23.3.2011

Διεθνή, Κοινωνία

“Not even my Name”, by Thea Halo

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“Not even my Name”, by Thea Halo

When I was asked to review Thea Halo’s book “Not even my Name” I was taken by surprise. After many years of being a scholar and educator and reading different literary books there are no longer more surprises. And yet they do exist… surprises. Thea Halo’s work is just such a surprise…

But where to start? An ideal starting point would be in asking what did Thea Halo create. Did she write a novel, novella or a poem? What is this literary work? What is it we read, fiction or non-fiction, which includes autobiography and memoirs?

Thinking of literature as disciplinary and writerly practices leads to consider a bridge practice interpretation and literary criticism of literary texts. Interpretation typically involves such activities as personal response, appreciation, evaluation, historical and philosophical reception, explanation and critique. In fact, in choosing a term or terms to characterize the encounter between the text and the reader one takes a specific theoretical position regarding the exact nature of reading and interpretation. This indicates the unity of literature, history, sociology, psychology, philosophy: one of the effects of powerful narrative is to engage the reader in a story arousing emotions and other responses in a process of unfolding philosophy, psychology, history and est. of plot. This suggests that the aesthetic quality of literature is indispensable to its identity, whereas with philosophy it is the intellectual quality of ideas propounded that is as well very important. This was exactly my surprise when I started reading the book.

We cannot form an articulate vision of our own moral, educational, and political values without some knowledge of where those values come from, the struggles in which they were forged, and the historical contexts which generated those struggles. To know and read the myths, Bible, Plato, Greek tragedy, and Theo Halo book is to study the sources of the conflicts and cultural tendencies which inform our present world.

The “Not Even My Name” is a remarkable synthesis of interdisciplinary material, ranging from Comparative History (focused on Turkey, Greece, great Powers in post World War I period) to Political Science and Literature. The author instead of plunging into the actual events connected with the World War I presents a general view of the historical background which created the Genocide of Greeks, Armenians and other Christians.

May 19 has been recognized by the Greek parliament as the day of remembrance of the Pontian Greek Genocide by the Turks. There are various estimates of the toll. Records kept mainly by priests show a minimum 350,000 Pontian Greeks exterminated through systematic slaughter by Turkish troops and Kurdish para-militaries. Other estimates, including those of foreign missionaries, spoke of 500,000 deaths, most through deportation and forced marches into the Anatolian desert interior. Prosperous Greek cities like Bafra, Samsous, Kerasous, and Trapezous, at the heart of Pontian Hellenism on the coast of the Black Sea, endured recurring massacres and deportations that eventually destroyed their Greek population. Thea Halo book is historical and is indeed an exceptionally interesting text with its focal point on Genocide of Pontos Greeks. The author approaches history of Pontos in 1920s by concentrating on the landmarks of the Greek People’s resistance to unjustly centralised Turkish power. This book although refers to the history of the last century remains timely. Its basic themes –on the whole the question of democratic principles and Genocide- remain open to argument.

In the pages of this book there is also a remarkable variety of characters as well as description of the events of the time.

Reading “Not Even My Name“, we can assert that we read in order to strengthen the self- to better understand and build up our sense of our individuality. All the personalities in the book are timeless portraits of men and women. In some respect, reading this book what matters most is who you are, since we cannot avoid bringing ourselves to the act of reading. Because most of us bring definite expectations, a difference enters with the Theo Halo mother’s biography, where we think to encounter, if not our friends and ourselves, then a recognizable social reality, whether contemporary or historical.

Perhaps the most interesting example is Theo Halo clearly reveals her method of using literature to shed light on historical phenomena-in this case on the history of Pontos Greeks and Smyrna catastrophe. It is true of literature, which has been defined in terms of its ability to represent reality, be logical, express its author’s inner being, or teach morality, have power of beauty, or cleanse readers’ emotions, to name only a few common formulations. In the ordinary understanding, literature represents life: it holds up, as it were, a mirror to nature to life and is therefore “mimetic”. The expressive theory of literature, which regards literature stemming from the author’s inner being, depends on a concept of mirroring.

Another element likely to attract the reading public is that author presents her material in a rarely vivid way. Her book is never pedantic and never dull. On the contrary, apart from its fresh style, an occasional unexpected touch of humour comes to the surface when the author comments change in the world of Turkish rule.

Her contribution by way of a biography of her mother’s struggle during the Genocide is invaluable for the Greeks, and thus her popularity amongst refugee Greeks worldwide is enormous.

Φωτό: Στιγμιότυπο από τη λιτή τελετή της 11ης Ιουνίου 2009, στο Γενικό Προξενείο της Ελλάδος στη Νέα Υόρκη, όπου ορκίστηκαν από την Γενική Πρόξενο Αγη Μπαλτά ως Ελληνίδες υπήκοοι η «γιαγιά του Πόντου» Ευθυμία – Σανό Χάλο και η κόρη της, συγγραφέας, Θία Χάλο. Πηγή: Dimitris Panagos (www.panagos.com).

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Γράφει η Susie Michailidis

Susie MichailidisΗ Susie Michailidis, PhD είναι Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Καθηγήτρια στο University of Indianapolis Athens, Αντιπρόεδρος Euro-Mediterranean Academy of Arts and Sciences, μέλος της Ακαδημίας Επιστημών της Γεωργίας και της Ακαδημίας Φυσικής Ιστορίας της Ρωσίας.

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