Talking art with Dimitris Varvarigos

Dimitris Varvarigos
Roula Pollard: Dear Dimitris Varvarigos, you are a prolific writer with a rich literary body of work ranging from novels, poetry, theatrical plays, children's literature, poetry anthologies, two books about creative writing. When did you feel the need to express your thoughts in writing, and why? How did your childhood environment affect the way you write?

Dimitris Varvarigos: I was born with, perhaps, some inclination for language, because, from what I remember, I started to write since the age of puberty. As with many teenagers, anguish awakens once a teenager begins to know and explore life, religion, and love and begins to feel worried and concerned about the future and about life itself.

Roula Pollard
However, over time it turned out that this was not an incidental concern. On the contrary, the more I continued to write, the more this process captured me. As I grew up and knew the true side of life, I turned to myself and chose the lonely way of literature -- this beautiful and great vocation that gave me and still gives me mental euphoria and spiritual power, while I always respect this great art.

This tendency was naturally shaped by the environment I was living in. My parents were poor, my generation was worn out, ruined by the war -- but we always had books at home and we would read a lot, while once a month we would go to the theater. This love for art has deeply influenced my spirit, and upon growing up I naturally followed the path of writing.

Roula Pollard: You are one of the few Greek writers who lives exclusively from your books. How is this agonizing and at the same time a magical writing journey?

Dimitris Varvarigos: I was fortunate in the past years, before the crisis, to enjoy the financial benefits, the income, that literature brought me. Now things have changed, but we always hope, even if hope is the dreamers’ opium.

However, there is no greater magic than the great and unique journey offered by the creation of the written word. It is an inner spiritual journey that reaches the depths of the soul. Agonizing, yes, but it is worthwhile doing what I love so much. The truth will be shown through courage.

Roula Pollard: How do you choose the subject matter of your books? What social groups read your books?

Dimitris Varvarigos: Inspiration can come from a thousand occasions, from what we feel, experience, hear, and feel ... or even from a word, as happened with my two last books, Hypatia and Lipesanores*. But this inspiration is momentary -- as, to provide a literary work, one needs devotion and toil, otherwise the inspiration remains insubstantial, incorporeal. Knowledge and imagination have much to do with love. They are the mysterious creative factors that contribute to spiritual growth and cultivation. So, when the artist possesses at least these three elements (devotion, knowledge, and imagination), inspiration is alive and always present.

When I write, I do not think of winning over a social group. I simply create. I try as a writer to be objective towards the character of my heroes, to provide them with the rich emotional world that the reader will identify with. I find that this touches many readers regardless of social class.

* LIPESANORES: The women who abandon their husbands – a Homeric word.

Roula Pollard: Your books are mostly historical, which means that they require time for study. How long does it take for you to study your subject and finish a work of this kind?

Dimitris Varvarigos: Yes, history is a very important factor. You find aspects that will never be displayed or analyzed by classical education. Personally, I consider it a matter of honor to talk about historical personalities who, during their passage, made history, awakened the masses, and helped change the world for the better. Historical works need to be seriously studied so as not to deviate from real history. As a result, a serious work will take five years to complete -- as happened with the Hypatia and the Lipesanores.

Roula Pollard: You have written a monumental historical novel about the great Greek philosopher and astrologer Hypatia. This is a book that “achieved” 12 editions. Tell us about this novel. Do you consider it a landmark in the course of your writing?

Dimitris Varvarigos: Simply, I am lucky that I was the first Greek that brought it to light, in the form of a novel. This is a story that has been thoroughly silenced. Hypatia was one of the greatest female figures and taught everywhere she could -- mathematics, astronomy and the Platonic philosophy -- at university, in the library, in the streets. She taught me the ancient Greek idealism with its countless virtues. She was a great woman, a scientist who was ahead of her time. And for that reason – as it often happens to extraordinary charismatic persons, she was rejected, and killed. Roula Pollard: You wrote the theater play for Hypatia, which was performed in Athens theaters. What was the response of the audience and what are your plans for your future plays?

