A few weeks ago the Times Literary Supplement published a letter about its abysmal coverage of modern Greek literature. The correspondent complained that they “rarely list Modern Greek poetry and prose.” I was not surprised that no other letters on this topic followed, since they would have been in vain.
I have been reading the TLS for half a century, and know well its low esteem for new writing in Greek. Furthermore, I have seen this esteem evaporate since Classics Editor Mary Beard and Editor Peter Stothard adopted their infamous anti-Hellenic policy some twenty years ago. Dame Mary assumes that nothing ever admired as Greek deserves its reputation while Sir Peter has declared that nothing of interest has been coming out of Greece. (I know, I have invited both of them to lecture on campus.)
There is a problem, of course. Greeks may be downgraded or ignored but Greece cannot be obliterated. What to do? Let non-Greeks write about it, as they have been doing anyway since at least the Grand Tour. A look at recent TLS issues confirms that this editorial policy remains firmly in place. Thus we find British (Lawrence Durrell, Patrick Leigh Fermor), American (A. E. Stallings), Turkish (Sevan Nisanyan), and other writers and scholars writing about their lives among the Greeks. This may be called the Mamma Mia! approach to Greece where the natives are silent and part of the decor while the foreign visitors are busy finding their selves and myths. Why should the TLS listen to today’s Greeks speak by reviewing new Greek-language books if it can empower others to speak on their behalf?
June 30, 2018