Giorgos Moleskis

Giorgos Moleskis: Cypriot Poet

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YEREVAN / NICOSIA — Cypriot writer and translator Giorgos Moleskis was born in 1946 in Lysi, Cyprus. He studied at the Nicosia English College and at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. He has an M.A. in Russian language and literature and a Ph.D. in literature.

He worked at the Cultural Services Department of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus, as Senior Cultural Officer and was the Executive Adviser of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation. He was president of the Committee for State Prizes for Literature, the Cyprus National Jury for the European Prize for Literature and the Union of Cyprus Writers.

Moleskis received an Honorary Diploma and Prize for Poetry from the Cyprus government, as well as the Pushkin Medal from the Union of Russian Writers. He is, also, an Honorary Member of the State Academy of Slavic Culture of the Russian Federation, the Union of Cyprus Writers and the Greece — Cyprus Cultural Association.

Since 1967 he has published thirteen poetry collections, two books with collected poems and five books with poetry translations. Some of his books are: Vladimir Mayakovski (introduction-translation-comments, 1995), Russian poets of the 20th century, an anthology (introduction-translation-comments, 2004), Awaiting rain (poems, 2008), Contemporary Turkish Cypriot Poets: An attempt to communicate (introduction-translation, 2010), The unfinished poem (2014), When the sun enters the room (short stories, 2017), Russian poetry 20th century, (introduction-translation-comments, 2019), Every July I return (2019), Vladimir Mayakovski, Pre-Revolution Poems (introduction-translation, 2019), David of Sassoon, The Armenian Folk Epic (2021).

Nine of Moleskis’ books of poetry books were translated and published in separate volumes in France, Italy, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.  His poems have been translated and published in literary magazines and anthologies in Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania Turkey, Ukraine, Finland, Armenia, Estonia, Spain, Chile and other countries.

Moleskis lives in Nicosia with his Armenian wife, they have three children.

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Dear Giorgos, already in the beginning of 1970s you wrote: “Without dreams, without heroes, how can one live? The mind loaded with so many broken columns, trunks of trees, broken bones… It founders.” In my perception, in 2020s the dreams are ruined and the mankind remains without heroes: I see only antiheroes. What do you think about it?

These verses are from the poem “Great was the Moon,” which was written soon after the war of 1974 in Cyprus. At that time my village Lysi was occupied by the Turkish army and we were forced to leave our houses and become refugees. Leaving the house, you were born and grow up, with all the images of people who lived there, the stories, the memories, the feelings and the dreams that are associated with it, is tragic. These feelings and these ideas I tried to express in that poem. As far as I know, this subject is common in Armenian poetry, as a result of the historical experiences of the people, which are very similar to those of Greek and Cypriot people. Gevorg Emin wrote very expressive poems on that subject. In 1980 I translated and publish some of them in a literary magazine in Cyprus.

It is true that the situation in today’s world does not live much space for hope and dreams. Wars, refugees, poverty, leaders with totalitarian behaviour, the climate change. In a way we live the death of ideologies. There is no much space for dreams and heroes, but we don’t have other way than to dream and hope for a better world.

When I was a teenager, poets had a special status in Soviet Armenia. They were recognized and greeted on the streets. I am sure you remember that being studied in Soviet Union. How was it in Cyprus and how is it now?

I think that historically Armenian people respected their poets, writers, composers, painters, the creators of a culture that could express the identity of the nation against all kinds of interventions. An example for that is the creator of the Armenian alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots, was sanctified. The situation in Russia during the Soviet period was, I think, different. Some poets were widely published and promoted by the media, so they enjoyed a special status and they were recognized in the streets, others couldn’t publish their works. But this is a long story to analyse. The situation in Cyprus was never like that. Poets were not public figures. Only after many years of writing and publishing their works they get a kind of public recognition.

Topics: Books, poetry

Armenian poet Paruyr Sevak in his poem “A Moment of Doubt” says: “If I really believed, / That my song can benefit you, / I would arm you with poems like an army! / But what’s the use of sitting down and writing some poems? ….And that the poem even becomes a weapon, / Where is the hand that voluntarily takes up arms?…

Do you also have such moments of doubt? Do you think that we should consider a poem a kind of weapon or something that can benefit people?

When I was young, I tended to see poetry as a kind of weapon that could contribute to the change of the word. Now I think of it more as a way of communicating with people with whom we share the same views and ideas. At the same time, I believe poetry opens new ways to express our feelings and ideas about the world we live, about life and share them with the people, hoping that this is a gesture that will have some effect.

Reading your poetry also makes the readers know the problems and troubles of Cypriots in the 20th-21st centuries. I loved very much the poem “Our Dead Zone” presenting the sad reality of divided Cyprus. Today in South Caucasus the big powers try to make Artsakh a new Cyprus.

