Interview – greek writers in finland – 27.1.-2.2.

finland-66132634

Martti-Tapio Kuuskoski

Editor-in-chief of Nuori Voima, a literary-philosophical review, published at chronosmag.eu

Writers Christos Chrissopoulos and Vasilis Amanatidis are among five Greek writers presenting their work in Finland in a book-tour organised by the editor of the Nuori Voima review Martti-Tapio Kuuskoski who is explaining the rationale behind the project.

1. Can you give us some background information on the Greek project and the idea behind it?

I have been for six years editor-in-chief of Nuori Voima, the oldest Finnish cultural magazine, established in 1908, and now I am finishing this job. Every issue of Nuori Voima has a particular theme, and as I have a certain intellectual and sensuous relationship (philosophy, ancient myths, literature, food) with Greece, it’s great to finish my work with this issue. (The theme, of course, has been in my mind for a long time already.)

Instead of only having Finnish translations of Greek contemporary poetry in a literary magazine, my ambition was, and is, to get people that still take cultural things seriously to meet each other. European people from North and South would find connections, would have intellectual communication etc. for creating something new, which I think, is equivalent to giving life a meaning, be it personal or societal. In any case it is always cultural, and a way for cultural renewing and intellectual regeneration.

Because almost everything is about identity, and current era does not encourage at all any identity politics that goes against commercialisation and economic dominance, I see this enormously important. The time we live is very reactionary today.
2. What is known in Finland regarding contemporary Greece and what was the response when you announced the project?

The crucial reason for the Greece theme issue and for bringing Greek intellectuals to Finland, to create relationships, was that in Finland virtually nothing is known about contemporary Greek culture. In the sixties it was very different.

The Greek economic crisis has been, of course, largely in the news, and now, at the moment the elections. But the media has given a very narrow and limited picture even on this subject. Common people thinking in Finland is that those, who are to blame, are the Greeks in general, not the neo-liberalist politics in Europe, which is behind many economic problems we are now fighting against.

I think that it is not only Greece that is in crisis, but the whole Europe is. But many Finnish are so self-righteous that they cannot understand this. It’s easier to believe in a simplistic idea that it was the “lazy people in the South” that created the problem. This shows how one protects one’s own little world.

The response for my idea was actually not very well welcomed in Finland, if I think the financial support for the project. This was a real surprise for me. I thought there would be people in the boards of foundations that immediately see the importance of this project.

For a year I tried to get funding for this, but now I ended up in carrying out the project with minimum budget, and with voluntary people helping me.
3. Could you tell us a few things about yourself and your overall involvement in culture in Finland?

Six years I worked as chief editor of Nuori Voima. During this period I established also a bi-annual supplement for the magazine, Kritiikki, and this was because, in my opinion, quality literary criticism in printed media was going down.
In addition, few years ago, I established a street magazine called Iso Numero (“Big Number”). It was a protest against the plans in parliament to set a law against begging: it would have prohibited begging, if you do it for your living. Clearly a racist law.

Iso Numero is very alike to “Shedía” (Σχεδία) in Athens. I was editor-in-chief of this magazine also, but now the publisher kicked me out from that magazine. I do not know the real reason, but we live unreasonable times…
4. What is the program that will be organised in Finland with your writer-guests?
[Greek writers in Finland]

Within one week we will travel four cities. In Turku there are two events. The first one is in the bookstore, and is more discussion-oriented, and then in the evening there is a reading event in a bar, which often arranges e.g. open mic -poetry clubs. In Helsinki there are also two events, and the principle is about the same: always a discussion (the issues can vary), and then reading. The guests read their texts in original Greek, and Finnish colleagues read the translations.

Two other cities are Jyväskylä and Tampere. And in the first day we have a welcoming party in which also the Greece issue of Nuori Voima (5/2014) is released.

As I went to meet all writer guests to Thessaloniki and Athens last spring, it seems to me, that this event is a friends’ meeting from the very start. I am happy that I finally succeeded in doing it.

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ΧΡΟΝΟΣ 21 (01.2015)

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