Proust’s questionnaire

What is the main trait of your personality?
The student syndrome

Your greatest asset?
I get easily enthusiastic

Your worst defect?
I get easily enthusiastic

When and where have you been happy?
A few months ago, before Melina passed away

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A large farm with everyone I love, where we could have as many animals as we liked

What or who is the biggest love of your life?
My family is a great passion

What talent would you like to possess?
That of the explorer

If you could change one thing about yourself what would that be?
To dare make bigger journeys

If you could change one thing about your family, what would that be?
να κοιμόμαστε συχνότερα κάτω απ΄  τα αστέρια

What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Their love

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My children’s carefree laughter

Where would you like to live?
In a bigger garden, in a greener city

What is your greatest fear?
The end

What do you dislike most?
Emotional stinginess

Which trait of yours do you most deplore?
My inability to be on time for my appointments

What trait do you most deplore in others?

What do you consider your greatest wastefulness?
Wasting time on meaningless relationships

Which is your favorite trip?
In the Aegean

Which do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Self-confidence bordering on arrogance

In what circumstances do you lie?
When there is a chance of hurting someone I care for

What do you not like about your appearance?
The excess kilos

What kind of person do you dislike?
Every fascist, every racist

Which word or phrase do you use to excess?

What do you think is your most marked characteristic?
The going to and fro from reality to fairytales in order to explain the inexplicable

What thing do you regret?
The hugs I didn’t give when I should have

What is your favorite activity?
Going for long walks with my dogs

Who are your heroes in real life?
My children

Who are your heroes in fiction?
The heroes of the books I read as a child. The little girl in A tree grows in Brooklyn, Robinson Crusoe, Zoe in When the sun… by G. Sarri, the great rebels in my father’s imaginary tales

How would you like to die?
In my dreams

If you died and came back to life, what person or thing would you like to come back as?
A great explorer

Mistakes towards which you are most lenient?
When it’s a reaction to or the natural consequence of a grave injustice

What is your favorite motto?
Dreams and miracles are a matter of practice

“Children can tell truth and lies apart”

"My child and I"
Interview with Evi Karkiti

A recent award, that of the literary magazine Diavazo, was the occasion for yet another look at the world of Maria Papayanni. In her books, a miracle is always waiting outside the door, to change the life of her young heroes. The same thing happens in the performance Strange isn’t it? whose libretto she signs, and which will be presented from 20 to 30 December at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall.

-In your books, do you present the world to children exactly as it is, or is there always space for dreams?

In the stories I write, I try to tell children the truth. But I don’t record reality as it is. Part of it is paired off with a fantasy, a dream, an expectation, a burning wish or obsession which I wish could come true. For example, that there is a miracle waiting outside our door or that in this life, the good guys win… They say that myths are shared dreams. The Australian Aborigines called creation the Dreamtime and their myths dreaming. I don’t think today’s children have given up on dreaming. My need is to share my dreams with them or to get inside their dreams.

-What made you take up writing for children? Is it easy, in the end, to write a story that can be understood by children?

I love children’s fiction. I’ve never stopped being interested in it. I remember that at university, grown up child that I was, I never missed a book by Georges Sarri or Alki Zei. Later still, when I started to write about things that moved me, the way I approached them was always through the eyes of children.
I like stories that aren’t childish in order for children to like them, precisely because I believe that children do understand an awful lot and, above all, they can tell truth and lies apart. And if they sometimes chose the lie, that’s because they can’t bear the truth.

-What do you believe children look for in a book today?

I believe that good books are for both grownups and children. Selma Laggerlef, the first woman to receive a Nobel prize for literature, used to say that “the children’s book is real when it is liked by both young and old.” When I start to write something, I never think of my readers’ age. According to sales, children in recent years may well favor fantasy fiction but, for me personally, what is really important is that books should help children grow up. As a great storyteller, Tolkien, used to say: “Their books, like their clothes, must allow for room to grow but, books especially, must at all costs encourage growing up.”

Interview with Anna Routsi for the internet magazine

-In your works, the element of otherness is quite pronounced: The characters are different from the majority of people. Is there something you want to point out and why?

