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This year, the NTNG honours Nikos Bakolas and his work.
Biography of Nikos Bakolas
Akis Dimou was commissioned by the NTNG to adapt “Crossroads”, a landmark in postwar Greek literature, for the stage. Nikos Bakolas wrote a novel whose action was centred on the city of Thessaloniki. The personal stories of its people intersect with History, while the city itself emerges out of the collective memory and the experiences of the characters; a city permanently beset by historical and political turmoil. A square that renders visible the actions of individuals.
“Crossroads” was honoured with the 1st State Prize for Fiction in 1988. Adapting such a complex text for the stage was a risk and a challenge for the NTNG and for Eleni Efthymiou, an extremely talented director of the new generation making her NTNG directorial debut.
Nikos Bakolas was born on 26 July 1927 in Thessaloniki, where he lived almost all his life (he lived in the Mansions area, where most of his plays are set). He graduated in Mathematics from the University of Thessaloniki in 1956. He began to work as a journalist while still a student and journalism would form the cornerstone of his subsequent career.
He first published writings of his as a journalist in newspaper “Nea Alitheia” in 1951, but his first professional involvement was in 1952–1953, when he worked for the short-lived weekly newspaper “Eleftheros Kiryx”. Subsequently, mainly between 1956 and 1986, when he retired, he worked at some time or other as an editor (undertaking translations, editing content or taking charge of the literary and arts pages) on almost every one of the Thessaloniki dailies (“Makedonia” 1957–1960 and 1982–1986, “Eleftheros Laos” 1960–1962, “Thessaloniki” 1964–1967, “Nea Alitheia” 1970–1971, “Ellinikos Voras” 1975–82) and as an associate editor (1956–1960) and later editor-in-chief (1967–1969) of “Drasis”, a weekly publication. He also worked in and later headed the Press Department of the Thessaloniki International Fair (1959–1967) and served as secretary of the Thessaloniki Film Festival from 1960 to 1965. He served as the General Manager of ERT-3 for a five-month period in 1989–1990.
He made his debut as a writer of fiction in 1952, taking the second prize in the “Morfes” magazine novella prize with his “Parallagi sto penthimo emvatirio” (Variation on the funeral march). In 1958, he published his first book, “Min klais agapimeni” (Don’t cry, sweetheart), which took an award in the literary contest organized by City of Thessaloniki. This was followed by: “The Garden of the Princes” (1966), a landmark in his development as a novelist, then “Emvatiria” (Marches, 1972), “Ypnos thanatos” (Death Sleep, 1974) and “Mythology” (1977). The latter was universally well-received by the critics and won the “Tomes” magazine award. In 1987, he published his novel “Crossroads”, which earned him his first state fiction prize. In 1990, he published the novel “Katapatisi” (Violation), which completed the quartet he had begun with “The Garden of the Princes”; in 1994, he published “I kefali” (The head). In 1997, he received his second top state prize for fiction for his novel “I ateleioti grafi tou aimatos” (The endless writ of blood). This book was also the Greek entry for the European Literary Prize that year. He also received the Balkanika award for his last novel “Besa gia besa i O allos Fotis” (Besa gia Besa or The other Fotis, 1998), though the awards were not announced until a few weeks after his sudden death on 13 November 1999. Two collections of his short stories have been published posthumously, both of which he prepared himself for publication: “Chronies agies kai agries” (Times holy and wild, 1999) and “To taxidi pou pligonei kai alla diigimata” (The hurting journey and other stories, 2000).
Nikos Bakolas also translated foreign, mainly American, works of literature: William Faulkner (“The Sound and the Fury”, 1963 and “A Rose for Emily”, 1995), F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Great Gatsby”, 1971), Henry James (“The Turn of the Screw”, 1973), etc.
In many ways, the theatre existed in parallel to his journalistic and literary pursuits. From 1958 on, he wrote theatre reviews for the papers with which he collaborated. He was primarily interested in Greek postwar playwrights, and he wrote numerous articles on subjects focused mainly on Greece’s state theatres. He also served as chair of the artistic committee (1974–1975), rapporteur on repertoire (1977–1980) and artistic director (1980–1982 and 1990–1993) of the NTNG. In his younger years, he also wrote a play entitled “O kokkinos fakelos” (The red file), an adaptation of a short story of his, but it was never performed.
The translation of Faulkner’s novel “Sartoris” was also found among his papers. He was working on this right to the end, as well as on his novel “Gia ton erota kai mono” (For love alone) and texts dealing with his relationship with the theatre and several other subjects. He often signed his pieces in newspapers and magazines with the pseudonym Nikos Christoforou.
Through the everyday stories of ordinary people in interwar Thessaloniki, through their dreams, fears and expectations, an invisible world is opened up to us against the background of a turbulent historical period of social and political upheaval. A world in which Man is revealed stripped of every characteristic associated with the “hero”, weak and compromised before history. Taking Nikos Bakolas’ poetic, masterly novel as its starting point along with Akis Dimou’s film version, we will create a production in which realism supersedes allusion, discourse supersedes music and every character is revealed as part of the human whole in its most poetic dimension; our ultimate aim, to create a dark and original mosaic of 20th-century Thessaloniki.
Adaptation for the stage: Akis Dimou, Direction: Eleni Efthymiou, Sets: Evangelia Kirkine, Costumes: Angelos Mentis, Music: Lefteris Veniadis, Movement: Tasos Papadopoulos, Lighting: Zoi Molyvda Fameli, Video Art: Dimitris Zachos, Music coaching: Panagiotis Barlas, 1st Director’s Assistant: Giota Kouitzoglou, 2nd Director’s Assistant: Dimitris Kalakidis, Set-Costume Designer’s Assistant: Elli Nalmpanti, Production Coordinator: Athanasia Androni
Giannis Mastrogiannis (Fotis), Nikos Kapelios (Christos), Katerina Sisinni (Angela), Christos Papadimitriou (Giannis), Christos Papadopoulos (Stratis), Nikos Milias (Angelos), Maria Chatziioannidou (Myrsini), Eleni Thymiopoulou (Amalia), Nikos Kousoulis (Dimitris), Melina Kotselou (Alkmini), Christina Sotiriadou (Antigoni), Theodoros Skourtas (Evgenios), Foteini Timotheou (Domna), Mara Tsikara (Efthalia), Dimitris Sakatzis (Pavlakis), Viktoria Fota (Betini), Evi Sarmi (Eleni), Dimitris Morfakidis (Ilias), Vasilis Tryfoultsanis (Charis), Giannis Karamfilis (Evripidis)