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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 July 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 JULY 2018 25 OPINION Our sense of self derives from its presence within its natural environment. Charalambides may be an exile but so are we; dislocated from our topos, and exiled to the artificial realms of the cybersphere. Charalambides is a refugee from Famagusta. We are refugees from reality. We need an exile, to show us the way home. The very act of translating the work of one of the most renowned and celebrated living Cypriot poets, especially one who adheres so steadfastly to the Greek Cypriot linguistic register is an exacting one. While a replication of the undulating musicality of that register is almost impossible in English, Milides artfully approximates its cadences, variously through short, staccato-like verses that assail the reader, alternating with long, lyrical, mellifluous stanzas that wrap around the reader like a blood-ripe Cypriot sunset. The very title of the work presents a problem, owing to its polysemy. The word βασιλεύουσα in the original Greek title: Αμμόχωστος Βασιλεύουσα, is used in Greek to connote only one city, the city which is referred to as "THE CITY," without the need for further explanation: Constantinople, the enduring spiritual capital of the Greek people. It is a feminine participle, signifying a ‘reigning’. Other translators have thus rendered the title as Ammochostos, Regal Capital, a rendition that fails to embrace the way in which the poet is appropriating the singularity of Constantinople, and by inference, the importance of its fall, for his own city: Ammochostos. Milides' Famagusta Regina is thus inspired, not only because he has been able to provide symmetry, matching the Latin version of the city's name with a suitable Latinesque version of βασιλεύουσα, but by making Famagusta the queen’ of cities, he best aids the poet in his appropriation of the Great City’s emotive cultural legacy, thus emphasing the enormity of the catastrophe that befell it. Moreover, the word ‘regina’ also evokes memories of British rule over the island i.e. Victoria Regina and Elizabeth Regina, the British monarchs during whose reigns Cyprus was made a colony, and finally, granted independence, a subject that the poet will return to, time and time again. Finally, Milides, in his careful and thoughtful translation, has regard to the manner in which the poet constructs, or rather deconstructs, memory, form, place, name and reality itself: "Could ‘Famagusta,’ the name of a city, be fake?/ A contrived separation of space and land, of utopia?/ Time made of finely crafted sand/ as you gaze at her white breasts." The sands of time continue to run through and over Ammochostos, Queen of Cities. As they do, they bury her in the bile of countless more unresolved conflicts that have come after her, serving to desensitise an already distracted people to the plight of the victims of the Cyprus invasion. Thrust among the shifting sands of this maelstrom of modern existence, if it were not for Charalambides, it would be easy to submit to the oblivion of the quicksand. Yet he and his latest translator John Milides draw dignity and strength from futility, even as everything is destined to pass on: "And then,/ the immortal city,/ although tired,/ will fall into a swoon – a monster of the lake;/ that will suddenly reappear to allay silence, and engender a bitter little almond tree … Everything exists; both those lost and those present. Everything is blown away by the wind God." Here then, lies the final, fragrant victory of the victims over their oppressors: "A crowd of defenceless martyrs/ from within the rocks and torrents./ A soul with so many flowers around the line of the face/ blossoms sweetly on its mountains and their windows." (Baton). In the speaking of the poet’s words in various tongues, ably assisted by Milides (Glossolalia) with all its connotations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the catholicity of a message of peace and reconciliation, "the stars of the Heavens have been purified."(Free Field-Style Vase). An aspirational work of apokatastasis, John Milides' translation of Famagusta Regina is surely the panacea that is needed for healing in these most fractious of ages. * ‘Famagusta Regina’ is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing. See more at scholarly.info/book/628/ *’Famagusta Regina’ will be launched on 29 July at 3.00 pm at the Pontian Community of Melbourne and Victoria (345 Victoria St, Brunswick, VIC) by Dr Thanasis Spilias and Dean Kalimniou. Why, how and who should vote in Greek elections SOTIRIS HATZIMANOLIS TRANSLATED BY NIKOS FOTAKIS Now that the Greek Minister of Interior, Panagiotis Skourletis, commited to present a draft legislation to the Hellenic parliament regulating the voting rights of Greeks abroad, it is important to disperse some myths, deliberately nurtured in Greece, but also within the diaspora. Undoubtably, the majority of Greek political parties, but also the vast majority of Greek citizens, are against the suggestion that Greeks abroad should have the right to vote in Greek elections; all promises made so far have been nothing but a smokescreen. Their basic argument is that "Greeks living abroad cannot decide on the lives of people