Greece Literature: the Generation of 1880

By | August 9, 2021

The poetic production of the last twenty years of the century. XIX is characterized by a lowering of tones, no longer high-sounding, and by themes that are no longer patriotic but inspired by everyday joys, home, simplicity. Literary periodicals proliferate, hosting on their pages the young generation of poetry, such as N. Kambás (1857-1931), thus satisfying the spiritual needs of both the public and artists. And finally, attention is channeled towards new poetic currents coming from abroad such as Parnassianism, followed, for example, by G. Drosìnis (1859-1951), and new studies such as ethography, encouraged by N. Polítis (1852-1921), make their appearance. This is also the era in which the linguistic question returns to the fore and the battle in favor of the demotic is carried on by illustrious exponents of culture such as I. Psicharis (1854-1929), who identifies a social problem in the linguistic problem: language and homeland are identified, therefore the victory of the demotic can only lead to the redemption of Hellenism. It must be said, however, that in the face of the seriousness of the problem many writers remain uncertain and a diglossia is still partly detectable. Such is the case of G. Viziinós (1849-96), who introduced the psychological story; A. Provelenghios (1850-1936); I. Polémis (1862-1924), poet with sentimental and melancholy tones; K. Kristállis (1868-94), strongly influenced by Valaorítis and the tradition of popular songs; A. Pállis (1851-1935), famous for a curious translation of Homer modernizing the ancient epic poem; A. Eftaliòtis (1849-1923) who, after having begun to write in katharéyusa, orientates himself on the positions of Psicharis. Prose also goes through a period of renewal, thanks to greater independence from Athenian Romanticism, and is enriched by the discoveries of ethography and the modern literary currents of realism and naturalism. The main representatives of this generation of prose writers are A. Moraitídis (1851-1929), M. Mitsakis (1868-1916), with novellas in demotic, and A. Papadiamándis (1851-1911) who, despite being part of the popular and religious tradition, uses only the katharéyusa for her numerous stories. But undoubtedly the most important figure of the “generation of 1880” is that of K. Palamâs (1859-1943) who, for his depth of inspiration and fidelity to the magisterium of art, is unanimously considered a pillar of the literature of modern Greece. His poems are full of echoes of popular tradition and do not escape the influences of Parnassianism and symbolism. His ideal of poetry is made up of a unit that encompasses all the main elements of the cultural tradition of Hellenism, from antiquity to the Heptanian school. With him the battle for the language ends with the undisputed triumph of the demotic as a national language with clear recognition by the new generations. Others are on the same line who, despite achieving artistic results of considerable level, do not have the stature of the great poet. He is K. Chatzòpulos (1868-1920), the most important representative of Greek symbolism and editor of the famous avant-garde periodical Techni; L. Porfíras (1879-1932), nostalgic and melancholic, with crespuscular tones; IN Gripáris (1872-1942), which blends elements of the Phanariot tradition with the new currents of symbolism and Parnassianism; M. Malakásis (1869-1943), with elegiac tones and a marked sense of the rhythm and melody of the verse; Z. Papantonìu (1877-1940), critic and author of children’s books; finally the last representatives of the heptanetic school, the aforementioned G. Markorás (1826-1911) and L. Mavilis (1860-1912). The prose of this period is characterized by a marked social interest; according to businesscarriers, the spread of socialist theories introduces in Greece the novels of the great Soviet writers, to which many Greek writers refer. Worth mentioning are: I. Kondilákis (1861-1920) who, influenced by Zola’s naturalism, wrote short stories inspired by the popular life of Crete; A. Karkavítsas (1866-1922), author of effective realistic sketches on the life of fishermen and dispossessed and their difficult struggle for survival; G. Vlachojannis (1868-1945); K. Theotokis (1872-1923) who, with great psychological subtlety and a certain realism of Verga, analyzes the rural life highlighting the most narrow-minded and petty aspects; G. Xenópulos (1867-1951), creator of the social novel and founder, together with K. Christomanos (1867-1911), of the modern theater; D. Vutirás (1872-1958); and, finally, D. Kokkinos (1884-1967), who contributed decisively to the creation of the bourgeois novel. After the example of Palamâs and after the victory of the demotic language, the new poetic generations find a very fertile ground and in a certain sense also a more or less consolidated artistic tradition. They can also take advantage of the cultural experiences gained outside in this period of fervent literary activity, attempting among other things to introduce learned elements into the Hellenic tradition. There are many people of great artistic stature whose fame has crossed borders. Think, for example, of N. Kazantzákis (1882-1957) or Á. Sikelianós (1884-1951) who, in the desire to create a synthesis between French poetic currents and learned elements of the national tradition, interprets the “Delphic idea”, aimed at restoring the role of a center of international culture to the city of Delphi. We also remember K. Várnalis (1884-1974), K. Uránis (1890-1953), Mirtiótissa (1881-1968), a poetess with a markedly sentimental inspiration, and R. Filiras (1889-1942). Totally singular personality is that of K. Kaváfis (1863-1933), poet not worthily appreciated by the public until after his death. One of the greats of the twentieth century, his epigrammatic lyrics with a narrative tone draw inspiration from ancient history or autobiographical events; also characteristic is the language used, a demotic mixed with Constantinopolitan dialectal words and classical expressions, all shaped in an anti-rhetorical manner.

Greece Literature - the Generation of 1880