLA Publishing is the most important publisher of the last half century, has kept the flame of modern Greek literature burning bright in the United States by nurturing contemporary Greek American and American writers, artists, and poets, and publishing in the areas of history, political science, sociology, criticism and commentary.
Most notable are the various Greek-English-and dual English-Greek language books he has published, which have brought the best of modern Greek literature to an English-reading audience, says historian and film critic Dan Georgakas, editor of the “AHI Public Policy Journal” journal and director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Queens College (CUNY), noting that while some of Papathanasiou’s authors are world famous, such as Yannis Ritsos, others were only known locally or among specialists. Some texts were hard-hitting history books, while others dealt with culture: works of fiction, memoirs, and poetry collections, and he also published textbooks dealing with Greek language instruction such as the priceless 600 Modern Greek Verbs by Carmen Capri-Karka, which full conjugates the verbs in all tenses.
Georgakas, who has worked closely with Papathanasiou throughout PELLA’s history says, “I had the pleasure of working with Pella off and on for decades, sometimes as editor, sometimes as author, sometimes as advisor. I was always impressed by the dignified and honorable manner in which Leandros dealt with his editors and authors. Rather than a tyrant who insisted on his judgments, he listened carefully and created projects in a democratic manner with his authors and editors. My admiration for him is boundless”.
The Journal of The Hellenic Diaspora, first published by Nikos Petropoulos and taken over by Athens Printing in the late 1960’s, and the New York anti-Junta group of intellectuals, Dan Georgakas, Peter Pappas, Yannis Roubatis, and Paschalis Kitromilides “came along”, in Papathanasiou’s words. “One afternoon John Nikolopoulos, the Director of the Greek Press and Information Service, Professor Harry Psomiades, and Professor Couloumbis, who was in Washington then, who were all friends, came and we decided to start PELLA Publishing with the Journal of The Hellenic Diaspora.”
“Leandros made the 40-year publication of the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora possible. True to its name it published more articles on different diaspora communities than any other journal,” says Georgakas, “The trademark of the JHD, however, was its willingness to take intellectual stands that examined leftist ideas from a passionate yet scholarly viewpoint. The JHD also was alone in publishing scholars unaffiliated with the academy and works by graduate students and others at the onset of their careers. At the same time, it published leading scholars in the field. Alone among Greek studies journals, the JHD was a champion of Greek American Studies. It published more articles on Greek America than all other Greek study journals combined.”
Among many fruitful collaborations, Pella had a relation with Queens College that lead to a series of important books titled the Modern Greek Research Series.
To be continued.