Jun 8, 2008

E. X. GONATAS The forest

"Δεν κατασκευάζω όνειρα. Δεν είμαι "ονειροποιός". Ό,τι γράφω, είναι βιωμένο. Και το φανταστικό στοιχείο που βλέπουν στο έργο μου είναι στην ουσία το παράλογο, έχει σχέση με τον διχασμό της πραγματικότητας." — Ε. Χ. Γονατάς, εφημ. Τα Νέα, 4 Ιουνίου 1994.

“I don’t create dreams. I’ m not a “dream maker”. What I write, it' s been experienced. And the imaginary element that people see in my work is actually the irrational; it is related with the division of reality” E. X. Gonatas, newspaper Ta Nea, June 4 1994.

Epaminondas X. Gonatas (1924-2006) is an exceptional case in Greek literature.A writer, poet and translator who’s work consists of just six small books with short stories and a few translations, Gonatas was an authentic creator who obstinately insisted to his art, and an estet who deliberately stayed away of fame.

Gonatas was born at and lived in Athens. He studied at the Athens university faculty of law and practiced the legal profession. He was a schoolmate with poet Miltos Saxtouris, and a fried with many intellectuals of the time, among them the poets N. Eggonopoulos (whom he considered as his teacher) and D. Papaditsas, and prose writers H. Papadimitrakopoulos and N. Kaxtitsis.

His first appearance in literature was in 1944 with the publication, in the magazine “Palmos” of a short story, “Our small rural town”, under the name E. Gonis, and with the publication, in 1945, of a short tale entitled “The traveler”. In the years 1959 to 1964 he cooperated with D. Papaditsas in the publication of the magazine “Proti Yli”. The books that followed were the Crypt (1959), the Chasm (1963), The Cows (1963), the Hospitable Cardinal (1986), the Preparation (1991) and Three Pennies (2006).

He translated works of the writers Pierre Bettencourt, Ivan Goll, Gustave Flaubert, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and others. In 1994 he was awarded with the National Award for Translation for Antonio Porcia’s “Voces”.

Gonata’s work is difficult to be classificated under a certain faculty or movement, or a certain literary type, although elements of surrealism or even romantism can be traced. His writing lives in the area between prose and poetry, and his short stories, laconic and allusive, but also extremely accurate in the details of narration, create an atmosphere that is usually found in poems. This writing makes extensive use of metaphors and allegory, and using material from experience, but also the subconscious and the dreams, constantly moves between rational and irrational, commonness and outlandish, reality and dream. This constant swing between the literal and the metaphoric creates two levels of reading, and the presence of ambiguity throughout the text keeps the reader in doubt and the end of the story always uncertain.

For those of you who can read Greek, here is the article about the writer in Wikipedia, and Fragkiski’s Ampatzopoulou enlightening interview about him.

Enjoy the short story that follows.

Έ. Χ. Γονατάς

To δάσος

Ανεβαίνοντας το λόφο αντίκρισα στον ορίζοντα τις ατέλειωτες πλούσιες φυλλωσιές του δάσους, που τις λίκνιζε ο άνεμος. Δεν ένιωσα όμως καμιά δροσιά στην ψυχή μου. Φτάνοντας στην κορφή παρατήρησα πως ο λόφος κι από την άλλη μεριά ήταν ολότελα γυμνός. Σ' όλη την έκταση γύρω ούτε ένας κορμός δέντρου. Μόνο στον ουρανό πλέανε αθόρυβα τα φύλλα, τα αμέτρητα πράσινα φύλλα πού είχα δει από μακριά, σα δίχτυα κρεμασμένα πάνω απ' τα κεφάλια μας. Τρέμανε όλα μαζί στον αέρα, μα δε σκόρπιζαν, όπως τ' αστέρια, μ' όλο πού κανένα κλαδί, κανένα κοτσάνι δεν τα βαστούσε.

Δεν κρατήθηκα. "Και πώς ξεκουράζονται εκεί τα πουλιά;", είπα.

"Σ' αυτά τα δέντρα έρχονται μόνο οι σκιές των πουλιών να καθίσουν", μου εξήγησαν ήσυχα με μια φωνή οι δύο άγνωστοι που με συντροφεύαν.

"Ναί. Βλέπω", φώναξα. "Κοπάδια πουλιά κουρνιάζουν στα φυλλώματα χωρίς τα κορμιά τους".

