Letters from New York 1: Soti Triantafillou

Alphabet City Photo Soti Triantafillou

Return to Alphabet City

The February sun is setting in red and in orange. I’ve already got sick three times and recovered four. The city is blinking and the gardens look electric. Halcyon days went on until Mardi Gras; they are still going on. Early in the morning I’m standing at the bus stop on Avenue D, in front of the grim Edison Plant – chilly winds are blowing from the river. I’m back in Alphabet City, back after almost thirty years. I used to walk through gauntlets, the neighborhood was a shooting alley. Never was I afraid – cities are like dogs, when you’re frightened they attack you.

New York has always been good to me and I’ve been lucky.

For years, the days went by, ticking, and clock hands moved in circles. The nights raced like the horses I had seen at the rodeo of the prison in Huntsville. Sometimes things would happen, magnifying, zooming things: I flew by them on the crazy bird of my destiny. Now this wave of time carries me away: what will not happen now, it never will. At Tompkins park, in the old days, the homeless used to camp; I was looking for Doc Pomus’s Lonesome Avenue. I remember “Save the Robots” on Avenue B: it opened after two a.m. and the party went on till noon. I remember Earl Scruggs playing the three-fingered banjo at an Avenue A haunt -now demised; I remember Richard Hell playing with the Voidoids at an Avenue B haunt – now demised. I always thought Avenue D might be the Lonesome Avenue, I don’t know for sure.

The nights start late in Alphabet City and they end early: in the morning whiteness, the armies of darkness fade away – slothful Blacks sweep the night garbage at the corner of Avenue C and 5th street. I live at random, striding over a lost plot of land. I always said the world was a witch’s kettle and I’d fallen in it. I’m still saying it: the world is…

I have recurrent dreams of splendorous colors, fruit is floating in space – everything is illuminated. The time when the days were raw, the landscapes were blind seems far away; late at night I’m walking past Tiffany’s and the windows are shattered and the diamonds are falling onto the sidewalk.

I’m happy I’m out of the Huntsville prison and not in it, happy I’m not lying in a mortuary bed. I’m grateful I survived these thirty years, only I don’t know whom to thank. The clouds pass me by and I keep walking on this live, gilded Caesar’s map. The winter is long in these parts: the shadows darken and the winds roar, shining rains hit the bridges.

It was a wonder year and I was afraid that every moment of it would become a memory. The present flowed into the past before I could see the fragments, before I had a chance to leave – leaving is what I do best. I remember that I had no skin; I wandered amongst the ruins -in Alphabet City the dreams last longer than the night. Then, I left in my battered Chevy promising to come back in the spring. I didn’t. I didn’t come back in the spring. Nor did I stay anywhere in particular: I was celebrating the great black vacuum, the purposelessness of it all. I drove west and then I drove south. I remember meeting a drifter at a roadhouse and he said Let’s paint the town red – only there was no town to be painted red. We were night owls on blazing highways; we were born too late; all we’ve learned we’ve learned it from other people’s stories.

It was a wonder year that shone through dead mirrors. It was like Poe’s poem to Annabel Lee, like the most intoxicating cocktail of light. When I left, I was wondering – How am I going to pay for the motel rooms, whom am I going to call collect, who’s going to sit in the driver’s seat – now that I’m back, “Save the Robots” has closed down, Richard Hell is married and Earl Scruggs is too old to play the three-fingered banjo.

Soti Triantafillou. February 2012, New York City.

Photo: Soti Triantafillou

Soti Triantafillou is one of Greece’s most prolific and beloved writers. Born in Athens, Greece in 1957, she studied in Paris and New York and is the author of 24 books, all of them long-sellers. Her first novel, Saturday at the Edge of Town (1997), has attained cult status and has been hailed as the most important Greek novel of its generation. Her fourth novel, The Pencil Factory (2000), has become a publishing phenomenon in Greece and has been translated into German, Catalan and Turkish. An independent political debater, Soti Triantafillou has over the years built up a considerable reputation for herself as one of Greece’s cultural icons, famous for her outspoken views and critical stance towards Greek and international politics. Her autobiography, Time Again, published in 2009 and her latest novel, For the Love of Geometry (2011), have become national bestsellers.


Letters from Berlin 1: George Pavlopoulos

George Pavlopoulos photo

Somewhere in Berlin

A handful of coins in exchange for a conversation. All those voices that used to call nearby houses or distant countries have now familiarised themselves with other forms of communication. The mobile phone invasion has turned telephone booths into witnesses of a lost time. They are dotted around the city like extinguished lighthouses; reminders of a habit hurriedly cancelled by the laws of supply, not of demand.

