ARIS MARANGOPOULOS (in Greek spelled Maragkopoulos, b. Athens, 1948) is a Greek author, literary critic and translator. He studied History and Archeology at the University of Athens, History of Art and Archeology at the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne. He has published more than 20 books (novels, short stories, essays) thus far and is currently working as editor-in-chief in Topos books (Athens).
A.M. is a politically committed intellectual who has been writing literature since the early eighties. Some of his older novels deal with the utopian idea of communal love as a means of civil disobedience but those more recent deal with a contemporary social context, pictured through known historic facts of political disobedience against state impingement of civil rights.
His more widely read novels so far are: Obsession with Spring (2006-2009), The Slap-tree (2012) and his recent «French» novel Paul et Laura, tableau d’après nature (November 2016). Apart from their literary merits these stories have ignited a certain discussion and dispute in Greece as to the possible ways of narrating historic facts in literature.
Marangopoulos is considered an authority on James Joyce in Greece. He has written three books and many articles on the matter. His most important study, Ulysses, A reader's guide is principally an attempt to re-read James Joyce's Ulysses through affinities to its Homeric counterpart, the Odyssey. His Joycean studies have influenced his reading of Greek modern and contemporary prose: his critical writings over the years ask for a total re-mapping of the reception of literature in Greece.
He has translated into Greek, Irish writers such as Swift (Gulliver's Travels), Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Joyce (Giacomo Joyce, excerpts from Ulysses), as well as Henry James (Washington Square, The Wings of the Dove), Marguerite Duras (Moderato Cantabile), Honoré de Balzac (Sarrasine) and some French essayists.
His reviews on modern and contemporary literature appear regularly in the book supplements of major Greek newspapers. He has served for two consecutive terms as Executive Secretary of the Hellenic Authors' Society.
His novel Love, Gardens, Ingratitude has been translated into Serbian, his Obsession with Spring into Turkish, his short novel Nostalgic Clone into English and various texts and articles into English, French, Turkish and Serbian.
A complete bibliography and relevant links of A.M. you may find here: http://www.arisgrandman.com/bibliography--web.html
Samuel and Jeanne: a meeting
Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death. They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind.
James Joyce, Ulysses, II. “Nestor”.
Apart from the uncontested fact that the two following meetings, the first one with Samuel the other with Jeanne, have both taken place in Paris in a time distance of 30 years, there’s no other apparent connection between them.
I met Samuel in my twenties. I was then a post-graduate student à la Sorbonne and a distributor of commercial flyers in the boîtes aux lettres of every single residence in central Paris. Each afternoon, after I had finished my exhausting job I passed by an Irish pub near Saint-Martin’s canal for a refreshing Guinness. At the time I was already a fervent reader of Joyce’s Ulysses and so I expected to relish at this place something of the intense atmosphere of the “Cyclops” episode. I remember the exact month it all happened because those days at the university we were celebrating the one-year anniversary of our explosive May of 1968.
The tall man entered the place with big strides and met with a couple of French friends at the corner of the bar next to the place where I was also standing sipping my beer. As soon as I realized who the man was I tried and easily succeeded, thanks to the natural audacity of youth, to mingle with the company of the three men. When, after a drink or two I disclosed to them, not without some strain, my dream of writing some day a companion book to Ulysses for the Greek readers, one of them, an arrogant journalist at the time, a mediocre novelist today, was opposed ironically to the idea:
– A Ulysses companion book for Greece! he exclaimed. What for? he added and burst into a laughter letting out yellowish flecks of lager froth.
Meaningless his reaction as it was it made me however feel terribly embarrassed, my young cheeks blushing with anger, my Greek mouth unable to utter a persuasive counter argument in French. And then happened what I can (and will) never forget. The sixty years old man of Samuel who till then was drinking slowly his beer, turned to the French guy and said as bluntly as Zeus addressing a noisy crowd up from mount Olympus:
– Alors Pierre, to a lot of Greeks like you the book will be very helpful, don’t you think?
– Comme moi…? What do you mean like me? Asked the French journalist who at once had lost all his humour.
– Readers, who comme toi, don’t understand a mot d’Ulysse, explained Samuel as detachedly as a judge in front of a petty thief – making me suddenly feel like Stephen Dedalus defended by Leopold Bloom in the “Circe” episode.
Thirty years after that incident I had a chance to meet another well known and very popular person, a cinema diva.
On 25 March 1999 the Paris-Match magazine was celebrating its fifty years. The concept for the anniversary issue demanded that a hundred celebrities of France (whose icon image had supposedly stamped the popular news of this half-century), be photographed together in a single pose that would cover a two-page central spread of the magazine. Personalities varying from Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo to Giscard d'Estaing, Claudia Schiffer and Bernard Pivot were to appear together in that VIP image.
That March I happened to be in Paris again, this time for professional reasons. An old friend of mine, a photographer of the team that would shoot the spectacular photo invited me to a backstage view of the preparations for it. The idea of watching a congregation of so many well-known celebrities intrigued me a lot and I eagerly accepted the invitation.
The shooting took place in a vast studio where 100 armchairs had been placed in an order that only the managers of the magazine were familiar with. When we arrived most of the VIPS were standing at the back of the sitting place talking to each other as if in a cocktail party.
And all of a sudden I show her. She was standing against the wall in some distance from the armchairs and the other people as if she wanted to remain for a while unnoticed. I approached timidly as I was no longer the student of May ’69 and, forgetting to be introduced, I launched myself hastingly into a complicated speech by which I dared to suggest that she very possibly did not feel very comfortably that day in that particular event.
She turned slowly at me with her wet eyes and intense cheekbones and smiling effortlessly with her fleshy lips said:
– Well, my friend, it’s quite obvious I am not very happy here. I am bored. But it’s too obvious. Do not flatter yourself of a great discovery...
After which she fixed her eyes upon me. I did not utter a word only I kept staring at her as a boy who in some epiphany realizes the abyss of time. Because from the very moment she had began to talk I felt that she was a very tired person, still charming but tired, she had passed at the time the 70th year of her age.
Then, for some reason I still cannot fully explain, it was the diva who spoke again:
– But why, you might have asked, why have I accepted to come here? The answer is simple: because I have not died yet. Because I've lived all my life in this ménagerie. Now I find it terribly exhausting to escape from it. She stressed these words with the resignation gesture of a grande dame in a 19th century literary salon.
After a while we sat far from the noisy crowd on an Empire couch, probably a relic of some other shooting. Nobody approached, nobody bothered us. We felt quite comfortably together. Brother and sister. Ex-lovers. Old friends. We talked about cinema, about her movies. She smiled gaily –and sometimes mockingly– as I repeated one after the other my favorite films, Jules et Jim, Moderato Cantabile, Diary of a Chambermaid etc. She had played those magnificent roles, I had watched her performing the roles again and again, she was sitting now in the company of an unknown man extremely serene, her eyes fleeing, almost piercing the surrounding walls, we were happy – or so I felt at the moment.
Post Scriptum: In October 1969 Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1969, A. M., author of this short story, was 21 years old. In 1999 he was 51. In 1999 Jeanne Moreau was still active in movies. The author is now at the same age as Jeanne Moreau in 1999. These are the uncontested facts. Everything else, fair or foul, draws its validity from the sphere of the infinite possibilities of fiction in History. Weave, weaver of the wind.