Without thinking much about it, I’d say that I don’t decide in advance to make my characters different. It’s just that I was always fond of special people. Whether silent or loud. A little gone with the fairies and not all that conventional. The people who interrogate daily the self-evident, disguise it, transform it. Who dare on a daily basis to dust off their treasures and pin themselves against them. Thus, a friendship becomes a precious gift and an excursion, a journey full of possibilities. I like watching the everyday through a magnifying glass. I don’t know if that’s my way of trying to familiarize my young readers with the acceptance of the “other” but I certainly believe that miracles take a different form for each one of us and that life would be dreary without colors.

-The characters in your book struggle with superstitions, popular beliefs, fears, things closely linked with the Greek tradition. Which of these amuse you and which do you consider potentially dangerous?

I think the dividing line is pretty clear. In the Lonesome Tree, my main heroine loves life very much, she laughs easily. Her sister takes her to an icon in the church and points to an angry saint. “See how he’s looking at you? The saint doesn’t like it one bit that you’re laughing.” On the other hand, there are the legends and folk traditions which I find utterly poetic. Magic realism. In many villages people still live side by side with sprites and ghosts, talk with those who have passed to the other side and have stories to tell about every single stone.

-Do you think that our times lend themselves to dreams and to the imagination? Can the drive for survive b combined with those elements and how?

Dreams and the imagination are not a medicine and can’t be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription. You live like that, or you don’t. They exist in our life. They are a part of who we are. It’s just that some people have closed the door, in their effort to survive this unbearable everyday. As far as kids are concerned, this is their way of growing up and explaining the world. They need to slip away from reality into the world of the imagination. Nobody would claim that the solution is to take up residence in the world of the imagination. Still, a pebble keeping the door open for some fresh air to come in now and then, is always needed.

-We often hear that young people don’t read, don’t write, and so on and so forth. You, who are in touch with these issues, how do you see things? Does society and our educational system play a role in this?

The only thing they play a role in, is the accumulation of knowledge so that the children move on to tertiary education. Kids in adolescence have next to no time for extracurricular activities. This morning I heard myself calling out to my daughter to quit piano practice and get to her homework in Religious studies. I heard myself and I was appalled! Kids are so overloaded that they haven’t time not just to read but get together with their friends. Naturally, I think that those children who got some “training” when they were young, on growing up, will again seek the pleasure of reading.

-Fiction for adolescents has the peculiarity that neither will adolescents buy it of their own accord, nor do grownups quite know (or dare!) to buy something for adolescents. How can it be made more accessible? You in particular, what is the audience you address and how do you approach them?

To tell the truth, I don’t have a specific age group of readers in mind when I’m writing. I don’t tailor my stories to anyone. I wouldn’t want to write a novel partial to adolescents that would only speak their slang and have as its sole subject the violence, conflicts and mad pace of that age. In the music I listen to, the conversations I have, sometimes I like to turn the volume up and at others to turn it down. When I am invited to schools, I meet such different kids, with such wide ranging interests. Some will discover my book and, if they like it, recommend it to friends. That seems to me a more normal way. Isn’t that what we did in high school as well? We swapped books, music and poetry. Kids at that age are suspicious of their parents. They can discover a book by themselves which, if imposed by adults, they will reject out of hand.

-Do you remember your favorite books as a kid- an adolescent – a grownup?

I remember well the bookshelf in my room in Larisa. Next to the tales of the Grim brothers and Andersen, were added Doctor Mars’ daughters and then the Silver Skates, A tree grows in Brooklyn. At some point, A child counts the stars was joined by the Tiger in the shop window, the Wooden Swords, When the sun... There was a reason that books came into the house during the first ten years, on holidays and during vacations. Nowadays, books are piled into bookshelves, the unread ones are crammed on the bedside table, and it is harder to remember them and bond with them. At university, I discovered Marquez with great excitement, I was amongst the first to buy Maro Douka’s latest and recently, I fell in love with Zyranna Zateli. And then, I wiped the slate clean and went back to the beginning: the Odyssey and A thousand and one nights.

We all have a Peter Pan hidden in us

Writer Maria Papayanni talks about the magical world of children

Chryssoula Papaioannou

for Eleftherotypia, 12/18/2007

“As we grow, we become trapped in the everyday and lock away our riches for safekeeping, except we hide them so well that we forget about them and we end up …accepting discounts on our dreams. Children dream both with their eyes shut and open.” Maria Papayanni, writer and translator of children’s books, knows what she is talking about. She wrote the story Strange, isn’t it? to remind young and old that “life’s miracle are the small, everyday moments. Mom’s hug after a nightmare or a friend’s embrace.” We will be seeing it as a musical play at the Nikos Scalkotas hall of the Athens Megaron Concert Hall starting this Friday until December 30.