The city itself will have to envisage their future now. Their presence depends on collective ingenuity. No one knows if these metallic boxes will continue to be in public view or if they will be registered as retro objects. For the time being they are in a state of transition: contemporary monuments of the metropolis dedicated to those old voices that helped build the world.

George Pavlopoulos. February 2012, Berlin. (transl. E. Avloniti.)

Photo: George Pavlopoulos.

George Pavlopoulos was born in Athens, Greece in 1980. He is the author of two novels: 300 Kelvin in the Afternoon, (2007) and Steam,(2011). An extended excerpt from his first novel was featured in New York based online translation venue, InTranslation. His short story, “Dictionary of an Insignificant City”, will be included in the Strange Fiction aus Berlin Anthology Vol. 1 (to be published in Berlin in March 2012). He currently lives in Berlin.

Κάπου στο Βερολίνο. 

Μια χούφτα νομίσματα με αντάλλαγμα την συνομιλία. Όλες εκείνες οι φωνές που καλούσαν σ’ ένα κοντινό σπίτι ή σε μια μακρινή χώρα έχουν εξοικιωθεί με άλλους τρόπους επικοινωνίας πια. Η επέλαση των κινητών τηλεφώνων έκανε τους θαλάμους να μοιάζουν με μάρτυρες μιας εποχής που χάθηκε. Στέκονται μέσα στην πόλη σαν σβησμένοι φάροι, θυμίζοντας μια συνήθεια που την ακύρωσαν εσπευσμένα οι νόμοι της προσφοράς αλλά όχι της ζήτησης.

Η ίδια η πόλη πρέπει να οραματιστεί τώρα το μέλλον τους. Η παρουσία τους εξαρτάται από τη συλλογική εφευρετικότητα. Κανείς δεν ξέρει αν θα υπάρξει διάθεση να παραμείνουν αυτά τα μεταλλικά κουτιά σε δημόσια θέα ή αν θα καταχωρηθούν στα ρετρό αντικείμενα. Για την ώρα, βρίσκονται σε μεταβατικό στάδιο: είναι σύγχρονα μνημεία των μεγαλουπόλεων αφιερωμένα σ’ εκείνες τις παλιές φωνές που βοήθησαν στο χτίσιμο του κόσμου.

Γιώργος Παυλόπουλος, Φεβρουάριος 2012, Βερολίνο.

Φωτογραφία: Γιώργος Παυλόπουλος.

O Γιώργος Παυλόπουλος γεννήθηκε στην Αθήνα το 1980. Το πρώτο του μυθιστόρημα, 300 Βαθμοί Κέλβιν το Απόγευμα, κυκλοφόρησε το 2007 απ’ τις Εκδόσεις Αλεξάνδρεια. Μέρος του βιβλίου δημοσιεύθηκε στην αμερικάνικη λογοτεχνική επιθεώρηση InTranslation. Το δεύτερο μυθιστόρημα του, Ατμός, κυκλοφόρησε απ’ τις Εκδόσεις Κέδρος τον Μάιο του 2011. Το διήγημά του, “Dictionary of an Insignificant City”, θα δημοσιευθεί στη λογοτεχνικό περιοδικό Strange Fiction aus Berlin Anthology Vol. 1 το Μάρτιο του 2012.


Poem of the Month: February

Θερινό Ηλιοστάσιο


Απομεσήμερο στην πόλη.

Οι πολυκατοικίες συζητούν σαν γυναίκες του κατηχητικού.

Οι γριές στραβώνουν τα μούτρα,

ρίχνουν μολότοφ σε λεωφορεία κι ασθενοφόρα.

Η πόλη βαριανασαίνει σαν ετοιμοθάνατος στο Λαϊκό

και κανείς δεν της παραστέκεται‑

μαλωμένο σόι μηχανάκια κι αστυνομικοί.


Σε έναν παράδρομο τώρα κάτι ξεψυχά.


Οι άνθρωποι βαρέθηκαν να παίζουν τα συγκρουόμενα

και κάθονται όπου βρουν, σαν μεγάλες πέτρες στο ποτάμι.

Κάθε ελπίδα εναγκαλισμού είναι μακριά, ένας θείος στην Αυστραλία

και η οδός αναπνοής κλειστή.

Όλα σκόνη, όλα κάτω απ’ τη σκόνη

κι ο αέρας ένα μαδημένο πούπουλο.


Μόνο οι βιτρίνες ευημερούν-


κάποτε μέσα τους περνούσαν φορτηγά και αδίστακτες παρθένες.

Δημήτρης Πέτρου. (Ποίημα από την ανέκδοτη συλλογή Μαύρο Γλυκό του Συκωτιού).