''Who is me?'': Nanos Valaoritis wonders in the L.M.

Before writing down who
Mr. Nanos Valaoritis is, I would like to share how Nanos lives with you. In a cozy house apartment located at the centre of Athens, there is not only a wide range of books on the tables, on the floor and everywhere as if these books have been co-habiting the house day by day in an equivalent and pleasant way, but (there is) also a somehow clumsy collection of cutting papers with writers’ faces, such as Marcel Proust. These ‘‘posters’’ call upon my memory of childhood, when I was filling all my armoires with singers’ faces and every afternoon was listening to the radio aloud while walking in the room from one corner to the other and living in the stories of my mind… (I have to admit that the moquette was not a coquette any more but had the signs of the route on itself; the signs were obvious especially towards the door due to the view from the balcony.) Anyway, this childish habit to create a domestic phantasy – even with phantasms- that Nanos has preserved in an intellectual apotheosis, was the first link to feel how he might have felt. All I want to claim here is that facts written in a C.V. never make you feel the quality and originality of spirit, the sense of humor and ‘‘psychic vision’’ that Nanos has got. A lot of stories come to my mind while thinking of him. It happens to do so when we meet open faces, willing to share their experiences with us.

Nanos Valaoritis was born of Greek parents in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1921 but grew up in Greece. He studied Classics and Law at the University of Athens, English Literature at London University, followed by courses in Mycenian Grammar with Michel Lejeune at the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes of the Sorbonne. He moved to London in 1944, where he translated Modernist Greek poets of the 1930’s, while contributing articles in Cyril Connolly’s Horizon (1946) and translations for John Lehman’s New Writing (1944-1948). He also edited and translated The King of Asine (1948), a selection of poems by George Seferis with Bernard Spencer and Lawrence Durrell. He was to meet many poets in London’s literary community, such as T.S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, and Dylan Thomas, and worked for Louis MacNeice at the BBC. In 1954 when he moved to Paris, he met Andre Breton and participated in the activities and meetings of his Surrealist group until 1960, when he returned to Greece, where he edited the avant-garde review Pali (1963-1967). He was to leave Greece a year after the Junta came to power in 1967.

In voluntary exile from the repressive Junta, Nanos began his American life teaching at San Francisco State University in both the Creative Writing and Comparative Literature Departments. Since his retirement in 1993, he has published a remarkable body of work, including books of poetry, poetic texts, short stories, novels and novellas, essays, translations and anthologies co-edited, spending part of each year in California and the rest in France and Greece. In 2004 he was awarded the prestigious prize for poetry from the Athens Academy of Letters and Science in recognition of his life’s work. He was also awarded a gold medal of honor by the President of Greece. Nanos is married to the American Surrealist painter Marie Wilson.

I attach the poem ‘‘Who is Me?’’ of Nanos Valaoritis published at The London Magazine - October / November 2007 by Sebastian Barker.


Nanos Valaoritis Pan Daimonium, Lacey, Washington, Philos Press, 2005.




1 comment:

Gatsby said...

Well done again...Perhaps some of your readers would like to learn more about Nanos' relationship with American Poets, namely from the beat generation, i.e Laurence Ferlinghetti, or some of the language-centered poets from San francisco back in the early seventies...Do give us something about that too if you like...Links are always so welcome...