The score is by Thanos Mikroutsikos on verses by Yannis Ritsos (the title is from his poem “Again the young Eleni”) Nikos Kavadias, Maria Papayanni and Melina Karakosta. The show is dedicated to the latter who passed away during rehearsals. Mikroutsikos and Panayotis Larkou directed, while the sets and costumes are by Yorgos Vafias and the choreography my Cecile Mikroutsikos. The dancers are Rania Glymitsa and Konstantina Mikroutsikos.

As the name Mikroutsikos is often repeated in the play’s credits – and besides, Maria Papayanni is the composer’s spouse – the writer clarifies: “In a sense, artistic productions are family affairs anyway. Thanos who is at the helm of the undertaking, would not choose people without experience in similar performances.”

The performance at hand is built around the axis of Papayanni’s story: in a city without dreams, feasts or celebrations, a falling star appears but Yomo and Cora have nothing to wish for. The reason is that, a long time ago, an evil witch stole the key of dreams from the wise old man who was their guardian. Yet, the two children will go all the way up to the sky to find the missing key. They will become circus acrobats, have an encounter with pirates and will live through many adventures.

A children’s story for Papayanni means … a happy end. This is not to say that evil is absent. “We shouldn’t tell stories where everything is fine as rain. We are preparing children for this world, not another ideal one. Evil needs to be present and it must be recognizable. The bad guys have always existed in fairytales though, nowadays, unfortunately, they are glamorous and it’s easy for a child to identify with them”, she says.

Not only fairytales but the conventional storytellers have changed. “The stories that grandmas and grandpas used to tell, were good practice for children’s imagination. Today, they take their grandchildren on their lap to watch the afternoon TV serials”, she remarks.

What does a good fairytale mean for Maria Papayanni? “It’s the one that speaks about the truth without being childish. Every child has a different level of maturity. We want them to walk away with their pockets full of pebbles, that is to say, ideas and emotions. On their way home, each picks out what suits them.” Of course, fairytales don’t address exclusively young children. “A tale for children works when grownups also like it. Also, a bedtime story is combined with a hug, and a child may need that for many years”, she adds.

Though she is a mother of two, 6 year old Stergios and 11 year old Alexandra, her love of fairytales dates to her years as a Literature student. “Maybe it’s because of the Peter Pan we all have hidden in us, and the longing for the land of Never-Never. I leave the door open so I can come and go to both worlds”, she explains. Which is why she finds it hard to tell her young son that there is no Santa Claus. “I am in favor of making our life into a bit of a fairytale and not killing myths off”, she says. These festive days, then, will find her with her family under the Christmas tree where

“we will all sleep together and tell stories…”

I like seeing miracles in the everyday

Writer Maria Papayanni talks about the magical world of children

Interview with Sandra Voulgari, for Kathimerini, 03-11-2012

The Lonesome Tree, an unusual story, taking place on the rocky outcrops in the shadow of a Cretan mountain, earned writer Maria Papayanni the State Prize for Adolescents’/Youth Book of Fiction. This piece of news happily coincided with a second one concerning both the writer and children’s literature in Greece, as the contract was signed with minedition press for publishing yet another of Papayanni’s stories with the title, Another day, it will be your win.
The latter book is addressed to preschoolers and will be illustrated by the well loved and much acclaimed illustrator Eve Tharlet. In tandem with her voluble and very interesting writing, Maria Papayanni has translated several of her titles published by Patakis, and has dreamt one day to see how Tharlet might paint one of her stories.
When I called her, I found her in the abandoned village in Crete that was the setting for the Lonesome Tree. I thought that was very exciting. Our conversation took place through the internet and over the phone in the middle of several adventures, as, last time we spoke, the house she was staying in, was flooded by the rain…

-What inspired the Lonesome Tree?
All stories I think are born in a place. Certainly, they carry along seeds and pebbles from all the journeys. My tree looks out to the south. In the outskirts of an isolated village in the Asterousia mountains, gazing out to the Libyan sea. Here live people who may have never traveled in their life but can tell you countless stories about every village stone. According to those tales, the village was always chosen by strange beings.
Elves and things that go bump in the night, spirits that arrive from the sea, visit one of the houses and never let it be in peace. So, then, I thought what it would be like for a young child to grow here carrying all the local beliefs and legends, growing up in a place far removed from the urban alienation. And then, I used this adolescent, whom I christened Simos to talk again about my own obsessions. Namely, that the deeper the roots grow, the larger the branches. That the more solidly you tread your home ground, the farther you can fly, travel, explain and get to know the world.
Also, that you need every so often to empty yourself out of everything you hear daily and remember your on weighing scales, the ones we all carry inside us for things small and large. But with the world’s din, we forget ourselves and use other people’s scales.

