“Either of the Height or of the Depth”: Nanos Valaoritis’ De-stereotyping of the “Greeks” in the Time of Crisis


  • Vassiliki Rapti Harvard University


If there is anyone who has consistently de-stereotyped Greek culture, de-mythologized, de-constructed and ultimately reconstructed its imaginative potential, that person is Nanos Valaoritis who has now been turned into a cosmopolitan “cultural phenomenon.” Always “present” in the Greek scene no matter where he lived (Paris, London, Geneva, Oakland, California or Athens and Nydri), the 96-year old avant-garde Nanos Valaoritis, like a “gadfly,” kept paving the way for new ways of seeing and radical perceptions of the self, especially as dictated by his desire to re-examine the Ancients. Amidst the current crisis, Valaoritis indeed not only is “present” as a public persona, but he also has initiated long debates about the causes and effects of the crisis, especially since his open letter to the Greek Prime Minister Mr. Antonis Samaras, dated April 30, 2013, where he warned him about the dangerous effects of the increasingly appealing Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Moreover, four new books of his came out of the Greek crisis from 2010 to the present: Χρίσματα (2011), Ουρανός χρώμα βανίλιας (2011), Το Πικρό καρναβάλι (2013) and Ή του ύψους ή του βάθους: Πρόσφατα άρθρα γύρω από τον πολιτισμό στην Ελλάδα της κρίσης (2013). This article pays particular attention to the last collection of articles which present Valaoritis’s systematic exploration of the image of the Greeks as standing at the extremes, “either of the height or of the depth,” throughout their long history, in an effort to “eradicate the stereotypes against the Greek nation that so unjustly is deeply tormented,” as the book itself claims. This article not only elaborates on the main points that Valaorits makes in this collection of articles, but more importantly, it contextualizes them within the frame of his overall avant-garde contribution to the Greek Letters.