living in Greece." It is a viewpoint shared by almost the majority of Greeks abroad - or at least in Australia. Very few of our fellow community members actually want to vote in Greek elections. I have to admit, that I am part of this minority. I hear a lot of people saying: "why should our children and grandchildren have the right to vote? They have never been in Greece and have no idea what's going on there." I agree. But let's take things from the top. Greek citizens living outside of Greece have been asking for a way to exercise their constitutional right to vote in Greek national elections from their place of residence for more than 40 years. During that time, some – a small minority that can afford to – have flown to Greece at their own expense, while others have continuously been exploit- LETTER PHOTO: AAP/CROWDSPARK/NICOLAS KOUTSOKOSTAS ed by Greek political parties, which had been arranging for mass transport of voters from Australia to Greece, through Olympic Airways. We've lived this in Australia and we remember. Today, almost all EU countries offer their citizens the right to vote when they are abroad - as does Australia. Greece has yet to legislate on this matter, despite being written in the constitution. Nea Dimokratia was the only political party to present a draft bill to the Parliamentary Committee for Greeks Abroad in April 2009, only to have it rejected by the parliamentary majority of PASOK, reasoning that the bill did not address the demands of Greeks abroad for actual representation in parliament. Nobody says that all people of Greek background should have the right to vote; there should be certain prerequisites. The right to vote should be reserved for Greek citizens, holders of a Greek passport, who are permanently residing abroad – obviously, there should be a limit to the length of time of residency, as is provisioned by Australian legislation. At the same time, the fear expressed by many; that the myriads comprising the Greek diaspora could affect the outcome of the Greek elections, is completely unfounded. One should look no further than the Italian community in Australia: no more than 30,000 of them vote in the Italian elections. EU data show that out of the 10,013,084 registered voters in Greece, only 14,944 – i.e. 0.15 per cent of voters – were living in other EU countries during the 2014 Europarliament elections. That is 14,944 voters among the approximately 450,000 Greeks living in EU countries. There is not a chance that Greek voters residing in Australia would account for more than 20,000 people. As for the fear of affecting – or altering – the elections outcome, it depends on how these votes are counted – and this has to be clarified in advance. If the votes of the Greeks abroad is counted along those of people in Greece, then it is easy to understand how Greek political parties would accuse Greeks whenever the fate of a 'marginal' seat was determined by a few votes. This model – to allow Greeks abroad to vote in the electorate that they had been registered – is not what Greeks abroad wish for, because it is not a proper representation of their political will, and it does not ensure their own representation in the parliament. If we really want to achieve a model of substantial representation of the Greeks abroad in the Greek parliament, then we should separate these votes from the sum, creating special electorate divisions, according to place of residency (Europe, America, Africa, Asia, Oceania), each sending a number of MPs to parliament, as happens in France, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, and so on. In my view, the most important thing is to ensure that our voting rights allow us to maintain strong bonds with Greece - this is something that will be beneficial to the motherland. As for those afraid that Greeks abroad will end up being divided and fighting over Greek politics, this is also not a valid fear. Even now, without the right to vote, we are perfectly able to find reasons and ways to fight with each other! Congratulations to Neos Kosmos For endorsing the Uluru Statement from the Heart of the Nation GEORGE ZANGALIS Congratulations for taking such a prominent position within the Greek Australian community, in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart of the Nation, that is for Australia's indigenous people to have a voice of their own enshrined in the constitution. Hopefully, this will be followed up by many Greek Australian organisations, especially the communities, thus joining up with the growing popular demand that the Turnbull Government stops being an obstacle. It is also time for ethnic minority Australians – their media and community or- ganisations – now accounting for almost half of the nation's population, to have their voices heard for equality in representation in the nation's decision-making bodies, in citizenship, culture and language maintenance, and for multiculturalism to be cemented in law and included in the constitution of the most multicul- tural country in the world. Under such conditions, for instance, Greek Australians would not have to be told to take up the collection to keep half a chair of Greek at the Latrobe University in Melbourne, but would be entitled to a full one funded by the state as part of an integral part of the education budget.
14 July 2018
28 July 2018