The Enlightenment: Journal Note 1

Journal Note 1: Short, intense reading. I finished marking for this semester, today. I have so free reading time which used to be my moment for picking up a novel but instead, I have found myself reading shorter articles/essays and reading non-fiction. Though I don’t get the satisfaction of adding my reading to my Goodreads list (a weird but real grief), I do get the satisfaction of a complete read in a short amount of time.

This afternoon, I took the time to read Panajot Barka’s article on the Epirote centres of Voskopoja and Ioannina and their influence on the Enlightenment. This journal article was published earlier this year and was brought to my attention by my thesis supervisor as the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies journal is published out of the University of Technology Sydney.

I found the article absolutely fascinating, especially on its history of printing and publishing Hellenistic books across Europe, and on the establishment of secular education which furthered the liberation of Greeks and other Europeans from the Western Ottomans. My instant response was to turn this into a Me Me Me moment, when I read that Saint Cosmas of Etolislë was mentioned twice in the article, a saint who is deeply venerated by my mother and aunts. I have a strong memory of my father telling me that his great-great grandfather was catechised by Saint Kosmas o Aitolos (same dude) who studied at his brother’s school only a few villages away from my dad’s. Though Saint Cosmas is not the focus of this article, his inclusion here informs me further of his own position in the Epirote world and the ideals of the Enlightenment he was espousing. It has left me contemplating the knowledge and information impression that such a teacher may have had on my ancestors, especially on my dad who learnt to read at the psalter of his church, with his uncle – a regionally trained teacher, and his grandfather whose own grandfather was the one who received this catechism.

Having finished reading the article with only ten minutes to publish today’s post, I might just let my thoughts on this one settle before I discuss the actual article any further.

Barka, P. (2021). Voskopoja and Ioannina, two advanced centers of the European enlightenment in the Ottoman West. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal13(3), 68-80.

A public holiday moment

Earlier today, I had my coffee with my γλυκο του κουταλιου – vissino spoon sweets. So good.

2 coffees, timtams and spoon sweet, on a blue tablecloth with a Greek motif, orange and green verandah chairs. Columns and lattice.

Pony man biked past my house. He wasn’t playing any music today.

Older man on a bike, bare legs, pony reigns in hand outside of a dirty/mouldy blue building.

The dogs had their usual excited bark greetings as though to say “Hello weirdest big dog we’ve ever seen!”.

Dog peering through the columns and lattice to the road.

I am relieved when all is well in the Inner West.

💞

Writer’s Festival: Greek Note 3

I went to the Greek Australian Writers Festival today. I was late getting there and missed out on the first two sessions. I attended the rest of the sessions. There was a lot of discussion. I didn’t keep any notes and just listened/watched with attention. Here are some quick thoughts on each session, and I have cut and pasted part of the description of each from the program which is available in full here.

Session 3: In Children of the Revolution, Greek-Australian academics, writers, poets, artists and photographers re-imagine and re-interpret ideas of identity and place and what it means to be Greek in the diaspora. This publication introduces a diverse range of voices with new knowledge on the second and third generational diasporic experience.

I enjoy mixed panels and this one certainly was buzzing with differences of ideas. Panellist Dr Helen Vatsikopoulos (who I know from UTS) posed the question whether Greeks are now considered white or are they still “wogs” (for non-Australian readers, this is the derogatory term that Greeks have been called by Anglo Australians for many decades). Lots of conversation ensued about the reclamation of this term, about various experiences of racism across Sydney and Melbourne, the rural experience as well as the diaspora migrant in Greece experience of not fitting in, and though Greek acceptance as being “white” now might be fine, it should not disappear the terrible and often violent experiences the older members of our community had so many years earlier. I really look forward to this publication.

Session 4: Andrew Pippos’ debut novel Lucky’s was shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious awards: the Miles Franklin and the Prime Minister’s Literary Prize. He is a lecturer in creative writing at UTS. A former journalist, his essays and short stories have appeared in many publications. 

I read Lucky’s several months ago (Reading Note 43) so I was interested to hear the author talk about his book. He was interviewed by his thesis supervisor Tony Macris – both of whom are UTS staff though I have never met either. Theirs was a quiet and gentle talk about how they go about their writing, their influences as well as their pace of writing. I was taken by Tony Macris discussing how being Greek was deliberately not a part of his many decades of writing and his journalistic career, however he is now finally writing about his own heritage. I felt this statement as I am currently trying to pull together on my public libraries research and how my own Greek heritage may have influenced it.

Session 5: Costas Taktsis, one of Greece’s most important post-war writers, wrote his famous novel The Third Wedding largely in Australia. One of his closest friends was the Australian painter and gallerist Carl Plate.  This session was a Q and A with Carl’s daughter Cassi Plate.

