||Letters To The Editor
by David Solway
I appreciate Fred Reed’s response to my Karavis translations and commentaries in the October issue of BIC and take seriously his observations on certain aspects of the poet’s career and itinerary which I may not have fully accounted for. As Reed notes, Karavis is a mercurial and elusive figure whose biography will always remain to a large degree inaccessible.
Nevertheless, I must object to some of his contentions. Though Karavis has referred to himself somewhat facetiously as an “Aegean corsair” (private correspondence), I doubt very strongly that he is of Libyan pirate descent, as C.D. Candias argues, or that his ancestors were “tourkosporoi”. Indeed, his namesake grandfather is still renowned on Crete for the role he played in the struggle against the Ottoman overlord. There is no question here of collaboration. I have met Dr. Candias of the Arcadian Institute (N.B. not “Academy”, as Reed calls it) and—it pains me to say this—I suspect that he is engaged on a piratical expedition of his own to appropriate the Karavis phenomenon for rather obvious personal cum academic reasons. His scholarship, a tissue of minimal fact and maximal fancy, is far from being impartial and reliable.
Further, though Reed’s credentials as a translator of Greek and a Hellenic savant are impeccable, I think he has erred on several counts. If Karavis once supplemented his income as a smuggler of contraband cigarettes, the Syros prefecture would certainly have intervened in the most decisive manner, as it did on many other occasions. Nor do I see how Candias’ photographic reproductions of short Karavis poems scribbled on the back of Santé cigarette packages can be accepted as evidence, since Karavis’ “preferred brand” happens to be Karelia. I have never known him to smoke anything else, which goes as well for some of the more recondite substances on which Reed and Candias like to speculate. (It is true that he once sampled the notorious “mavri” but as he confessed to me in conversation, wearing his trademark grin, “the experience was redundant; you see, I discovered I was there already.”) In addition, the article in Levkos Pyrgos (April 1993) has been exposed by Constantine Makris as a canard and if Karavis was ever involved with the Macedonian siren Plaka Maskaneis, only the poet can say. And he’s not talking.
Finally, Candias’ claim, which Reed appears to countenance, that Karavis “appropriated” the work of sundry Canadian poets sojourning on Hydra is wholly ludicrous if not disingenuous. Karavis’ knowledge of English was never up to the exigencies of translation and in fact he has only recently begun to yaw about in the language, thanks to the ministrations of his Elladas interviewer, Anna Zoumi, with whom he now enjoys an intimate friendship. As above, I suspect that the ineffable Dr. Candias is busy confecting and perpetrating his own agenda, especially as Karavis has become a hot academic property. Candias’ motives are, in my estimation, starkly transparent.
I advise Fred Reed to adopt a modified version of Cato’s homiletic caveat: fear some Greeks bearing gifts. The works and days of Andreas Karavis will always remain at least partially obscure—the poet will see to that—but such obscurity is darkened rather than clarified by certain members of the critical and academic establishment whose intentions are often of a distressingly partisan and self-interested nature. The exception here is Dr. Constantine Makris, whom Reed cites only in passing. It is Makris, not Candias, we would be best advised to consult. The former’s work-in-progress, The Wild Emerald: The Poetry of Andreas Karavis, portions of which have been published in various Greek periodicals, promises to set the terms of our discourse on the poet, whereas Candias’ essay in Ionika Grammata, Reed’s primary source, will become part of the burgeoning apocrypha of Karavis scholarship.