Koumandareas, Menis 1931–
Koumandareas, Menis 1931–
PERSONAL: Born 1931, in Athens, Greece.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dalkey Archive Press, ISU Campus 8905, Normal, IL 61790-8905.
CAREER: Writer. Has worked for insurance and shipping companies.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ford Foundation grant, for completion of Glass Factory; German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) scholarship, 1972; Greek State Prize, 1976, for Glass Factory; Blue Book Award, International Book Festival (Frankfurt, Germany), 2001, for The Handsome Lieutenant.
To armenisma, 1966.
Ta kaemena, Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1972.
Viotechnia hyalikon (title means "Glass Factory"), 1975, reprinted, Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1982.
He kyria Koula, Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1978, published as Koula, Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1991, English translation by Kay Cicellis published as Koula, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 2005.
Serapheim kai Cherouveim (title means "Seraphim and Cherubim"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1981.
Ho horaios lochagos (title means "The Handsome Lieutenant"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1983.
Planodios salpinktes: dekatessera keimena, Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1989.
He symmoria tes arpas (title means "Harp's Gang"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1993.
He myrodhia tous me kani na kleo (short stories; title means "Their Smell Makes Me Want to Cry"), c. 1997.
I mera gia ta grapta kai I nihta gia to soma (essays; title means "Daytime Is for Writing and Nighttime for the Body"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 1999.
(Author of text) Costas Ordolis, Athenaioi (title means "Athenians"), Ekdoseis Kastaniote (Athens, Greece), 2000.
Dyo phores Hellenas (title means "Two Times Greek"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 2001.
Noe (novel; title means "Noah"), Kedros (Athens, Greece), 2003.
Also author of short story collection whose Greek title means "Pin-Ball Machines" (short stories), 1962, and of Vest No. 9. Translator of works by Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
ADAPTATIONS: Vest No. 9 was adapted for film by Greek filmmaker Pandelis Voulgaris; Koula was filmed for Greek Television. Many of Koumandareas's works have been translated into other languages.
SIDELIGHTS: The Foundation for Hellenic Culture in New York has called Menis Koumandareas "the foremost representative of the school of social realism in contemporary Greek literature," according to the Art News Channel Web site. Known for his detailed depictions of contemporary urban life in Greece, Koumandareas has authored a number of award-winning works, among them Glass Factory and The Handsome Lieutenant. His Koula, first published in Athens in 1978, was translated by Kay Cicellis and released in the United States in 2005.
The story in Koula is familiar: two strangers (Koula, the bored, frustrated, married mother of two, and Dmitri, a charming, handsome young college student) meet on a train, fall in love, embark on a steamy affair, and eventually go their separate ways. Though the storyline might seem less than original to avid readers, several reviewers felt that in Koumandareas's hands it is anything but clichéd. Brad Hooper acknowledged in Booklist the author's "spare, immaculate prose," and concluded that Koula is "a short novel as perfectly structured and luminescent as a gemstone." Sharing a similar sentiment, a contributor to Publishers Weekly observed that Koumandareas "pack[s] a full novel's worth of drama, passion and sex into a novella."
In his 1993 novel, He symmoria tes arpas ("Harp's Gang"), Koumandareas details the life of an aged, reclusive, failed composer whose only link to the world is through his fourteen-year-old bride and her relationships with the other two male characters in the story. In a review of the novel for World Literature Today, Theodore Sampson noted, "Koumandareas fleshes out his narrative skillfully through his expert handling of dialogue and psychological nuance." Sampson continued, "This is far more than the average, run-of-the-mill novel can give to a sophisticated reader of fiction."
Like his longer works, Koumandareas's short stories have also received positive critical attention. In the collection He myrodhia tous me kani na kleo ("Their Smell Makes Me Want to Cry,") a barber named Euripides listens as a steady stream of clients take a seat in his old barbershop chair and relate their depressing stories. As Sampson pointed out in another World Literature Today review, when the stories finally end "we realize that what they have given us is a revealing and disturbing glimpse of a society in crisis." He went on to note that Koumandareas has been classified "as one of the major writers of his generation, a reputation fully reconfirmed by the present volume."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of Koula, p. 30.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of Koula, p. 996.
Publishers Weekly, September 26, 2005, review of Koula, p. 62.
World Literature Today, summer, 1994, Theodore Sampson, review of He simmoria tes arpas, p. 610; spring, 1997, Theodore Sampson, review of He myrodhia tous me kani na kleo, p. 427.
Art News Channel, http://www.artnewschannel.net/ (January 20, 2006), "A Literary Evening Honoring Menis Koumandareas," press release of the Foundation for Hellenic Culture.
Center for Book Culture Web site, http://www.centerforbookculture.org/ (January 20, 2006), Ana Lucic, "Dalkey Archive, Author Interviews: Menis Koumandareas."
Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin Web site, http://www.literaturfestival.com/ (January 20, 2006), "Authors: Menis Koumandareas."