This was such an interesting story for me. I have never heard of either Costas Taktsis, his book To Trito Stefani / το τρίτο στεφάνι or Carl Plate let alone their letter-writing friendship and Costas amazing life where Sydney was central to his experience. I was most taken that he considered himself to be Greek-Australian despite only living in Sydney for 7 years, and that Cassi Plate said that in Australian society where all the Anglo-Australians were desperately trying to get out of Australia to be over in Europe, Costas was desperately trying to return (which he never succeeded after being deported).

Session 6: This is the Sydney launch of The Stoning, biologist Peter Papathanasiou’s debut crime novel. A work of outback noir

I think this was my favourite session of the day. Papathanasiou spoke so convincingly and clearly of his writing, his routine (amaziningly he works full time, and has 3 children and said that his books get written after midnight!), and his adoption (his biological father was his adopted mother’s brother) and his connection to Greece. His Greece is like my Greece, not of islands and water but of mountains and forests. I found his approach to sensitivity readers was very sensible and not at all fussed. I don’t have the fortitude to read his gritty crime novel but I will definitely seek out his memoir about his adoption.

Session 7: Internationally renowned scientist Professor George Paxinos is an environmental activist and his eco-fiction debut novel explores the battle between humans and nature that threatens our planet’s survival. 

I missed the introduction to this session but hearing Professor Paxinos discuss the true danger of climate change, Australia’s disastrous approach to the earth, and the danger humans pose to the earth (well Hello Anthropocene!) over the next millennium was chilling. It was a sombre end to the festival for me.

It was an interesting day where I saw only a few people I knew. It was lovely to see a friend/mum I have known through my kids’ school who has published her own book (I bought it because Yay! to local writer success). I also saw an old friend whom I haven’t seen for nearly 15 years. We spoke for quite some time and it made me feel so warm for our old friendship.

To add to that, the event was held at Little Bay. Just over half an hour drive from my home. The last time I went to Little Bay was when, 12 years ago, I met a friend and we transported his double bed mattress, tied loosely and dangerously to my car, and drove it to Marrickville where I was living stopping every time the mattress started slipping off the roof racks. I had forgotten how stunningly beautiful Little Bay is. Being late also meant I missed the Welcome (or Acknowledgement?) of Country, so I really appreciated the speaker from the panel (I can’t remember who it was) who pointed out that though we were meeting to discuss Greek-Australian storytelling, the event was being held in a place which is home to the oldest continuing culture in the world, with over 60000 years of storytelling by the Dharawal people, putting into the shade the also proud Greek tradition of storytelling. That is such an amazing foundation to the day’s events. No wonder Costas Taktsis wanted to desperately return to Australia.

Another one from the phone archive

Another day of writing pieces that won’t end up on the blog. I feel like I am failing Blog June but I am also enjoying sharing my old photos that I didn’t share in the moment I took them. I took this one in Yass, the Australian town visited by the (new) Queer Eye stars for their Yass Queen! photo ops but they have nothing on my own Yass moment!

A photoshopped photo of me standing under a sign for Yass which I have added iliki too (Yassiliki)

From the phone archive

Too busy.

Here’s a photo taken on Broadway (Sydney) near the University of Technology’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology Building also known as the cheese grater. My favourite Sydney night building. Someone once told me that the binary code screen that encases the whole building actually spells out Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology in binary code. So cool!

An out of focus city lights at dusk photograph of Broadway near UTS FEIT (Engineering and Technology) building.

Dammit!

Another work day, another busy night. The first time in years I got to embrace the Greek in me and go visiting after 8.30pm …on a weeknight! I felt sooooo….Mediterranean. LOL.

Another photo from the phone archive. This was taken on a walk around my neighbourhood during lockdown last year. It made me laugh.

2 bins are placed in front of a door. There is a sign on the door writing "Do not block this garage door with bins".

Note: The sign on the door writes “”Do not block this garage door with bins”.

Writing time on the weekdays

Today, I’ve had an excellent writing (and marking) day however none of it is for the blog. I have two days of travel to faraway workshops from tomorrow so I won’t stay up to write a post.

Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of the Sydney skyline and the harbour taken from Birchgrove.

grey skies
skyscrapers
some old boat sheds painted in primary colours red green blue orange and yellow

Another travel day

I returned home from my mini-trip. It wasn’t a holiday. It was a workshop day in the Hunter Valley. Tomorrow is a work from home and then I have two more travel days. Here are two more photos from yesterday’s hotel. Their dining room is full of embroideries and samplers. They remind me of my mum and her family’s total obsession with framed stitched beauties. Quite the comfort.

The hotel was such a delight.

A dining room with two long tables, a mishmash of chairs and lounges, a large mirror and a wall of scattered framed embroideries.
A closer shot of some of the embroideries. A man panning gold, a windmill, yellow flowers, a mandolin player, a vague thingy I can't make out, another vague thingy, a river scene and a flamenco dancer.