Οι σύντροφοι μου κοιτάχτηκαν μ' απορία.

"Εσύ ποιός είσαι που μπορείς και τα βλέπεις;", γυρίζει και μου λέει ανήσυχος ο ένας. Πριν προλάβω ν' απαντήσω, σκύβει στον διπλανό του και τους ακούω που ψιθυρίζουν:

"Πώς βρέθηκε αυτός μαζί μας; Για δώσ' μου τον κατάλογο να ρίξω μιά ματιά".

"Δεν τον έχω απάνω μου. Μα τί τον ρωτάς; Αφού είδε, δικός μας θα 'ναι κι αυτός. Σ' τό 'χω ξαναπεί, να κλείνεις καλά όταν βγαίνεις".

Για πρώτη φορά τους πρόσεξα καλύτερα, τυλιγμένους στο λεπτό μενεξεδί φως του δειλινού. Φορούσαν τα ίδια ρούχα, τα ίδια πουκάμισα, τις ίδιες άσπρες γραβάτες και τα χλωμά τους πρόσωπα με το μικρό μαύρο μουστάκι ήταν ολόιδια.

"Είσαστε δίδυμοι;", τους ρώτησα.

Δε μ' απάντησαν. Έστησαν μπρος μου έναν μεγάλο καθρέφτη. Κοιτάχτηκα κι είδα πως φορούσα κι εγώ τα ίδια ρούχα, την ίδια γραβάτα και πως το πρόσωπο μου, αγνώριστο, κατακίτρινο, ήταν ίδιο κι απαράλλαχτο με το δικό τους.

Η καμπάνα σήμανε μακριά. Με πήραν απ' το χέρι κι αρχίσαμε να κατεβαίνουμε αμίλητοι τη χωματένια σκάλα. Ψηλά από πάνω μας φαινότανε ο ουρανός σκούρος γαλάζιος, στολισμένος με τα πρώτα αστέρια. Άνοιξαν τη φαρδιά καγκελόπορτα και μ' έσπρωξαν σ' έναν απέραντο κήπο, γεμάτον άσπρους στρογγυλούς βράχους. Πουθενά δε φαίνονταν λουλούδια. Μονάχα πρασινάδες. Όμως μιά γνώριμη άχνα ανέβαινε μέσα απ' τη γη, μεθυστική σα λιβάνι.


The forest

Going up the hill I faced in the horizon the endless riches of the forest leafage, swayed by the wind. I didn’t feel however no dew in my soul. Reaching the top I observed that the other side of the hill was fully naked too. In all extent around not a trunk of tree. Just in the sky sailed noiseless the leaves, the innumerable green leaves that I had seen from far, hanging like nets above our heads. They all did tremble together in air, but didn't scatter, like stars, although no twig, no stalk hold them.

I didn’t keep my self. “And how do the birds rest there?”, I said.

“On these trees only the shades of birds come to sit”, explained to me quietly with one voice my two unknown companions.

“Yes. I see”, I shouted. “Flocks of birds perch in the leafage without their bodies”.

My two companions looked at each other with query.

“Who you are that can see them?”, says me uneasy the one. Before I had time to answer, he bends to the man next to him and I hear them whispering:

“How did he get with us? Give me the list to have a look”.

“I don’t have it with me. But what do you ask him? Since he saw, he must be one of us. I’ve told you before to close firmly when you go out”.

For the first time I noticed them better, wrapped into the thin purple twilight. They wore the same clothes, the same shirts, the same white ties and their pale faces with the small black moustache were identical.

“Are you twins?”, I asked them.

They did not answer me. They set up in front of me a big mirror. I looked and I saw that I wore also the same clothes, the same tie and that my face, unrecognisable, sallow, was the same and identical with theirs.

The bell meant far. They took me by the hand and we began to go down speechless the earthen scale. Tally from above appeared to us the dark blue sky, embellished with the first stars. They opened the wide gate and pushed me into a boundless garden, full with white round rocks. Nowhere could be seen flowers. Just verdure. However a familiar scent faintly emanated through the ground, intoxicating as incense.

The original text was found in Mikros Apoplous, a place where you can find lots of interesting greek literature texts.
Translated by Begemot. Photo by Stelios Skopelitis.

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