The OMNIBUS reading tour, spanning over 12 weeks, has reached its final stage: Cyprus – and its final week. Elvis has not yet left the building, though. Cyprus is still a divided country, a country where arts and politics share a different relationship. Read here how the authors perceived the literary scene in Cyprus, have an inside look into the political situation and think about when you last heard a siren wailing. This may indeed be quite a fitting end to a journey which has traversed the whole of the European Union.
First questions: I guess politics is very much a central topic among you. In light of the turmoils of recent events in Turkey and finding yourselves on a divided island – how do you experience the situation?
Hi! Ailbhe and Florian left last night, Josep today. We went to see the castle with Alexander and ate lunch in the same place Nikos took us yesterday. And then Alexander left too. Just me left here in Limassol. Strange, very strange. We didn’t talk about Turkey’s situation that much, correct me of I’m wrong. It suprised me that local people weren’t very up for talking about it, neither in the North nor in the South. The situation in Europe’s last divided city Nikosia or anywhere else in this divided island is so weird, but not between people. We had to have a quide to take us over the green line for example. And greek phones don’t work in the Northern part of the island and so on. I think that they must be bit tired of talking about politics, they have had to get used to different kinds of weird rules and stuff during their constantly changing situation, ruled by changing authorities. I really admire how the people here are taking this all. They are not hostile to the ones on the other side of the green line. Did anyone talk about Turkey with poets on the Northern side?
Avgi, by the way, are you still in Limassol or have you already left?
I am home 🙂 just arrived, catching up with my husband 🙂 i guess it’s strange to be there alone. If you fancy a typical Limassol bar, check out Sousami.
Is it strange to be at home? Sousami, hmm, thank’s for the tip, let’s see if I can get my ass out of Mistral tonight. I have made it through Cyprus for 5 days! Amazon days!
For my part, when we crossed the green line I mostly thought about the border in Ireland. Our peace has been totally dependent on erasing the visible signs of the border, a process which has been impossible in Cyprus. And at just this moment in Ireland there is real fear that, after Brexit, the visible signs of border will have to return on our landscape. And that will bring the return of violence. It felt weirdly apt, from that point of view, to travel in Cyprus at this moment – but of course there are huge differences between the two situations; any analogies are bound to be a stretch of the imagination.
Mind you, on the morning of the 20th of July some of us were woken at 5am by sirens to commemorate the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, and we heard that there were celebratory parades in Northern Cyprus on the same day. This reminded me so much of Ireland – on the 12th of July in Ulster, there are triumphant parades and bonfires of protest, meant to keep alive the memory of something that happened in 1690! And meant to keep the wound open and deliberately smarting. I could see this in Cyprus, too.
And what about the northern Cyprus flag, painted massive every year on the mountain. It is lit up as well, Just to remind everybody in the dark too.
Yes! Which makes me want to mention that Avgi is involved in a fantastic project to have artists paint huge murals on the sides of walls. She showed us some of these murals in Nicosia. They were so gorgeous. Hers seemed like a particularly wonderful intervention into the urban landscape when contrasted with the flags and effigies of Turkish national heroes we’d seen dotted around northern Cyprus earlier that day.
Oh Alibhe… <3
Heres something strange. This is the FIRST year of my life that i didn’t hear the sirens.
It was a project supported by the Cyprus Parliament, where I work as a publications officer. 6 large scale murals by international and Cypriot artists are now decorating Nicosia for the first time. One of the murals is actually in the Parliament, so this makes the Cyprus Parliament quite unique and original, since it is probably the first in the world that includes street art within its walls.
One realistic excuse for the sirens is that I have been very tired for weeks. The metaphysical one is that the burden of the sirens and our history shifted this year to our guests and let us sleep…
Good morning Julia and all! Greetings from Munich. I got trapped here for a various reasons given by different flying companies. Sori myös CROWD tour in a way continues! Slept well, so maybe I have time and energy to write something from the airport, where I’m soon heading.
*So my, not sori myös.
About borders. I wrote in 2011 that Europe was barbed wired. Now it is. Yesterday I thought about refugees without passports or the permission to travel freely. In Munich it took 2 seconds to get into Germany with a Finnish passport. Before me there were 2 guys, maybe from Pakistan, and it took 10 minutes to get in. They asked about their relations to each other and so on. In Cyprus, the Green Line is not barbed wire in the same way that it is for example on Hungary’s southern borders, but both are statues of history and politics. That is on one level, and between people there is another level. It should be remembered too. No to identify oneself with borders, which say: we are here and THEY are different, not like us. People I met in Cyprus think the Green Line lies not between people, but within politics. I admire it a lot. I don’t know is that a common way of thinking. Is it Avgi?
