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On loving first-person narratives

December 4, 2017

 

 

When technological developments finally allowed me to choose a live radio station for my alarm clock, I had no dilemmas: my day would start off with the gentlest voice on Greek radio. It is the voice of the internationally renowned pianist and, since 2003, radio producer Dionysis Malouhos, on the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio 3 (ERA3), widely known as Trito (the “Third”). 

Today, Dionysis Malouhos is also at the helm of Trito, proving that his administrative talents are as impressive as his artistic and educational capacities. He has been a consoling choice for all of us who still think of Trito as a child of the prodigious composer Manos Hadjidakis – in other words, as a cultural oasis of art and talk. When asked to describe himself, Malouhos tell me he is a pianist, a teacher, a composer, that he likes working with artists that exhibit self-respect, that he is partial to a traditional dish with stuffed vine leaves from Kozani, that he spends his time constructing septuplets of polychromatic concords, listens to Trito, believes in the power of the Web, and systematically pursues creative understanding with anyone who has good intentions and is hungry for culture.

On the day of the interview, he came to meet me outside the lifts on the third floor of the Broadcasting Building –a true gentleman – and guided me to the recording studio where we would talk about books.

 

So what are you currently reading?

Katerina Schina’s Secrets in the Drawer (Patakis, 2017)

 

What made you choose this book?

My esteem for the author. She’s a colleague of mine on Trito. Also, the originality of the topic: it’s about the art of journal writing, the techniques behind it, the craftsmen – I should call them – who used this way of recording thoughts and events. It’s a book of appealing structure (small, independent chapters make it an easy, sporadic read for someone with a heavy workload), interesting content and writing style.

 

Are there shows exclusively about books on your radio station?

Yes, Trito has quite a few shows dedicated to books. Dimitri Trikas always has a guest author on his show, Bookfly, Wednesdays at 14:00; Afroditi Kosma explores the world of translated literature in her Cartes Postales, on Mondays at 17:30; we have book-reading shows – like Olyna Xenopoulou’s One short story, one breath, where she reads short stories on Sundays at 16:30, or Small Ink Tanks, on Tuesdays at 21:00, where Afroditi Kosma, Agis Gyftopoulos, and their colleagues present letters and correspondence between great artists. We also have your more regular, book-reviewing sort of shows (like You Can Tell a Good Day from its Music – Mondays at 10:00, with Anna Sakali – and Amber and Ebony, Thursdays at 20:00, with Leda Demitriou) and we even have a show dedicated to poetry: Kostas Kanavouris’ The Long Night’s Journey into Day, Mondays and Wednesdays at 20:00. We love books here on Trito!

 

Do you recommend or review books on your show?

I often do – as a reader myself, not as an expert. On July 5th this year, Giorgos Florakis and I used our whole 3-hour radio time to recommend as many books as we could carry into the studio!

 

Where do you buy your books from?

Usually from Politeia or Evripidis in Chalandri. Due to my show, I am lucky enough to have publishing houses send me loads of books for free.

 

Do you ever buy things online?

Sure. Books, not just yet. I do find that book-selling sites are often a very good source of information, though.

 

Is there a book that you find yourself coming back to, again and again?

Yes, there are many such books, useful in my capacity as a musician or radio producer: books on musicology, on the art and philosophy of music, on the sociology, anthropology, and politics of music – that sort of thing.

 

Is there one book that changed your relationship with literature forever?

I think every single book I read during my formative, childhood years, and which ingrained in me a lifelong relationship with page-turning, was critical to this extent.

 

Do you ever take notes when reading? Do you bend pages, dog-ear them?

Not often, but sometimes I do: when I feel I’ve read something important, something I need to come back to. Usually on non-fiction books. I am quite careful with my books and their pages…

 

When do you usually read during the day? And where, at home I mean?

I read at weird hours. The place where I read is unimportant to me – I often read when I am not at home, on my frequent travels, as I have more free time then!

 

What is your favourite bookstore?

I have limited amounts of free time on my hands so I tend to frequent larger bookstores, where I can find more categories or specialized editions and magazines. I am quite interested in the aesthetics of a book: the way it’s printed, the way it’s bound, the fonts, etc. – so I am also drawn to smaller, more specialized booksellers.

Is there a place for more bookstores, do you think?

There’s definitely a need for a better relationship between readers and existing bookstores, for the readers to come closer to the books they are interested in, for their love of reading to grow. I can identify two problems that get in the way of this: we are unaware of the hundreds of books that would actually make us happy; and we have dozens of really good books at home, but we never read them…

 

How would you characterize the relationship Greeks have with reading?

I don’t think I can generalize that much. There are some Greeks for whom books have no place in their everyday life. What’s weird is that people with a lot of time on their hands often have the least interests in life! Then there are those who have chosen a “light”, summer-long relationship with books, who favour light and easy reads. And then there are the real readers – each with his/her own pace and commitment capacities, each with his/her own relationship with books. This is what makes this relationship so individual.

 

Do you find that books are expensive in Greece?

There are books whose price is a real bargain and books that are overpriced and overrated. There are books who should be more expensive, and books whose price is an affront! At the end of the day, most writers and translators never become rich, so you figure it out…

 

Do you ever read on a mobile device?

No, I don’t read books on my phone or any other device. Sometimes I might have to read excerpts, for professional reasons.

 

Is there a Greek author that you feel stands out?

The author I happen to read at any given time! We are lucky to have great literary artists working in Greece: my appreciation list is very long.

Do you have a favourite literary character?

This might sound weird, but I love all characters who speak on a first-person basis – whether we are talking autobiographies (so the author him/herself) or in fictional narratives. This personal view of things keeps me interested in the story and helps me identify with the character.

 

Would you ever judge a book by its cover?

Sure, who hasn’t? After all, the art of front and back covers has its own rules; the more prestigious the publishing house, the more informative the text and the more sophisticated the aesthetics of the book. A wanting cover (or back cover) may not do justice to a really good book, sure, but that’s not my problem!

 

What type of music do you listen to when you read?

I listen to music all day; I live through music. So nothing changes when I am reading, I might be listening to anything.

 

Do you have a personal reading list for this summer? Where will you be enjoying reading it?

Ah, I am always the optimist when it comes to my summer reads. By October, I find I’ve never manage to go though it! Here’s this year’s list:

 

Jaume Cabre’s Confessions

Eleni Boukouri’s Eight and a half

Yanni Efstathiadis’ City (Tales of Athens)

Ernesto Sabato’s On Heroes and Tombs

Angie Saltabasi’s Berlin

Nigel Barley’s The Innocent Anthropologist

Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy

Eduard Hanslick’s On the Musically Beautiful

And a collection of essays (from Baudelaire and Rimbaud, to Benjamin and Adorno) called Media Culture, published by Alexandria.

 

I’ll try to get through all this in Athens (beautiful, during summer time) and in the hospitable city of Kozani, in August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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