Greek poet, fiction writer, translator and stage director Alexandros Adamopoulos (Αλέξανδρος Αδαμόπουλος) was born in Athens in 1953. He studied law, stage direction and classical guitar in Athens, and Political Sociology in Paris. He was the co-founder and the General Manager (1984-1994) of the ‘Jani Christou Society’, which aimed at the preservation and propagation of Janni Christou’s (world known avant-garde Greek composer) work. He worked closely with the Museum of Folk Instruments – Center of Ethnomusicology, as Secretary General and Chairman (1991-2007). He was also the Secretary General of the National Theatre of Greece (1991-1994).
He has collaborated with various private and State theatres and other cultural institutions abroad and throughout his country (Ministry of Culture, Hellenic radio-TV, Peloponnesian folklore Foundation, ‘Theatre of Art’, “Warsaw International Festival of Contemporary Music”, “Nord Deutsche Rundfunk-Hamburg”, “The National Academy of letters” New Delhi”, “The Athens Festival”, “Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts”, “Frankfurt International Book Fair 2001” Istanbul International Book Fair 2004. He was Visiting Professor at the Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005 and 2006.
Among his other works, his collection of short stories, ‘On Iki Arti Bir Yalan’ (‘Δώδεκα και ένα ψέματα’) has been translated into French (‘Douze et un mensonges’), German (‘Zwölf und eine Lüge’) and English (‘Twelve and one lies’). The English translation was published twice in India. The Turkish translation, ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’ was published by İmge Kitabevi, Ankara in 2000. The short story ‘Yeni Azizler’ has also been published in Turkey, by İmge Öyküler (Ag-Ey 2005). His theatrical play ‘Irmikoglan’ (‘Ο Σιμιγδαλένιος’) has been translated into English (‘The Spiceman’) and into Turkish ‘Irmikoglan’ (Albatros Kitap 2005). ‘Irmikoglan’ has been staged at the Şehir Tiyatrolari in 2012-13.
His last theatrical play ‘hayirevet diyerek’ (‘οχιναιλέγοντας’), has been translated into English (‘noyessaying’). The circulation of his new book in Turkey is the main reason of our interview. It was my honor to meet him personally and I was very impressed with his huge, handmade libraries and his garden in his residence in Athens. I am proud of having such a creative, intellectual, productive friend, who works peacefully for the Turkish-Hellenic Cultural rapprochement and I’m looking forward to see his new Theatrical Play staged in Turkey. Thanking him for this interview.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: The words on preamble may not be enough to present yourself and there might be some exclusive rhetoric and theatrical words you want to introduce yourself to the enthusiastic readers?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: I am really impressed with your research and with the way you present me; you make me blush! Thank you. Since you invite me to add something about myself, I would say that I am also a carpenter; and this is not a joke, I really mean it! I do not know exactly why, but since my childhood, although I have been raised in Athens, in a very well educated family of scientists, the only preoccupation that gave me some relax after studying, was working with wood and creating my own personal objects (in the beginning small tables, footstools, and later, book shelves, libraries, my bed etc.) Even now I can’t -it is impossible for me- to live in a house where I have not created the furniture that I use, with my own hands. Everything here is handmade.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Of course the authors like all artists put their signatures and spirits on their works. Which of your book/play we can feel the inner self of Alexander Adamopoulos?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: In everyone; definitely! Look, due to family tradition I have studied Law and my career should have been something like that. I do not come from theatrical or literary milieu and I never imagined that I would earn my living from literature. Only the absolute necessity to express some inner truths pushed me to write. Everything I have written represents 100 % of my thoughts, my beliefs, my feelings; myself, finally. There is not a single line written by me, for commercial or other social reasons. That is why I am not in a great hurry to write new books and to publish them quickly. I prefer let them ripen a little bit, to be mature and to always be the product of an inner necessity that is imposed on me by my soul.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Though you have roots in Turkey and your aunt Mrs. Kosta Felek is the wife of famous Turkish journalist, columnist, sportsperson and writer Burhan Felek, I think you have not visited Turkey before?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Family stories, nice memories!.. My mother’s mother was from here. And of course I remember aunt Kosta very well and her husband also; uncle Burhan. I was a young lawyer, when they passed away in the early eighties. I couldn’t imagine that his memory would be so alive now and I was deeply moved by that. I had never visited Turkey before 2004, when I came for the first time here, to see a production of my play ‘Irmikoglan’. And then, four months later, to assist at a signature day, organized by IMGE Kitabevi at the Tüyap Kitap Fuari, for my book ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’.
