Johanna Hanink (Brown University) is working on a translation of Andreas Karkavitsas’ 1904 novella The Archaeologist, to be published in 2021 with Penguin Classics. This will be the first Penguin Classic edition of a work by a Modern Greek prose author. The novella, written in the same year that Alexandros Papdiamadis’ The Murderess was published (1903), is an allegory for the tensions, neuroses, and challenges of the still-young Greek nation state. It tells the story of Aristodemus and Dimitrakis Eumorphopoulos, descendants of the illustrious Eumorphopoulos line (read: the ancient Greeks), who are struggling to regain their family’s glory after the downfall of the Khan family (read: the Ottomans) that has subjected them for centuries. The brothers, however, disagree about the best path forward: Aristodemus, the “archaeologist,” believes that they must look to the past—to their family’s ancient language and artifacts—while Dimitrakis insists on embracing the present.
The novella touches on several key themes in Modern Greek history: the “language question,” the putative “Romaic” versus “Hellenic” binary, the pitfalls of foreign philhellenism, the burdens of αρχαιολατρία and προγονοπληξία, the significance and symbolism of the material past, and the complications of defining a Greek national identity. It is, to be sure, a disturbingly nationalist tract, but it is also an important witness to many literary, cultural, and historical developments in the Greek nation state.
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