It is quite common and at the same time it depends on the background of the people. Greek and Turkish Cypriots used to live together before 1963 and the Green Line was not placed by them, but, indeed, by politics and politicians. However, this line kept people apart for decades, especially after the 1974 invasion of course. After 2003 with the “borders” opening, people started to reunite with the everyday passings North and South. There is an important percentage however on both sides that denies to have anything in common with the “others” and blames only the other side.
This flight seems to be late too! You can leave CROWD, but CROWD won’t leave you.
Poor Marjo! I’m on tenterhooks to have you safely home!
Thanks Ailbhe! Sooner or later it will hopefully happen.
Maybe it is still a little bit early to ask for a memorable moment of the journey since you are not all at home. Then, let me ask, what do you think about politics in literature or literary politics? Did you have the feeling that your writing and works changed in the face of the divided island and an audience who has a different mother tongue (for most of you)?
Confronting an audience with a different mother tongue was big for me. I think I’ve always imagined my audience as Irish, and so my poems tend towards a certain linguistic density, a preciousness about vocabulary and lots of intertextual allusion with the Irish tradition in mind. I’m excited about the possibility of writing a poem with a different set of values – simpler language, yes, but maybe also incorporating or enabling its own translation somehow, whether on the page or in performance. I was so impressed, for instance, by Josep’s performances. He incorporates gestures that are themselves a kind of physical translation of the poem. He mentioned that he’s interested in the idea that for the non-hearing who use sign language to communicate, poetry is a kind of dance.
trying to answer julia’s questions: i think there is no unpolitical literature. there is only literature written by authors who do not reflect the political implications of their writing (probably most of them). i did not get the impression that the division of the island plays a very important role in the texts written by cypriot authors. but this leads to a serious problem of international literature projects like this: you simply get to know too little text by the colleagues in translations. because of this unsufficient knowledge & because of the fact, that the authors from the different european countries have to communicate in english, it is very difficult to reach a certain level in poetological discussions. maybe it is a little bit easier when you write poetry. but as an author writing prose i could only present a 2 or 3-minute excerpt which has been translated into greek & i don’t think the audience really got an idea what i was doing in my texts.
I see. And this marks a very important point. Do you all share this moment, this experience?
I definitely share it!
One of CROWDs main catch phrases is “literature as a mother tongue” – this may be up for interpretation, but the idea includes the very possiblity of exchange that also takes each countries specific situation – be it political, economical or in the literary scene – into account so a much broader experience is possible. This is also just one point of view. For someone like me, being a semi-participator, it is interesting to see the different groups of authors telling me all different things from the tour. So: the frame also shapes the experience, no?
Just to note something important what Florian brought up. It is true that most writers and poets born after 1974 do not talk much about the division of the island or the historical facts, since they/we do not have personal experience of them. It is notable that in this way their themes are quite different of those of the previous generation who experienced both coup d’ etat and turkish invasion of 74 and also the political separation before that. This generation of artists inevitably writes about 1974 and after that comparing to the previous years. My generation experienced the “i do not forget” years with memories and stories about our beautiful land, without many references to facts though. We finished school and became adults to realise that getting back our land or re-unification is not an easy task and that politics and propaganda played an important role in all this. And maybe we look the other way maybe from all this disappointment as far as our artistic themes are concerned. And of course it is a different era with other issues.
I understood what you do with your work, guys – i think! But i spent more time with you and I’m good with languages 🙂
I want to say that I’ve always depended on the kindness of writers. And it was right decision once again! I heard brilliant stories, brilliant languages, excellent poems&prose, and met unforgettable people. And now when I look all the future plans, ideas, contacts, memories and new thoughts that I have because of the CROWD, I’m so full of luck to be one part of the craziest tour in ages. And Florian, I agree that literature (as all art) is always political. That’s why every writer should think about it. Let’s keep etc!
I’d echo Florian: I feel like I only got the tiniest teeniest glimpse of what you lot are doing in your writing – time and language were both against us. But I’d also echo Marjo: that glimpse was brilliant and unforgettable and I feel ridiculously lucky to have got it. I want to follow up on it, though I don’t know exactly how!
Thank you too, Julia, for giving us this new age opportunity to tell things that we might have thought but didn’t literally have the time to say!
Thank you, too Avgi, for the exclusive insights into Cyprus’ political situation. And thank you all for this massive interview! It was my pleasure.