- What inspires you as a writer more generally?
I have always loved unusual people, those who are different, whether they’re silent or passionate about some thing. On the other hand. I observe everyday life through my own magnifying glass. A minute detail, a gesture, a phrase, a dream, assume the leading role. I like seeing small miracles in the everyday, which is to say, seeing through the eyes of children, as much as that is possible, of course, because their imagination is limitless. I love fairytales. As you know, fairytales don’t say that everything is perfect, they say that we all lived happily ever after. How? Only if we cross the dark woods, if we dare confront the wolf and the wild beasts and, especially, if we spend the time to listen to the advice of an old woman, a bird, a beggar.
The magical advice is only given to those who keep their eyes and ears open, their senses vital in a mill that grinds up everything. All this is my starting point, true enough, but with one precondition. Even when I immerse myself in tradition, in terms of space and time, I endeavor for my writing to be contemporary. I don’t believe in realistic representation in the sense of depiction, but in the magnification of the real in the sense of magic.

-Are you crafting a new story?
It’s not possible to turn our back to the unbearable everyday life, the difficulties we are all experiencing and which put us under so much strain and pressure. For some time now, I have been thinking about a story with children as main characters, who see the circumstances of their lives change dramatically. My goal is for unemployment not to be a strange and exotic experience but part of the reality of people who, up till yesterday, were employed and living normal lives. The next story, then, will be taking place in the years of the crisis.

-Do you believe that children are ready to hear it?
Children don’t live inside some glass ball, they live in the same everyday as us, with their antennae always on the lookout. It seems to me wrong to keep children away from problems. Children are peers in any discussion and that is how I treat them. Those who think they need to make a fake oasis for their children, evidently don’t know how to prepare them for this world but for some other, ideal world which I, personally, have no idea where it might be located.
It’s a shame to let kids try and piece together the puzzle of reality from things that come under the crack of the door, because they might build an even more dismal reality. Besides, they are getting daily bombarded through that big door, television. The point is to bring up strong children who can resist wretchedness, who will dare stand up for what they believe in and, even more, who will not clip their dreams down to the size of necessity but will try to make their own dreams reality.

- Do you prefer writing for children?
The truth is that, when I write, I am not thinking of the age I am addressing. Yet, I do love children very much and I envy the way they dream, I admire their ability to overturn everything, the great sense of justice they possess. Personally, I had quite a hard time making up my mind that I am grown up and, to be honest, I still think about what I want to be when I grow up and, in fact, have quite a long list in mind. I don’t know if that’s the reason I write for children.
At all events, when I write a story, I don’t tailor it to any particular age. I do have a tendency, though, to taint even my evil characters with goodness and seek their other side. I love life a great deal, despite how disappointed I am in people, despite all the difficulties. And maybe it’s this unwavering persistence in always choosing life, in trying to reverse misery, that fits in with childhood. One storyteller used to say: “The world is unbearable. Life is beautiful. We always have the option of choosing. The narrator of tales chooses life.”

Maria Papayanni was born in Larisa. She has studied Greek Literature and worked as a journalist for radio, television, newspapers and magazines. In recent years she has been writing children’s stories and translating fiction for children. He last novel, As if by magic, was awarded the Prize of the Circle of the Greek Children’s Book as well as the prize for Children’s Book of Fiction, of the literary magazine Diavazo. She wrote the libretto and the verses for the play Strange, isn’t it? (musical theatre performed at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall in 2007 and 2008.) Also, the libretto (adaptation of the novel by Selma Lagerlof, Nils Hoggelrson’s wonderful journey) for the play Say it with a fairytale for narrator and orchestra, to the score by Thanos Mikroutsikos, produced in Christmas of 2002-2003, at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall.


Hμερομηνία: 11-03-2012