An excerpt from

An Andreas Karavis Companion
by Edited by David Solway

To put it plainly, Karavis does not appear to have any. Ms. Zaravinos asks rhetorically in her essay on the poet, "What is it like to believe in democracy and authority but to watch them corrode one another?" This is an interesting question in itself but she does not pursue it further. She gives no source for the knowledge implicit in her formulation and certainly did not try to get in touch with Karavis or at least with his editors as part of her research (not that this would have been easy). There is no doubt that Karavis believes in authority in the aesthetic domain as his veneration of the ancestor poets and his passion for lexicology and linguistic ordonnance make perfectly clear. Democracy, however, is another matter altogether. Like socialism, democracy is anathema as a principle of composition where one needs to be ruthless and tyrannical with oneself and austerely selective in the actual practice and revisionary procedures entailed by the medium. "It is a devastating error," he declares, "to extrapolate from one domain to another." In the social sphere proper, Karavis would agree with Plato who, in a moment of political sanity, once defined democracy as the best of all the defective systems from which we are given to choose, but Karavis stays away from the political arena almost entirely, except at the polling booth. "I will vote for one party," he says, "as the most effective way of casting my vote against another." During the notorious regime of the Junta, he abandoned his home on Seriphos where he had come under suspicion as an intellectual and went into voluntary exile on Amorgos, remaining there inconspicuously for six years. (He refuses to speak about this period in his life, out of shame for his country, I suspect.) "I would never kill for a principle or a party," he told me once when we were discussing the Junta interregnum, "and I would fight only if physically attacked or to defend my family, if I had one. But then I would be merciless." As an afterthought, he added rhetorically: "And who was our greater enemy then, the Colonels or the pashas?"

For reasons best known to himself, he has little more to say about the volatile issue of Greek/Turkish relations, except to affirm the obvious: that modern Greeks are very much like modern Turks, that Greek music uses the oriental scale, that his beloved dhimotiki is in some respects a Turkish dialect. "It is time these tribal tensions were defused," was his sole apodictic pronouncement on the question. Karavis vigorously repudiates the tendency exhibited by certain poets who like to dabble in political theory or affiliate themselves with political or national causes of any kind. "What about Yannis Ritsos?" I asked him. "Possibly an exception," he answered, "a brave poet who suffered for his convictions, unlike most. Too prolific, however. But on the whole, these poets generally do enormous harm to others and even if they don't, they are certain to make fools of themselves. They remind me of cardinals, the most beautiful but also the most stupid of birds, who have been known to mistake the open mouths of goldfish for those of their nestlings. You can always tell a political poet by the number of bloated goldfish and starving cardinals around him." We never broached the subject again.