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Πέμπτη, 17 Μαΐου 2007

NICOS NICOLAIDES ΤHE CYPRIOT: A BOHEMIAN ACHANGEL

Nicos Nicolaides was born the son of poor parents in Nicosia, Cyprus, on the 3rd of April 1884. A sister, Maria, followed him two years later. He was only six or seven when their parents died, one after another. Their maternal aunt took charge of the two children. She too was not well off. When Nicos reached the fourth grade in the local primary school, he left to take a job in a bookbindery. But when the bookbinder dismissed him for spending more time on reading the books than binding them, he took refuge with an icon-painter. Once he had learnt the craft, his reputation spread throughout Cyprus as a professional painter of icons. Some paintings he did about that time, dating to 1904, still survive in the villages of the Pitsillia region. In 1907 Nicolaides left Cyprus for Athens. In his lagauge he took with him his first literary exercises (in poetry and prose) written in the formal katharevousa Greek. Several of them were to appear in the following year in the Athenian publication A.O.D.O. Apo Ola dia Olous (In all Genders for all readers). While in Athens he studied for six months at the Fine Arts Department of the Athens Polytechnic. At the same time he started writing To Galazio Louloudi (The Blue flower) under the influence of Maurice Maeterlinck and the Symbolist Movement, then spreading among contemporary dramatists. Nicolaides was able to extend his experience of theater (he had already had an introduction through attending performances given in Cyprus by visiting Athenian companies) when he became acquainted with Christomanos and theatrical circles in Athens. A few years later he would be lecturing on Ibsen. It should perhaps be noted here that the art of theater became for him a third career (literature being his prime interest and painting second), in which he engaged at various times throughout his life in various capacities-as author, researcher, producer, scene-painter, actor and even, on at least one occasion, accompanist! In July 1908 Nicolaides left Athens for Alexandria, and subsequently Cairo. Up to 1915 he kept moving between Athens and Alexandria and Cairo with frequent trips else where to the Kingdoom of Greece (e.g. Volos and other places), Continental Europe, and the Middle East. In 1914 in Syria he experienced internments by the Turks. Travel, changes of scene, perpetual restlessness in quest of new experiences were typical of him not only at this period but also practically all his life. He traveled on foot through nearly all the countries of Europe and a good many in the Middle East, and also North Africa. He normally slept in lodging-houses provided for vagrants, he ate food which had been discarded by restaurants as unusable or unfit to offer to paying clients. It was a Bohemian way of life, which undermined his health and was to cause him severe problems from time to time. His only income came from the sale of paintings, which he executed upon any kind of wooden panel that came to hand. Meanwhile he was working on the composition of short stories and lyric prose. In those two genres he rapidly developed a distinctive personal style which established his reputation in the literary circles in Egypt and Athens. The years 1915-19 were spend in Athens where Nicolaides mixed with a number of other writers, particularly with the young men of his age group: Nicos Kanzantzakis, Kostas Varnalis, M. Avgeris, Takis Papatsonis, Kostas Karyotakis, Tellos Agras, Cleon Paraschos. Nausica Palamas- daughter of Kostis Palamas. Later on he would dedicate some of his works to them, as also to Eva Sikelianos. Gradually Nicolaides established himself in literary circles and become recognized as a first-rate prose writer of the younger generation. Many in fact saw him as the leading one. A number of contemporary periodicals sought contributions from him. Certain of his short stories made great impressions. O Skelethras (The Skeleton), To mystiko (The Secret ), I koukla (The doll ), Oi Iperetes (The Servants), and Metathanato (After death). Vlasis Gavrielides hailed him in his paper Akropolis as 'this outstanding prose writer'. But while appreciation of his work was at its height and he was at the peak of his literary fame, Nicolaides suddenly left Athens in May 1919. He took up residence for the next four years in his homeland of Cyprus. His plan was to publish there the new works he had ready, and to promote the island's cultural life, making it a 'land of the muses". Such at least is the testimony of a young compatriot, Glafkos Alithersis who had returned to Cyprus before him and was preparing the ground for his teacher by spreading publicity in his Limasol newspaper Aletheia (Truth). As soon as Nicolaides set foot again in Cyprus he started work to translate his vision into actuality. He immediately published "The Blue flower" in Nicosia. But he found the then sterile intellectual climate in Nicosia discouraging. He spend a few months in Stavrovouni Monastery, then