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Christos Ikonomou  [ Greece ]

Biography

Ikonomou, Christos_portrait
(c) Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2013.

Bibliography

Kleine Sprachen – große Literaturen

Die Anthologie 2012

Kirchhof & Franke

Berlin, 2012

Warte nur, es passiert schon was

Erzählungen aus dem heutigen Griechenland

C. H. Beck

München, 2013

[Ü: Birgit Hildebrand]

Christos Ikonomou was born in Athens in 1970 and grew up on Crete. He serves as a journalist for such publications as the Athenian daily newspaper »Ethnos« while also working as a translator and freelance author.

In 2011 he received the Greek National Literature Prize for his second set of short stories, 16 in all. In these »stories from contemporary Greece« Ikonomou draws on individual fates to provide an emphatic illustration of the immediate effects of the economic depression. Celebrated by critics, his portrait of characters and region was even compared by Italian newspaper »La Reppublica« to the literary cosmos of William Faulkner – richly characterised, at once specific and universal. In this case Ikonomou’s little world is formed of the wharves, taverns and tenement blocks of the Athenian harbour district of Piraeus. Whether he’s contemplating individual existences from an auctorial or personal perspective, Ikonomou nonetheless draws all his figures in clear and serene fashion, particularly when he shows how they negotiate everyday life and poverty, that »mean poverty, which slowly, silently but surely gnaws to pieces the dreams, the energy and the life […] of all people, who live to work, who are born and live and die, to work. For a bit of money,« as the first story in the collection has it. »They fight to not give in, to remain standing,« is how Ikonomou describes the attitude which his figures share, an attitude which allows them to retain their dignity through it all. Stylistically, Ikonomou’s prose weaves dry and exact observations together with solemn images, distilling its individual narrative effect from exactly this contrast and transforming melancholy into something wondrous and graceful. The first story, »Come Elli, feed the piglet« sets the unsparing yet symbolically charged keynote, maintained throughout the 15 ensuing stories. In the opening the protagonist Elli clings to a lettuce, to »the innermost heart of the lettuce with its tiny leaves now shivering in her wet hands which will always be white and tender and alive, as if it were the only thing in the world that doesn’t die, which will never die.« She then has her piggy bank stolen, whereby she reasons, »if we, the poor, are already doing such things to each other, what must the rich be doing to us.« Like the dock workers, the pensioners and the unemployed who make up Ikonomou’s cast of characters, she is pursued and marked by fear for her very survival. Ikonomou lives in Piraeus.

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