Christos Ikonomou [Greece]

 

Bibliography

Kleine Sprachen – große Literaturen

Die Anthologie 2012

Kirchhof & Franke

Berlin, 2012

Warte nur, es passiert schon was

Erzählungen aus dem heutigen Griechenland

C. H. Beck

München, 2013

[Ü: Birgit Hildebrand]

Biography

Christos Ikonomou was born in 1970 in Athens and grew up in Crete. He works as a journalist – for the Athens daily newspaper »Ethnos«, among other media outlets – and as a translator and freelance author.

In 2011 his second volume of stories »Something Will Happen, You’ll See« earned him Greece’s prestigious Best Short-Story Collection State Award. This collection of 16 short stories has been translated into German under the title »Warte nur, es passiert schon was« (2013). In these »stories from today’s Greece«, Ikonomou depicts the fates of individuals to thereby expose the immediate effects of the economic depression. Celebrated by critics, his portrait of individuals and of an entire region was compared by the Italian newspaper »La Repubblica« to the literary cosmos of William Faulkner – rich in characters, unique and universal all at once. In this particular case, Ikonomou’s small world is Piraeus, the Athens waterfront area peppered with jetties, tavernas and tenement housing. Independent of whether he examines the individual existences from an authorial or personal perspective, Ikonomou depicts his figures with serenity and exaltation, in particular how they are able to overcome their daily routines and poverty, that »miserable poverty that silently gnaws away, slowly but surely, at dreams, vigor and life […] all people who live in order to work, who were born, live and die in order to work. For a paltry sum of money«, as he writes in the volume’s opening story. »They struggle not to back down, indeed to remain upstanding«, writes Ikonomou in reference to the attitude common to his characters by which they ultimately retain their dignity. In terms of style, Ikonomou’s sober and precise observations in his prose interlock with emotive imagery to distill their idiosyncratic, narrative effect and wrest a wondrous grace out of an excess of tristesse. In the volume’s very first story »Komm Elli, füttere das Schweinchen« (tr. Come, Elli, feed the piglet), the relentless and symbolically charged keynote is struck, which then reverberates through the following 15 episodes. At the beginning, as Elli, the protagonist, clings to a head of lettuce, to »the innermost heart of the lettuce, with these leaves that now tremble in her wet hand, it will always remain white and tender and alive, as if it were the only thing in the world that does not die, that will never die.« She is subsequently robbed of her piggy bank, to which she grumbles: »If we poor do such harm to us poor, what’s left for the rich to do to us.« Just like the dockworkers, pensioners and unemployed who populate Ikonomou’s arsenal of characters, she is hounded and scarred by existential fears. A text of Ikonomou’s prose appeared in German translation in the anthology »Kleine Sprachen – große Literaturen« (2012; tr. Small languages – great literature).

Ikonomou lives in Piraeus.