H.Cigdem YORGACIOGLU: How did you meet with Herkul Milas and what do you think about the reason he wanted to make the translation of ‘Twelve and one lies’?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: We met at a social event and we had a very interesting conversation. He is a very nice person. I offered him my book in the hope that he would read it. In the beginning he said nothing; he didn’t even reply to thank me. But some months later he called me one morning and he very joyfully announced that he had finished the Turkish translation of the book! He adored it and this was his surprise to me and the best gift he gave me. I am grateful to him, because the publication of ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’ was a decisive step for me to know more of Turkey.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU : You were invited twice by the Western Languages Department of the Bogazici Universitesi, as a Visiting Professor in summer courses, concerning your works “Irmikoglan”[i] and next year “On Iki arti Bir Yalan”. How did the Bogazici University, Cevza Hanım find you?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: During the Tüyap Kitap Fuari 2004, I was invited to give a lecture (in English, because unfortunately I don’t speak Turkish) at the Bogazici Universitesi about my book: “Twelve and one lies; a simple approach to the truth”. It seems it was successful and everyone liked it. After that I had a long discussion with the audience, and then I had coffee with the Professors of the Department, and then I had dinner with them… And then I received the proposition to teach at a Summer Course. And I already knew that I had created many new friends, who are still my friends.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: And how were the feedbacks of your students?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: This is one of the best experiences of my whole life. First of all I had the great privilege of teaching my own work to my students. And then my Course -“The Play and the stage”– included both; theoretical teaching and theatrical practice. This gave me the opportunity to develop closer contact with my class. It was something new for them. They loved it, they were crazy about that: They were students and actors simultaneously. I have the best memories from these courses and I still have contact with many of my students. And, during those seminars, I also have received two of the best critiques for my books: One, for ‘Irmikoglan’, from the much respected Cevza Sevgen Hannim, and -next year- another, for ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’, from my dearest colleague Ozlem Ogut.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: How was the feeling and impressions of Greek people when your theatrical Play ‘Ο Σιμιγδαλένιος’ (‘Irmikoglan’) was first published and then staged in Greece?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: In the beginning it was something very peculiar, because no writer, or theatrologist, or critic, cared about classical forms of theater, even if it was really modern and had to say important things. But the audience and the readers had a different opinion! They liked the book so much and they started reading it avidly. The book is now in its 12th edition and -as a theatrical play- it has been produced in more than 75 different theatrical productions all over the country, breaking all records.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Are there common themes in your books ‘Twelve and one lies’ and ‘Lies again’?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Definitely yes. I would say it is one single book divided into two independent parts. ‘Lies again’ is the second part. I am very happy to announce you that ‘Lies again’ has been translated into German, (‘Noch mehr Lugen’) and will be published this year in Germany. I would like to see that published in Turkey also, since the only short story from ‘Lies again’, that has been published here, is the ‘Yeni Azizler’.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Some stories in ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’ sound like chapters from a philosophical bible and celestial motives capsulated with full wisdom. I can feel both Western and Eastern interference pattern in your work, under the Greek Timeless Spirit. How were the intellectual critiques in this regard?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Please permit me to quote just the beginning of a literary analysis that the author Margarita Karapanou had written, when she first read ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’: ‘This is a universal work that could have been written and can be read in any language. Under a false appearance of lightness it is indeed very profound.’ I could add nothing more. The fact that the book has friends in Western Europe, in Turkey and that it has been presented at the ‘Sahytia Academy’ in N. Delhi, I suppose is the best proof for what she has written.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: ‘Irmikoglan’ has been staged more that in 75 different productions, in Greece and abroad. It is being produced at the National Theater of Greece now, for the season 2015-16. How was the impressions and feedback you get pertaining ‘Irmikoglan’ that was staged on Oda Tiyatrosu, İstanbul, in the season 2012-13?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: This was a great honor for me and the coronation of my efforts to build a Cultural bridge between our two counties. I couldn’t even believe that I was sitting in a State Theater of Turkey, together with some Turkish friends of mine, and I was watching my play, that was very well received, by all the audience!
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Did you have a chance to attend the rehearsals here to meet the actors, exchange experience and was it a sincere and friendly atmosphere? How was the Premiere in Turkey after that?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Everything was perfect. Let’s not forget that we have quite a lot of common things in our behavior and a warm atmosphere can easily be created between us. Unfortunately I had not the time to attend the rehearsals. But before the Premiere and after that, I had the opportunity to discuss in the most friendly way with all the actors, with the stage director, the choreographer, the costume designer, the musicians and the Administrators of the Sehir Tiyatro. I understood very well how much they loved the play and they considered ‘Irmikoglan’ as a real part of their own repertoire. Unforgettable experience!
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: New Year 2016 creates an excellent opportunity to build another cultural bridge between Turkey and Greece, as your last book, ‘hayirevet diyerek’ which is also a theatrical play, has been translated into Turkish and it is now publish by Bencekitap. Can you give us a brief synopsis about the book?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: I think that the best synopsis of my work has been written by my friend, the author and stage director Tarik Gunersel. He succeeded in giving the whole atmosphere in a few words: “Aşk. Bu tek kelime ne dünyalar barındırır bünyesinde. Çağlar arası yapılar oluşturan bir şair ve yazar Alexandros Adamopoulos. Aynı zamanda mitoloji ile felsefe gibi alanlarda keyifle at koşturan, bize ilginç boyutlar sunan. “İrmikoğlan” adlı kalıplar ötesi piyesi dilimize kazandırılmış, İstanbul Şehir Tiyatrosu’nda ilgi çekmişti. Rengârenk bir piyes daha, hayırevet”. I wouldn’t like to add anything more now.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Though I haven’t fully analyzed ‘hayirevet diyerek’ yet, again I can feel the way you treat mystic, philosophical, esoteric and celestial love themes. Sometimes your works remind me mystic, sufi works of Celaleddin Rumi and Pau Coelho. Have you ever though ‘hayirevet diyerek’ staged by Genco Erkal, or Isil Kasapoglu? I think, that they will be the most suitable stage directors that would reflect on stage the inner spirit of your work.