moved on after some hesitation to Lemasol. There he was welcomed by a band of enthusiastic young friends, constituting the necessary dynamic for socio-political initiatives and the necessary eagerness to campaign on behalf of art and good writing. Among them were: Emilios Hourmouzios, Yiannis Lefkis, Yiangos Eliadis, Christodoulos Christodoulidis, Antonis Indianos, Dimitrios Demitriadis, the brothers Banos andGeorge Fasouliotis and others. (Glafkos Alithersis had meanwhile left for Alexandria). Whilst the impact and contribution of the rest must not be underestimated, it was Nicolaides' presence in lemasol which stimulated a flowering of intellectual life and creativity in Lemasol and Cyprus. Within three years, Nicolaides published three books (one volume of lyric prose, one of short stories, and a novel- to Stravoxylo (The Peevish Fellow ), he staged two tragedies with girl students of the school where he taught painting, he produced ' tableaux vivants' with remarkable success, he put on an exhibition of his own paintings (possibly the first such event in Cyprus), he gave private painting lessons, and he undertook the artistic side of various events (such as flower festivals). Most important of all for Cyprus was the launching in 1924 in Lemasol (after he had left again) of the island's first genuine literary periodical. This was Avge; the nucleus of the contributions to which was provited by the group of young people already mentioned above, and from Egypt by Nicolaides and Alithersis. It was in 1923 that Nicolaides returned to Alexandria. He had been greatly disappointed with the vary limited impact which his books had in Cyprus. In Alexandria he produced, painted the scenery and provided music for a performance of his play 'The Blue Flower'. Around 1924 he finally settled in Cairo, which became his home for the rest of his life. But he still undertook excursions from there, more frequent when his means allowed and his health permitted, less frequent as he grew older, until they whittled down to brief trips in order to satisfy his persistent and devouring Odyssean zest for change and travel. In Cairo he lived in the poor Arab quarters, where he associated with the lowest strata of the indigenous population. His intellectual and creative needs he satisfied both through his many faceted work and though the society of a significant group of people drawn from the local Greek Community, which used to meet on the premises of the sponge- vendor and well known socialist Sakellaris Yiannikakis. Besides Yiannakakis himself and the lawyer Yiannis Lachovaris, the company consisted of young graduates of Cairo's Ambetion Collage with a strong artistic bent and interested in the pursuit of social justice and direct political action. They included Stratis Tsirkas, Theodosis Pierides, George Philippou-Pierides, George Demos, Lambis Rappas, Stavros Karakasis and others. Some of these were to go on to achieve a pan-Hellenic reputation. Nicolaide's literary and artistic workshop gave a significant impetus to this evolution. Meanwhile, as regards Nicolaide's relationships and contacts with the 'cultural elite' in Alexandria, these were slight with Kavafis and his circle, but much closer with Timos Malakos, Maria Roussia, Alithersis- already mentioned as Nocolaide's collaborator during his 1919-23 stay in Cyprus- and others. Contacts of every kind with his homeland continued undiminished: he visited Cyprus at intervals, contributed to Kypriaka Grammata (The Cypriot literary journal) published in Nicosia, corresponded with friends on the island, and provided financial assistance to his sister and her two daughters (one of whom he enabled to study at Harokopeion Collage in Athens). Nicolaides' activity in Cairo was highly creative-despite his withdrawal from 'society'-and extended in various directions. By dint of hard labour and stringent economies, he managed to publish several works in Alexandria (two volumes of short stories) and in Cairo (three volumes of lyric prose and two novels). He produced theatrical pieces in the Cairo Opera House and elsewhere and amateur companies drawn from the Greek Community. He painted, he gave painting lessons, and exhibited in art exhibitions in Alexandria and Cairo. He designed pavilions for the Gezira Exhibition Grounds at Cairo. He sketched the famous Tower of Tsanaklis in the Egyptian desert. He participated actively in Peace Movement rallies and other events in the Greek Community (in favour of democracy in Greece and independence for Cyprus). He took a leading part in various artistic and other endeavors within the Greek Community. With Athens he barely kept in touch. He did not distribute his books there, and as a result was more or less forgotten, though now and again remembered by a few friends, a few admirers. Nocolaides died in Cairo on 24th February 1956 at the end of a serious illness.

All information was taken from the book: Nicos Nikolaides The Cypriot
By Deyes, Margaret- Put on the internet by NOCTOC

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