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East Macedonia and Thrace
Prefecture of Xanthi
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Periphery and Literature

Thanasis Koungoulos

© Foundation of Thracian Art and Tradition
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Local-ised texts of Alexandroupoli
The English and French literary bibliographies have focused on space in literature since the early 1970s, attempting to uncover the components of the modern urban novel. Greek literary criticism has delayed significantly in grappling with similar issues. The parameter of place has been almost ignored, even if the entirety of Greek ethography since 1880 has conversed with the localisation and the personal homeland of the author, not always as the scene but as a separate/autonomous theme. Nonetheless, recent research has focused on the dimension of space in the reading of literary works, especially the perspective of the ?literature of the city? and subsequently ?the literature of the birthplace? or the ?literature of localisation.? Despite the rise in such studies of Greek literature, few have articulated a theoretical discourse to the point that its absence constitutes a serious disadvantage for a literary approach.
Of course, the view that the birthplace is a major axis in post-war and contemporary literature, especially a mythologised version, is widespread. For example, the neohellenist E. Garantoudes notes: ?the search for the experience of indigenousness, the nostalgic mnemonic return to the birthplace, the attempt to reconnect not so much with it but with the lost paradise of childhood, are common thematic topoi in our post-war literature.?
Starting from the above thoughts, for the past three years there have been organised a series of presentations by writers who were born or live in Alexandroupoli, under the general title ?Literature in Alexandroupoli.? Through a group of mainly post-war and contemporary poets and prose writers, the signs of the border town in the lines of literary texts are sought. Does its physiognomy dominate in local literature? Does the topographic context of Alexandroupoli provide another route by which to read this literature? Is the town mythologised, ultimately acquiring a different literary face?
Questions that confront us seriously at each presentation, and to which each decent literary work responds in its own way. As such, generally speaking, we could argue that in one group of Alexandroupoli authors, the town plays a leading role as an invisible literary hero and is transformed into the central myth of their literary universe, whereas in others, perhaps the majority, the town, without being absent, operates simply as the scene, which could perhaps be replaced by any other provincial town.
In the first category, an Alexandroupoli is constructed which, although it incorporates history, lacks historicity. In other words, the literary Alexandroupoli is false, deceptive and nonexistent; it exists only as a personal literary myth, independently of the real town and beyond any similarities that could be made with it. The exceeding of subjective limits is done through the paradoxical entwining of history and place. The traumatic experiences of the individual intersect harmoniously with the place, decisively determining the subjective/emotional attitude of the hero of the narrator in regard to the former.
Even so, regardless of our judgements, the literature of Alexandroupoli is a microcosm of broader Greek literature, and deserves a place in its history. We hope that you will find interesting books, discover unknown or little-known authors, for your experiences to go together with the experiences of the authors from your neighbouring town. Perhaps then we shall proceed to a literary osmosis of the towns of Thrace. Enjoy your reading.