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Thank you for the suggestions! It may be so; but as I told you I don’t speak Turkish; therefore I have no close contact with the present day theatrical reality in Turkey. On the other hand it is different to the cinema and I can say that when I saw, last year, ‘Winter Sleep’ by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, I felt an immense familiarity with him and with the way he treats his subjects. Of course I don’t know him, but I would like to meet him sometime.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Do you have straight communication with the interested person pertaining your works and plays or through your publishers?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: I always keep a close contact with my works and I want to have a straight communication with anyone interested in them. Of course, if a contract has to be signed, the publisher interferes and collaborates with me and me with him.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Your ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’ has been published twice in India and you have been invited, in 1998, to present it at the famous ‘Sahitya Academy’ in N. Delhi. Some parts of the book conjure up the image of mysticism in Rabindranath Tagore and the Ramayana Legend. What was the impression of your Indian colleagues?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: “…Why do you call them Lies? They are so true…” observed a reverent, very old poet. And we started a long, serious discussion that lasted for many hours. An unforgettable experience… A dialogue that could be done, only between two very ancient civilizations which are still alive; despite the materialism that prevails everywhere.
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Remembering my teardrops on cheeks in 2006, when I heard the impressive, touching story you experienced concerning the old Indian Professor V.Y. Kantak*, would you please share this touching unforgettable story with us?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: Professor V. Y. Kantak was a prominent personality in India, former president of the ‘Sahitya Academy’. He was the first renowned person who read ‘On Iki arti Bir Yalan’ in India. In his first letter he sent to me, he wrote that the book “deserves to be placed on a pedestal, somewhat like a sacred object”. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. But he continued: “You have evolved a verbal art-medium of your own, mingling elements of myth, symbol, parable and allegory -something of a unique achievement for which all men should be beholden to you- so that you could pin down reality in a handful of parables of a new genre.”
He wrote later some other articles about ‘Oni Iki arti Bir Yalan’ and he wrote the Introduction of the Indian edition. He did many things for the book, and I was so grateful to him. But unfortunately, I had never met him. He was too old and was living, retired, far from N. Delhi. I had no chance to speak with him; just to see him once. For two or three years we exchanged letters only. He analyzed ‘Lies again’ and he wrote an introduction for the English version of ‘Irmikoglan’ (‘The Spiceman’). He was my most important interlocutor I ever had but I hadn’t even seen his face! I thanked him again and again and once I wrote to him, asking him if he could send me one of his photos. One month later, a letter came from India, containing a handwritten page, with his old hand and the well known to me trembling writing. At the top of the page he had pinned the photo of his last passport… The last trip of the photo, the passport, the last trip of himself; from India to Greece… A metaphorical and very significant farewell… A little while later he passed away, without having met each other not even once…
H.Cigdem YORGANCIOGLU: Do you have new projects in the horizon?
Alexandros Adamopoulos: I always have new projects, but it is not necessary to speak about them now. For the moment I really care about ‘hayirevet diyerek’, the newborn and I would like to see it grow here and maybe find its way to a Turkish theater. I thank you very much for giving me the opportunity, with your interesting questions, to explain some things about it and to present myself. Do you know something? ‘hayirevet diyerek’ has not yet been performed in Greece and, as now my ‘Irmikoglan’ is being performed there, it is absolutely normal not to have another play of mine produced there, for some time. So, if a theatrical production is soon organized here, it will be the World Premiere… You see, the cultural bridge can also work in reverse, because real Art has no frontiers!
Athens, February 3, 2016
* V.Y. Kantak, Professor and head of the Department of English at M.S University of Baroda (1950 to 1972), was Fullbright Visiting Professor at the University of Richmont, U.S.A (1959-60), Professor of English at the University of Utah, U.S.A (1973) and professor of English Literature at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad (1973 to 1976). Assosiated with several reputed institutes and organizations to the discipline of Literature, he was also President, All India English Teachers’ Conference (1972) and Chairman English board, Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters), New Delhi (1978). Highly esteemed as a scholar-critic of rare caliber, Professor Kantak was a Delegate to the International Shakespeare Conference at Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K (1961,1968, and 1972) and represented India at the International Shakepeare Conference, Washington, U.S.A, (1976). He has published in prestigious international journals, including Shakespeare Survey, Western Humanities Review, Literary Criterion, Indian Literature. As a dedicated and stimulating academic, he as deservedly earned the gratitude of a whole generation of students of Literature in India. Areas of his current interest include the seminal role of Literature in the spiritual development of human beings.