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Archive for November 2nd, 2004

One more coincidence

For a while last year I kept seeing a Greek theatre actor named Dimitris Katalifos in various parts of Athens. I had recently seen him in an excellent production of Glengarry Glen Ross, playing the role of Shel Levene. He has also played the title role in Cavafy and has a part in the recent Scorcese production Brides.

One night I was waiting to use an ATM near my house and the person in front of me was taking his time. I remembered recently having been using an ATM to deposit some money and an impatient man came up behind me and asked, “Are you being served?” His question was so strange and rude that I merely turned and frowned at him a second before going back to what I had been doing.

Now that I was waiting to use the machine, I wondered what it would be like to speak rudely to somone and then be embarrassed when they turned out to be someone famous. Or rather, I imagined some impatient idiot being rude and then apologising to the famous person. For an instant, I idly let my imagination run with the idea, and I imagined that the person would turn around and turn out to be Dimitris Katalifos.

The man in front of me finished his transaction. When he turned around, it was Katalifos.

From behind he had seemed utterly nondescript, so if in fact he had reminded me of Katalifos, it could only have been unconscious. I later learnt that he lives a couple of blocks from that bank in my neighbourhood. Still, the timing was very odd, and I still feel I had no direct reason to have chosen him as an example of a famous person, except for the fact that I had been seeing him lately.


Three images of Katalifos doing Beckett

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(Coincidence)3

I recently read Oracle Night and I've been dipping into The Art of Hunger lately. Since I'm on a Paul Auster kick at the moment, I'll write about another coincidence. Or rather, a series of coincidences.

One day a couple of years ago, I was browsing around in the big Eleftheroudakis bookshop, near the English books. I was looking at Greek literature in translation, no more than glancing at the spines of the books. One of the ones that particularly caught my eye was Father Dancing by Nikos Papandreou. His father the long-time Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou taught at Harvard in the sixties and seventies, and his children were brought up in the States and Canada until his return to Greece in 1974. Father Dancing, I believe, was written in English first, and then translated by the author into Greek, a method which Panos Karnezis uses as well.


Nikos Papandreou

A moment later, as I was leaving, I saw two men come in, speaking English. One of them seemed very familiar to me. He spoke with an American accent. I thought at first he was some actor. Then I realised that it was none other than Nikos Papandreou. I went back and peeked at his author photo just to be sure.

At the time, a novel called Poor Margot had just been published by Soti Triantafyllou, who has also lived in the States and who translates from English and French. She had written Poor Margot in English but had decided to get someone else to translate it into Greek for her. I thought this was rather strange, and I wondered if she had published it in the US first. When I left Eleftheroudakis, I was walking along Akadimias and decided to pop into the Patakis bookshop to look at Poor Margot and see if it had been published in English first.


Soti Triantafyllou (This photo is marked, but it's the nicest one of her available.)

Certainly my train of thought had led from Papandreou to Triantafyllou, for obvious reasons. It turned out that it hadn't been published in English.

As I was leaving the bookshop, my caught a new book with Melina Mercouri on the cover, although the book wasn't exclusively about her.

I went next to a little cafe-bar on Solonos and opened up my notebook to do some writing. Within minutes, Soti Triantafyllou came in and asked to put up a little poster of Poor Margot on the wall with the other posters.

I had looked at two books, and shortly afterwards had seen the authors, in the space of an hour. It occurred to me that if Melina Mercouri were still alive, I'd probably see her somewhere too.


Melina

That night, I went to see The Man Who Wasn't There. A few minutes after I had sat down, who should come in and sit down in the row in front of me? Of course. Jules Dassin, director and husband of Melina Mercouri.

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