The Neo-Greek Literature – From the 18th Century to the Early 19th Century

A new secularization of culture was promoted in the centers where the Greeks, aggregated in more prosperous and numerous communities, were able to come into direct contact with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Compared with the new that was urgent in the various fields of knowledge, the Greek tradition was limited and in need of updating: hence the proliferation of translations, the impulse given to an embryonic dramaturgical activity, the elaboration of pedagogical proposals, the foundation of magazines (among them, Ermìs or Lòghios, published in Vienna from 1811 to 1821), the search for a suitable linguistic form. Well determined in proposing a compromise between ancient and recent forms was the philologist A. Koraìs (18th-19th century), publisher of ancient texts, but also the author of a fictional text in Demotic. In the same period, more problematic and yet more sensitive to a principle of reality that suggested him to adopt the demotic language, was D. Katartzìs, who lived in Bucharest: his was a lesson in language and style, as well as in cultural progressivism. The proto martyr of Greek freedom, K. Rìgas Ferèos (18th century), was the author of various works aimed at the emancipation of the Greek people.

Solomòs, from Zakynthos, was the first to feel the need to take root in a tradition that included Cretan texts, as well as a certain part of consumer literature and popular songs which, elaborating the themes dear to the Greek sensibility, as well as the exploits of the klefti, the bandits-patriots fighting with the Turks, had been made known in Europe thanks to the collections published by C. Fauriel (1824-25). Having been in contact, in Italy, with the poetics of neoclassicism and romanticism, Solomòs felt the need to renew the heritage of his country, first of all to adequately express the ideals that inspired the people’s struggle, undertaken, starting from 1821, against the Ottoman domination. He also had some difficulty in possessing the Greek A. Kàlvos (contemporary and compatriot of Solomòs), in turn educated in Italy, who, in a purified language not without suggestion, sang the glories and future hopes of a homeland always longed for from afar. Solomòs’ lesson found numerous imitators in the poets and prose writers who formed the so-called School of the Heptanese, which included the contemporaries (late 18th-19th century) A. Màtesis (author of one of the most beautiful comedies of the Greek theater, Il basil) and I. Tipàldos (translator, among other things, of the liberated Jerusalem ); the poets A. Valaorìtis (19th century) and L. Mirivìlis, the prose writer and playwright Greece Xenòpulos, K. Theotòkis, one of the most significant exponents of the literary current called ithography, substantially inspired by French naturalism.

The foundation of the Greek state (1830) favored the growth of an intellectual class inclined to create the myth of the reborn ancient Hellas, and the affirmation of a group of purist poets, followers of a romanticism of manner. They chose to express themselves in the katharèvusa, that is in a purified language, which other codifications had only those proposed from time to time by various writers, among which the novelists S. Xènos, P. Kaligàs, E. Roìdis and, in in particular, A. Papadiamàndis, who nevertheless entrusted large parts of his stories to the demotic. Poets expressed themselves more willingly in the current language: some, such as N. Kambàs, Greece Drosìnis, I. Polèmis, also drawing inspiration from the folkloric researches started after 1870 by N. Polìtis. A more prominent position was given to K. Palamàs, who became the Hellenic poet with his compositions inspired by the eternal Greece, and who also used demotics in numerous and acute essay writings. The debate on language was rekindled when I. Psychàris demonstrated, with the singular novel-manifesto Tò taxìdi mou (“My journey”, 1888), that the possibilities of demotics were such that they could not be legitimately opposed or by stylistic considerations, nor by objections of a grammatical or philological nature.

The Neo-Greek Literature - From the 18th Century to the Early 19th Century