The intellectual heritage as a tool to bounce back

I’m getting used to read bad press about the Greeks either this is coming from inside or outside from my homeland. This time the accusation was quite bizzare  since it was referring to the ancient times and  our fault was centred around our affair with the Persians!. David Gardner, chief Editor of FT Middle East, wrote an article reviewing some books about Iran. Reading it I found some very interesting points. Beginning with his introduction:  

“The Persians have had a bad press pretty much since the world became aware of them. Aeschylus (whose Persians of 472BC is the earliest surviving play) and his fellow classical Greek tragedians won many a pan-Hellenic Oscar by manufacturing an image of a cruel, effeminate and decadent despotism of the east, the better to build up Greek identity and cultural superiority. The great tragedians were the first and most accomplished demonisers of “the other”, as Edith Hall documented 20 years ago in Inventing the Barbarian” .   Fair enough, I know that it was our fault !

And he continued by mentioning some very interesting parts of the book of Michael Axworthy “Iran: Empire of the Mind”

  “….. when Islam burst out of Arabia into a Persia exhausted by war, it found a people receptive to its levelling liberation theology that took aim at Persia’s “strongly hierachical aristocratic and priestly system. Persia’s empire was tolerant by the standards of the era. But, above all, the Persian cultural genius lay in good part in its ability to accomodate and assimilate invaders-to conquer its conquerors. From the era of Alexander the Great and Seleucids, their aim of bringing Greek influence into Persia was probably outstripped by Persian influence seeping into Greek civilisation. When Rome rose to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin, the Roman empire was divided  between the Greek east and the Latin west, but still the style of the Greek east showed the influence of the vanished Acheamenid empire, and inturn influenced Roman with imperial ambitions from Pompey to Elababulus.Not only the Seljuk Turks and Arabs were treated to this Persian seduction, even the Mongols succumbed.  Before the fall of Baghdad in 1258, the Mongol devastation fell like a cataclysm on Persia, obliterating towns and populations, reverting swathes of the country from agriculture to nomad pastoralism for centuries to come. In Khorasan and Transoxiana perhaps a million people were slaughtered. But within decades the Persians pulled off their defining trick and conquered the conquerors. Their architects and astrologers, their bureaucrats and viziers became indispensable to the Mongols, who eventually converted to Islam. Meanwhile, Persians and Turks had pushed into India and established an Ind-Islamic outpost of Persianate culture. This is what Axworthy means by Empire of the Mind: the way Persian scholars and poets, mathematicians and doctors kept bouncing back through crisis after crisis, using their intellectual heritage to refloat their language and their culture .  

Perhaps this is what happens with the Greeks … crisis after crisis we are keeping bouncing back .. Hope so ! Actually I think it’s worth reading the  book  “Iran : Empire of the Mind:A history from Zoroaster to the Present day” by Michael Axworthy. Benguin Books 2008.

The following video is irrelevant, I’m just hooked on it  😉

Mr. President’s letter

obamas-dog5Why Obama avoids going to Geneva and Sarko ostentatiously and repeatedly provokes him? Take a glance at the following letters which Penelope discovered on the internet  and find out  the secret of the rift between the two presidents. 



“Ma Cherie Despina 
Salut il y a longtemps je cherche une femme chaude et belle d’origine Grecque et enfin je trouve toi, ma petite lapin! I think it is better to continue en Anglais.

You know I have problems lately with Carla ,she is very tall and I have to wear high heels all the time and I feel so tired plus it is dangerous!glou glou… Your height suits me perfectly and we will be a nice couple an Amerique when I will come to visit the Bush family !

Also, I would like  to ask you a favour! If it is possible to keep an eye in Cecilia, she is going to get married soon this ‘bastard’ PR guru in New York …. glou glou… C’est la vie ma cherie..oh mon dieu.. glou glou…

I ‘m looking forward to hear from you as soon as possible ma petite lapin.
Au revoir ma Cherie!



“My dearest Gazelle Despina

I ‘m writing this e-mail humbled by the task before you, grateful for the opportunity I had, mindful for the sacrifice borne by you.

At those moments, America has carried on not simply because of my vision to become the 44th president, but because we, I and you, have remained faithful to our eternal love!

Do not feel intimidated by Michelle’s presence. She always wanted this top job. She will run the practical things I’ll carry on writing my high rhetorical speech until the high perfection is met and Aristotle gets the second place in the history after me.

And I will be dedicated to you! Years and years I was striving to get this post in order to be closer to you. We have common things, both of our ancestors land having hard times at the moment but we are leaders of our tribes.I, as the 44th American President and you as the most famous Greek blogger in America.

Please my little Gazelle do not be upset by your neighbours’ Bush flag, you are going to have me next to you with flesh and bones and swimming trunk .

Yours for ever and ever (the latter , I got it from the Greek singer Demis Rousos song)

Barak xxxxx

p.s I am going to have a word with this little mouse Sarko to mind his own business in his Frenchland


Despina being unaware of this global political upheaval she has created, celebrates the Greek Easter by making cookies and red eggs! There you are then!  These are the Greeks for you 😉

On Creative Writing

typewriter4Can creative writing be taught?  Can creative writing be learned? 

