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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 28 April 2018
24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 28 APRIL 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM DEAN KALIMNIOU Most nights I read to my daughters from a rather tattered and worse for wear storybook by Georgia Tarsouli, entitled Στης Μαμάς την Αγκαλιά. It has been in my custody ever since my primary school days and holds special significance for me, for it was the reason why, in my early years, I came to bear the soubriquet, of "bin scab." Στης Μαμάς την Αγκαλιά was the first Greek book I discovered in my school library. A remnant of enlightened government policy that saw a gamut of multilingual books purchased for students who would never read them, I was so astounded and thoroughly gratified that my Anglophone world would pay so great an homage to my Grecophone one, that I borrowed it and the few other books occupying the shelf next to it, repeatedly. One day, I arrived at the Greek section of the library, only to ascertain that it was no longer there. The surly librarian, even more purselipped than usual, refused to offer an explanation and I walked away despondent. I remained in that state all day, that is, until a friend informed me that an interesting array of colourful books had been discovered peeking out of the school dumpster. Without a moment to lose, I ran to the place of disposal, and without hesitation, launched myself within it, coming up for air, only after I had rescued Στης Μαμάς την Αγκαλιά, Τα γενέθλια της Μομόκο, and other childhood Greek language favourites from certain annihilation. So exhilarated was I with my act of ethnosoteric chivalry, that I was, in the beginning at least, oblivious to the rhythmic chant that began to emanate from the recently formed crowd of onlookers. Timid at first, preceded almost by a grace note of derision, it finally assailed my eardrums: "Bin scab! Bin scab! BIN SCAB!" I cared not. Instinctively, I was convinced that Greek was a sacred language and therefore, every book that contained it was a holy relic that must be protected from profanation and defilement. I bore my soubriquet with pride and though it was hurled at me often enough in the next few years, its wielders, seeing that it had absolutely no psychological effect upon me, ultimately desisted. Having nowhere now to satiate my thirst for Greek lit- On bin scabs and libraries Despite some attempts, we have failed to create the community library needed erature, my parents pointed me in the direction of my local municipal library. For the next two decades, I greedily devoured all the children’s books, then the works of literature by great Greek authors, then the historical and folkloric works and the religious texts un- til one day, I came to realise that well-loved favourites, such as Takis Lappas' series of books on the philhellenes in the Greek Revolution, were vanishing from the shelves, as were works of poetry. On a table, a few metres away, I spied a jumble of books with a piece of paper affixed to the wall above them bearing the stark word: ‘Sale’. There they all were: Cavafy's collected works, Thrasos Kastanakis' strange but compelling Hatzimanouil and a host of other tomes that had changed my life forever. Deeply discom- posed, I purchased them all, for less than $50. Thus apprised that my local corpus of Greek literature was endangered, I would periodically return to the library and buy up the remainder of an unwanted collection that would otherwise be destined for the municipal transfer station. These days, I no longer attend my local library. Its Greek collection has now dwindled to encompass only recipe books, translations of Mills and Boon romances, some lives of the saints and a few rather sad, dogeared women's magazines.
21 April 2018
5 May 2018