Tuesday, September 15, 2009
My Pretentious World Tour: First Stop, Athens, Greece
Thursday, September 10, 2009:
Apart from looking into the eyes of my girlfriend when she's asleep, my favorite thing in the world is to be on book tour, especially My Pretentious World Tour for The Tsar's Dwarf.
Let's face it, I'm not a household name in any country, but still the world wants me. I'm going to Athens, Greece; Sutri, Italy; Montreal, Canada; Portland, Oregon, and Hongkong, China. And on my way back, I'll stop in Varanasi (Benares) and Mumbai, India to do some research on the novel I'm writing. All this is covered by wonderful grants from the Danish Art Council, CopyDan, and DPA, The Danish Songwriters' Guild.
I'm a lucky man. And right now this lucky man can't sleep. He lies in bed, his silly head full of silly ideas while the world of literature is waiting to devour him.
Friday, September 11:
What's wrong with the climate? I'm leaving a gorgeously sunny Copenhagen for a rainy, dreary Athens. Are the Greek gods on drugs? Actually, the atrocious weather is appropriate since this year's Athen's Book Festival has a theme, Greening the Future. So now The Danish climate has moved to Greece and the Greek climate has moved to Denmark - that is kind of scary.
I'm met in the airport by the Danish ambassador's Greek driver. The man turns out to be an entertaining cynic. He tells me at great length about the politics of his country, how the Greeks are fooled by corrupt politicians, how he was born in Australia where there isn't much to see, how Denmark should get its act together and clean up Copenhagen. It's an enlightening monologue from a smart man who seems disillusioned with the ways of the world.
As I said, I'm only disillusioned with the weather. "When it rains in Athens, the whole city comes to a stop," Panagiota Goula, the Greek cultural attache at the Danish embassy tells me. "Then everybody in Athens gets into their cars and traffic breaks down."
Later she shows me several Athens newspapers that mention my name. But if someone gave me a million dollars and a little of that excellent taramosalata, I still wouldn't be able to decipher where my name was on the page.
Saturday, September 12
I'm invited to a liquid lunch with the Danish ambassador, my colleague Iris Garnov; Leo, my translator, and four local poets - one of them turns out to be the Greek ex-ambassador to Sudan. Talking about multitasking!
The ambassador's apartment has a gorgeous view of Acropolis and the rest of Athens. "Can I be the next ambassador here?" I ask the nice man whose name is Tom Norring. "No," he says flatly and I leave the apartment totally devastated.
Luckily, I recover for tonight's performance. About thirty people show up at The Danish Institute in Plaka where a Greek actor Konstantinos Konstantopoulos reads excerpts from The Tsar's Dwarf and my latest Danish novel Skorpionens hale.
Even though I don't understand a word of the Greek translations, it's obvious that Konstantinos Konstantopoulos is doing a fantastic job. I'm totally spellbound by his voice. He never looks up when he reads but he totally stays in the world I've created. Two fine Greek musicians add flavor to the night, and I'm moved to tears by the whole event.
My only regret is that Zeus and Pallas Athena didn't show up. Where are the Greek gods when you really need them?
By the way, tomorrow I'm going to Acropolis. I believe it's some kind of semi-famous ruin they put on all of their postcards ...
Iris Garnov, Danish poet, Georgis Georgiadis, musician; yours truly; the Greek actor Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, and Dimitris Theocharis, musician. What a memorable evening. (Sorry about the shirt though. I don't look good in yellow)