Literature under duress | Kallia Papadaki

Greek short story and screenwriter Kallia Papadaki speaks to us about literature and the recession ahead of her appearance at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival this weekend – which with its 14-strong repertoire of local and international authors will focus on the effects of the economic recession.

Greek writer Kallia Papadaki: “I felt the need to talk about people, about memory and the difficulties of co-existing.”
Greek writer Kallia Papadaki: “I felt the need to talk about people, about memory and the difficulties of co-existing.”

Did you deliberately set out to write about the economic recession, or did it happen 'subliminally'?

It was not my intention to purposely write about the economic recession. I placed my short story (Agis and Mary) in a closed family environment, where two people, a mother and a son strive to co-exist under the asphyxiating weight of foregone possibilities and lost chances, under the distress of imminent poverty.

I did not focus on the economic crisis, I simply wrote about people and their emotional shortcomings, about dead ends and moral dilemmas, about life and how difficult it can be at times, and finally about choices we have to make.

Do you believe the economic recession to be an intriguing enough literary theme - as in, it's social and political impact is undeniable, but can it pack an emotional punch too?

More and more writers tend to focus on the crisis and its repercussions and sometimes it feels like there is no emotional drive or punch in their writing, as if the text has come out mechanically.

There is no emotion, just a raw and perhaps calculated desire to talk about actuality. It's true, the economic crisis could be a great source of inspiration, but it shouldn't become with regards to narration an end to itself.

What I mean to say is that there are good stories and bad stories despite subject and theme, and that's what should matter most.

 Why did you choose to focus on human relationships within the context of the recession?

I wrote this particular short story for last year's Scritture Giovani festival. When I started working, I didn't have anything in particular in mind in connection with the economic turmoil.

I felt the need to talk about people, about memory and the difficulties of co-existing, about how suffocating family relationships can be, how there is tenderness even in the cruellest decisions, and how moral issues can be seen under a different light.

The crisis part was not central to the story; it was a subtle setting, a sharp undertone to the story.


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Do you think that writing within such a globally-urgent theme is a sure-fire way for writers to break out of their geographical confines?

What has taken place is that people all around the world, partly due to the booming social media, have come together to talk about the failure of the existing economic system, its financial and market shortcomings, the cracks and injustice in society, and the limitations and inability of the state to provide for those in need.

The economic crisis surely can and does elicit instant cross-cultural dialogue. Personally, I see the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival as an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, beyond geographical, political and literary confines.

A lot of literature - be it fiction or non-fiction, along with several other genres - is 'free' these days thanks to the internet. This can obviously have a detrimental effect on the financial, economic shelf life for both publishers and authors, but do you think that, given the context of a recession, it can also serve as a powerful tool to move people and inspire change?

I am not quite sure if it is economically detrimental in the medium or long run. Publishers and consequently writers will have to find a way around it, in order to tame the new reality.

The internet has brought a revolution in the same way printing did in the past. They both changed our lives and both served and serve as powerful tools to bring people together, inspire change and hope.

The Festival will take place over three days - tonight (August 30), 31 and September 9 - at the Msida Bastion Garden, Floriana, and will kick off at 20:00 each of the evenings. There will also be music from Brikkuni (Thursday, Friday) and Renzo Spiteri (Saturday). Pappadaki will be reading from her work on Friday. She will also be interviewed by Anna Zammit. For more information log on to Inizjamed.