This Dead Zone is a deep wound on the island of Cyprus, which affects both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. It is a hard reality, with its bloody history laying on the surface. This gives to it a kind of symbolic meaning as well, which I tried to express in that poem. Unfortunately, we see this happening today in Artsakh and other places of the word, with the great powers of our times thinking always about their interests and how they will sell more weapons, for the benefit of their war industries.

You try to build a dialogue between Greek and Turkish poets of Cyprus. Does it work? 

I believe that such a dialogue is very important in our situation. Poetry, as a means of expressing one’s inner feelings and ideas, can contribute a lot to this dialogue. To promote this idea, I translated and published poems from 17 Turkish Cypriot poets in an anthology with the title Contemporary Turkish Cypriot Poets: An Attempt to Communicate. The book was published in 2010 in Athens and it was very well received by people of literature in both sides. I also wrote several poems in which I try to create a dialog with Turkish Cypriot poets, to speak about peace and friendship. Some of these poems were translated into Turkish language and published in newspapers and literary magazines in Cyprus and in Turkey. Based on that, I can say that this dialogue works between people who share the same ideas.

Yes, in your poem “Letter to Fikret Demirağ,” a Turkish Cypriot poet, you wrote: “We are getting poorer, our songs are getting poorer, / we no longer write like we did, we have nothing to say.” What about now?

Fikret Demirağ is, probably, the best Turkish Cypriot poet. We were good friends and several times we travelled to Turkey and other countries to participate in poetry festivals and other meetings. Unfortunately, he died eleven years ago, at the age of 70. In his poetry he speaks about the war as a tragedy of all Cypriot people, he speaks about peace and friendship. In the years that follow the Turkish invasion and the partition of the island there were some periods of hope for a solution of the problem. These hopes are becoming less and less as time paces.

The Armenian readers know you due to Gevorg Emin’s translation of your My Stone Love (Armenia) poetic cycle. It begins with such words: “This love is kin to me, / that creates bread from the stone… that squeezes art, / colors, sounds / and eternity…”

How was your interest toward Armenia begun?

The best way to get to know a country is through its people. This is what happened to me. In Moscow, as back as 1974, I met my future wife, an Armenian girl studying classical philology at the Lomonosov University. We were married in 1979 and since then we travelled many times to Yerevan, I met her relatives, other people, who were friends of the family, I heard their stories. Stories from people who faced war end exile in their childhood, stories about their struggle to survive and keep the memory of lost people and places alive. Thus, my interest in the country, its history, its culture and literature grow. Eventually I saw similarities in the historical fates of Armenia, Greece and Cyprus. This is how the poetic cycle “My Stone Love” was written, the first parts during a visit to Yerevan and the rest in Moscow in 1978.

You also wrote a poem “Letter to Armenian Poet Gevorg Emin.” Please tell the story of its creation and if you received a respond of your letter.

I met Gevorg Emin first in Moscow, in a meeting with Armenian friends of my wife’s family and we became friends. We were meeting when he was coming to Moscow or when I was going to Yerevan. I remember, I was one of the participants in a three hours’ live program dedicated to his poetry by the first television channel in Moscow, and when he visited Cyprus, on an invitation by the Armenian community, I presented his poetry in an event dedicated to him. Gevorg Emin translated “My Stone Love” into Armenian and published it in the magazine Sovetakan Grakanutiun (Soviet Literature) in November 1981. From time to time we were writing letters to each other. So, when I heard the news about that terrible earthquake in Spitak on December 7, 1988 I was deeply moved by sad feelings, feelings of pain for the people and their tragedy. A few days later, on December 15, I wrote a rather long poem, consisting of four parts, talking about Armenia, its culture and its tragic history. The poem was written in the form of a letter, addressed to Gevorg Emin and it was published in the Cypriot literary magazine Nea Epochi (New Era) in December 1988. Later I sent the magazine to Gevorg Emin with a rough translation of the poem in Russian. He translated it into Armenian and published it in “Hnchak” newspaper, on January 15, 1994.

Are you in touch with Armenian communities of Cyprus and Greece?

I have some friends from the Armenian community of Cyprus. With regard to Greece, I met some people in Facebook, after the publication of my book “David of Sassoon” by a publishing house in Athens.

By the way, from what language was this translation done?

I read David of Sassoon in Russian, during my studies in Moscow. Then I read it in two different English translations. The idea of translating it to Greek language came from my mother-in-law Bella Gulakyan. Her wish to do this translation was great and she was often asking me about that. Then we spent many hours reading it. She was reading the Armenian text, so I could listen the tone of the work and I was reading the Russian version making notes on the margins of the book about things I should take into consideration. Working on the translation I, also, had the help of my wife, Nona Gulakyan-Moleski, whom I used to bother often with my questions and my readings of the translation. Then I had the help of my friend Mariam Suchanova-Foukara, granddaughter of the great Armenian painter Alexander Bazhbeuk-Melikyan, daughter of the painters Alexander Sukhanov and Lavinia Bazhbeuk-Melikyan, who also did the beautiful and very expressive drawings, which are published in the book. The book was published in Athens by the Vakhikon Publishing House in July 2021.

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