Hanif Kureshi says  “The writing courses, particularly when they have the word ‘creative’ in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are very nice”. He said that he was impelled to start teaching writing by the example of his children, who have tennis lessons, piano lessons and the like. He became convinced that teaching a skill was an honourable calling: “I felt if I knew something, I should pass it on.”

David Morley (Ass Prof Warwick Uni)says “I think creative writing can be taught most effectively when its students have some talent and vocation for it. If a teacher can shape the talent and steer that vocation, and the students enjoy the shaping and steering, then I think creative writing should be taught as a craft. The whole point of teaching creative writing, however, is that students must learn to make and guide themselves, for writing is mostly a solitary pursuit,even when written collaboratively using electronic media”

Another novelist David Lodge wrote “Even the most sophisticated literary criticism only scratches the surface of the mysterious process of creativity; and so, by the same token, does even the best course in creative writing”

 Henry James in the essay The Art of  Fiction writes “The painter is able to teach the rudiments of this practice and it is possible, from the study of good work (granted the aptitude), both to learn how to paint and how to write. Yet it remains true…that the literary artist would be obliged to say to his pupil much more than any other, ‘Ah well, you must do it as you can’ If there are exact sciences, there are also exact arts, and the grammar of painting is much more definite that it makes a difference” So you must do it as you can. Writing is not painting, neither is it as systematised knowledge. It is not empirical science; teaching and learning writing is not like teaching and learning medicine.

Fay Weldon “There are lots of readers out there and they need lots of books to be written, she said. If you can teach some of the writers that “the fewer adjectives and the fewer adverbs the better, you’re just doing the world a favour.”


And here you are with the following  list of books  in a descenting order of interest. Some of them I found quite interesting and helpful as reference books in my bookcase.

‘The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing’  by David Morley

‘The Writer’s idea book’ by Jack Heffron

Your writing coach by Jurgen Wolff

The writer’s voice by Al Alvarez

13 ways of looking at the novel by Jane Smiley 

Authors writing about their own experience as writers :

‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Murakami

And ‘On writing’ by Stephen King wich I haven’t read  because I’m not a fan of Stephen King

Penelope hits the Arabian Desert

If the “future is a desert” and earth a “train of dust,” love still can exist in this environment; it is possible for human bonding, community, love to “marry this space” of the desert (Adonis 1984)

I speak of Desert without repose
Carved by relentless winds
Torn up from its bowels
Blinded by sands
Unsheltered solitary
Yellow as death
Wrinkled like parchment
Face turned to the sun. ( Landscape by Chedid 1995)

desert1Heading to the desert. First surprise,  a tree in the middle of the desert. Thinking  “quiet early to have hallucinations”



The tree was real,  it was still there on our return using the compass 😉


If Cartier-Bresson was alive, I’ m sure he would be envious of my photography skills


camelfarmFirst stop a camel-farm.  Those two little ones were so cute..!!!

desert10The sand makes the climbing a quite challenging task


The atmosphere was full of sand creating this cloud of darkness and at the same time protecting us from the sun! 

The camp  looked like an  oasis. We found  nice  food, drinks and big cushions to lie down


bedouin The Bedouin ready to take the tourists for a ride with his  camels. The one with the coloured hat around  the mouth was quite naughty, she likes to bite people and particularly the tourists who plough into her homeland with their 4×4!! (good for her  😉 )

P.S.  Bedouins are nomads. Tracing their ancestry to the first Arabs who roamed through the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, they still maintain an active and vital cultural presence throughout the Arab world, erasing borders between nations. For Bedouin poets, the desert is not an arena of war but a place for community, not a site of alienation and exile but a location for self-fulfillment, and not devoid of nature but full of life. For the Bedouin, the phrase “the future is a desert” has positive implications.

While survival in the desert is not easy, Bedouin life in the desert is not the result of forced exile, but rather of positive choice. Their culture is spiritual, communal, and ecological. Using the terms of an ecofeminist dialogics, they are interactively “engaged” with their world, rather than in opposition to it; they give to their world as well as gain from it. They are not victims in the desert, but celebrants of pride in their home. To understand this, we need to readjust our view of home. In the West and in much of the East, home is a fixed center outside of which there are borders that should not be crossed. Literary theorist Patrick Murphy suggests that we need to “recognize the relative nature of centers and their dynamic relationship with margins” and to accept a new kind of center, one which “serves as pivot, a base on which to step and from which to move on to another center-as-pivot” (Murphy 1991, 51-52). This sort of moving center within a borderless desert is a way to understand the sense of home and community that Bedouins create in their poetry. The desert really has no margins, it is everywhere the same, and wherever the Bedouins are within the desert they are at a center which is always changing as they wander their margins.(by by Maysa Abou-Youssef Hayward)