Alexandros Papadiamantis (04/03/1851 - 03/01/1911)

Alexandros Papadiamantis Alexandros Papadiamantis is one of the most important Greek novelists, writers and poets, regarded by K. P. Kavafis as the “top of the top” and also known as the “saint of literature”.

He was born in the island of Skiathos. One of nine siblings, he was accustomed to a pious way of life, as his father was a priest, and a serene life. Initially a student in Skopelos, he later went to Piraeus, before completing his secondary education in Athens. He visited the monastic community of Agion Oros, becoming a novice monk, but he deserted the idea, considering himself unworthy. He returned to Athens and was enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Athens; however he never completed his studies due to great financial difficulties. He taught himself English and French, which he put to good use, translating texts for a living, while he also started his first authoring endeavours.

When he met the editor Vlassis Gavriilides, founder of the newspaper Acropolis, it seemed like his life would take a turn to the better. Although he had a considerable salary from his position at the newspaper, he could not manage his financial matters, sending money back to the island, helping the poor, paying his debts, drinking and smoking. He was frugal and retracted, not interested at all in having a decent way of living.

Poverty, excessive drinking and his generosity made him reach a point when he could no longer cover basic costs, while his health deteriorated day by day. A few of his friends organised a fund raiser for him. With that money, he repaid his debts and bought new clothes for the first time, before returning to Skiathos, unwilling to return to the city of “serfdom and plutocrats”, as he wrote.

Papadiamantis died in January 1911; the whole country mourned for his death. Several articles were published in his memory and memorial services were carried out in various cities. Soon afterwards, a publishing house started publishing his work.

His rich work includes serialized novels, short stories and poems. The novels were mainly adventures with rich plots and fast-paced narration. However, his masterpiece is considered to be his second novella, “The Murderess”. It is one of his later works, and is teeming with the author’s soul, his personal tragedy, and the misery of the poor people. The novella revolves around an old woman in Skiathos, who starts killing young girls of poor families out of pity; because of the mentality of the era, girls could not work before marriage but also could not marry unless they had a dowry. Therefore, they were a burden to their families. However, she gradually gets madder, tormented by remorse, before finally meeting justice. Though her crimes are heinous, Papadiamantis creates a character with deep empathy, condemning the society and its perceptions rather than her.

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