new zealand electronic poetry centre

Michael Harlow


prose

 

Introduction to Events, Greece 1967-1974

Originally published in Events, Greece 1967-1974 (Athens: Anglo-Hellenic Publishing, 1975): 7-8

One aim in compiling this anthology has been to present something of what it was like to live and write under the pall of the years 1967-1974. Through various voices and out of a wide range of experiences, the texts speak for themselves.

As an anthology it claims no definitiveness in either statement or selection. It is rather a gathering of writers who, for the most part, shared a common ground of experience in that their work was created under conditions calculated to stifle freedom of expression. The ground rules were set in the Colonel’s Greece, whose ultimate slogan, ‘Greece for Christian Greeks,’ betrayed in its severe austerity commitment to a mission propped up by fear, calculating blunder, and when necessary torture.

In a climate of fear and suspicion, public communication often became an exercise in the language of subterfuge, or the devising of linguistic mechanisms to gloss the distasteful, even distance guilt – a safer way to deal with ‘events’ or situations better left perhaps to silence or carefully guarded privacy. Platitude and euphemism became daily models; sloganeering, the art of the banal. A kind of iron silence prevailed, broken by the occasional manuscript published or broadcast abroad or the efforts of the local samizdat with its clandestine circulation of private texts. These provided one kind of resistance. But the efforts were perhaps too infrequent and too veiled to do more than assuage the moment. Even after 1970 when preventive censorship was officially ‘relaxed’, the fear of reprisal persisted; the risks were even greater since the definition of the forbidden became less clear.

And against the inanities of a national ideology drummed up by a gang of True Believers, the ‘language’ of resistance took various forms, often marginal and implicit. Certain postures of dress became examples of personal opposition. For many it was music – Theodorakis, or the Rembetika, songs from earlier days whose particular appeal for many lay in their implacably anti-authoritarian nature, the voices fiercely individual, bitter, irreverent, toned by ‘underworld’ associations. Common cause found a certain relief in the bitter or ironic jest, indirect allusion, a fragment of conversation, a phrase left hanging in the air. Fantasy, the surreal, and allegory became the first tentative voices as the Junta’s power broke.

Under such blunting conditions, sometimes felt to be slightly unreal or vaguely distant, the forms of survival are as various as they are committed. The texts in this anthology, many of which were written directly in English, represent just one collection of those voices and imaginations. I have attempted to minimise overt political statement; there is no paucity of such statement these days. Rather, the selections are as diverse and variably pitched as were the experiences – reaffirming a sense of self in reaction to the blunting of both spirit and the word.

1975


Michael Harlow
 


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Last updated 24 March, 2005