Alexander Papadiamantis

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Novelist, Poet (1851 – 1911)

He is one of Greece’s most highly respected and commemorated novelists of the modern era. He has been characterized as the “top of the tops” by Constantine Cavafy and as the “Saint of Greek letters” unanimously by the Greek literary world. Nobel-prize laureate Odysseus Elytis’ words “Commemorate Dionysius Solomos, commemorate Alexandros Papandiamantis” reflect the prestige of Alexander Papadiamantis, the “pure child of the Orthodox Church” as he called himself, and his massive influence on the Greek letters of the 19th and 20th century.

Alexander Papadiamantis was born in the island of Skiathos. He studied philology in the University of Athens, but did not complete his studies. Nevertheless, he was a highly spiritual figure with profound knowledge on the Ancient Greek writers and philosophers. He spent a big part of his life as monk in Mount Athos, had a small circle of friends and was a very religious and conservative man. He made his editorial debut in 1879 as a novelist, a translator and a journalist.

He wrote multiple novels and poems, starting with The Emigrant and The Merchant of the Nations. These followed with The Boundless Garden, Around the Lagoon, Christos Milionis and Love in the Snow. One of his most successful serial novels became The Gypsy Girl, a story centered on a gypsy girl and her love with Machtus, a gypsy man, set during the final days of the Byzantine Empire, as well as her conflict with Georgios Plethon – Gemistus, the chief representative of the continuation of Hellenism, who culminated the Byzantine world during its last years, playing a central role in the novel’s plot. Papadiamantis’ most widely known novella is The Murderess, a story of an elderly woman who kills young girls out of pity, believing that she will relieve the girls from their sorrow in society. Papadiamantis wrote over 100 short stories or “short masterpieces” as they came to be known. Some of the most notable ones include The Carrion, The Little Star, The Poor Saint, The Housemaid, The Seal’s Dirge, Dream on the Wave and Little House on the Meadow.

Papadiamantis’ works are characterized primarily by love for three things: nature, Christ and the Greek traditions and values. Since his death, they have occupied a special place among the Greek letters for their vivid ethographic character, religiosity, realism and psychography of the characters. Nobel-prize laureate Georgios Seferis considered him as perhaps the most important prose writer of modern Greek literature, together with Yiannis Makriyiannis. His bibliography ultimately influenced the succeeding novelists and poets to a significant degree. Today, his house in Skiathos is a museum.

Bibliography

  1. Αλέξανδρος Παπαδιαμάντης 1851 – 1911. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved on February 25, 2017.
  2. “Papadiamantis, Alexandros”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  3. The Father of Modern Greek Literature. Ellines.com. Web. Retrieved on February 25, 2017.
Alexander Papadiamantis