Dimitris Varvarigos: Ιt was a great show. The audience embraced it, and every performance was sold out. I shared the life and the works of this great Greek woman philosopher and astrologer, with the world. And this was a beautiful experience.

Roula Pollard: The Hypatia book was presented in Alexandria, Egypt. How honorable was this distinction for the heroine who lived in Alexandria, and for the writer?

Dimitris Varvarigos: I have written the book and lived with Hypatia for six whole years. And the book has been published and had twelve editions in two years. She re-lived in the minds of the people until Hypatia returned to the city where she lived and taught, in the city of Alexander the Great, the Alexandria of the poet Cavafy.

Summoned by the foundation of Greek culture, the book was presented in the library of Alexandria, in this temple of the world spirit. In the same place once again lived the entity that 16 centuries ago taught, and spreading the light of her knowledge.

When I was writing about the overwhelming story of Hypatia, I did not imagine what would follow in my own personal world.

Yes, I feel happy to have written this work and to share it with the world.

Roula Pollard: Apart from novels, what other type of books have you written? Why does poetry have such an important role in your work, and why you have dealt with the publication of poetry anthologies?

Dimitris Varvarigos: For me, personally, it is necessary to engage in different kinds of writing. Each one also conceals a great treasure which, the moment I discover it, makes me feel wealthier. Besides, the bet, every time, is to achieve this diversity. There is always an inherent risk. And perhaps it becomes bigger if someone is involved with a single genre, because it is possible to be repetitive without perceiving it.

Poetry is the apogee, the height of human expression. And this is confirmed by Nikephoros Vrettakos in one of his poems: "If you had not given me poetry, Lord, I would have nothing to live for."

Poetic anthologies possess a multidimensional speech, and this is the best thing about them.

Roula Pollard: After all, is one born an author? Or how does one become an author?

You must surely have the gift. But with knowledge and devotion, you will progress, evolve. Besides, every art has its own technique and secrets. It would be practical for all who want to follow the difficult, lonely, but beautiful path of writing, to attend seminars that will suggest some functional rules, at least within their texts.

Of course, these lessons are not the catalyst that will make you a writer, but they have a positive effect on the knowledge about literary writing. Nothing is lost. As I get older, I learn. When a cycle of creative writing meetings is completed, everyone says it was necessary to participate and follow it up, because, apart from the basic lessons, they learn a lot of details about the world of books.

Roula Pollard: How do you see Greek literature today? What about its future?

Dimitris Varvarigos; The level of education is quite high, so literature will certainly have a positive future.

Roula Pollard: What is your opinion about the new generation of writers?

Dimitris Varvarigos: I really believe in every new generation. There are always people who excel in every field. So, why wouldn’t there be good writers in the future?

Roula Polalrd: You have been the soul of the Petroupolis Educational Club for 15 years. Tell us what are its most important aspirations?

Dimitris Varvarigos: It is a cultural group that aims to serve and disseminate every form of art.

For my part – like all the rest – I try to follow the times so that the group is always in a positive situation, offering positive perspectives and constructive communications with the world.

Roula Pollard: You are a producer of a radio program in Australia at Symban World Radio. How does this broadcast help to inform the Greeks of Australia about the literary creativity in Greece?

Dimitris Varvarigos: It is very important that important voices from Greece are heard in Australia and around the world. It is a communication bridge that contributes to the cultural activities of Greece.

Roula Pollard: What are the next steps and your goals as a Greek writer? Are you interested in becoming known in the international literary world?

Dimitris Varvarigos: My hope is to have a clear mind and write until the last hour. We all hide some ambition within us, I do have a lot--and why not, I pursue it as far as possible!

As for the recognition, it stems from multifaceted and concise work. It comes on its own, when you least expect it, and justifies your efforts. It gives you self-confidence and helps you continue. I am grateful about what I have achieved.

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