Nikos Dimou’s, On the Unhappiness of Being Greek, out in Italy.

Cover Castelvecchi

The Ersilia Literary Agency is very pleased to announce that Nikos Dimou’s, On the Unhappiness of Being Greek, has just come out in Italy under the title, L’infelicità di essere greci.

Nikos Dimou, L’infelicità di essere greci.
Brossura: 96 pagine
Editore: Castelvecchi (30 maggio 2012)
Collana: Etcetera
Lingua: Italiano
ISBN-10: 8876157085

Poem of the month: May

Lingua Maternalis


By Carol Ann Duffy

Girls, I was dead and down
in the Underworld, a shade,
a shadow of my former self, nowhen.
It was a place where language stopped,
a black full stop, a black hole
Where the words had to come to an end.
And end they did there,
last words,
famous or not.
It suited me down to the ground.

So imagine me there,
out of this world,
then picture my face in that place
of Eternal Repose,
in the one place you’d think a girl would be safe
from the kind of a man
who follows her round
writing poems,
hovers about
while she reads them,
calls her His Muse,
and once sulked for a night and a day
because she remarked on his weakness for abstract nouns.
Just picture my face
when I heard -
Ye Gods -
a familiar knock-knock at Death’s door.

Big O.
Larger than life.
With his lyre
and a poem to pitch, with me as the prize.

Things were different back then.
For the men, verse-wise,
Big O was the boy. Legendary.
The blurb on the back of his books claimed
that animals,
aardvark to zebra,
flocked to his side when he sang,
fish leapt in their shoals
at the sound of his voice,
even the mute, sullen stones at his feet
wept wee, silver tears.

Bollocks. (I’d done all the typing myself,
I should know.)
And given my time all over again,
rest assured that I’d rather speak for myself
than be Dearest, Beloved, Dark Lady, White Goddess etc., etc.

In fact girls, I’d rather be dead.

But the Gods are like publishers,
usually male,
and what you doubtless know of my tale
is the deal.

Orpheus strutted his stuff.

The bloodless ghosts were in tears.
Sisyphus sat on his rock for the first time in years.
Tantalus was permitted a couple of beers.
The woman in question could scarcely believe her ears.

Like it or not,
I must follow him back to our life -
Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife -
to be trapped in his images, metaphors, similes,
octaves and sextets, quatrains and couplets,
elegies, limericks, villanelles,
histories, myths…

He’d been told that he mustn’t look back
or turn round,
but walk steadily upwards,
myself right behind him,
out of the Underworld
into the upper air that for me was the past.
He’d been warned
that one look would lose me
for ever and ever.

So we walked, we walked.
Nobody talked.

Girls, forget what you’ve read.
It happened like this -
I did everything in my power
to make him look back.
What did I have to do, I said,
to make him see we were through?
I was dead. Deceased.
I was Resting in Peace. Passé. Late.
Past my sell-by date…
I stretched out my hand
to touch him once
on the back of the neck.
Please let me stay.
But already the light had saddened from purple to grey.

It was an uphill schlep
from death to life
and with every step
I willed him to turn.
I was thinking of filching the poem
out of his cloak,
when inspiration finally struck.
I stopped, thrilled.
He was a yard in front.
My voice shook when I spoke -
Orpheus, your poem’s a masterpiece.
I’d love to hear it again…

He was smiling modestly,
when he turned,
when he turned and he looked at me.

What else?
I noticed he hadn’t shaved.
I waved once and was gone.

The dead are so talented.
The living walk by the edge of a vast lake
near, the wise, drowned silence of the dead.


Image: Lingua Maternalis, The Moleskine Diaries by Evi Tsaknia. Copyright Evi Tsaknia.

In Praise of Book Fairs

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2010, Frankfurt book fair 2010

It is only during book fairs that the solitary nature of my profession comes into sharp focus. I do get daily reminders, of course –it is hard not to when you run a one-woman business from home- but during books fairs I get the chance to review it from a distance, to evaluate it against the wonderful backdrop of fellowship, comradeship and professional allegiance that I feel amongst my co-agents and fellow book professionals.

Book fairs can be tiresome and exhausting affairs. Yet, somehow, all the exhaustion dims in the light of companionship and mutual respect, this precious feeling of belonging and of being understood: “You, too? Oh my goodness, I feel exactly the same,” or “You don’t need to explain,” “Of course, it’s normal,” “I’ll help you,” “Congratulations, that’s wonderful,” or even better, “See you at the pub/party etc this evening.” It is not only refreshing and consoling it can also be therapeutic. If it weren’t for book fairs, I doubt I’d still be doing this job.

When things get tough, when the effort of navigating through uncharted waters (in this country, at least) gets a little too much for me, I know what to do. I start counting the days until the next book fair. And then, somehow, the tension disappears. It is not a trick; it’s reality. Book fairs are our only opportunity to come together; to help and inspire each other. The sooner we realise the importance of coming together, sharing and giving generously, the more fulfilling and less lonely our (professional) lives will be.

Photo courtesy of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Ersilia Literary Agency will be at the Thessaloniki Book Fair from May 24th to May 27th, 2012.