Is it possible for the original text to be reborn through the
Every translation is a reflection of what the translator receives from
the original text. Of course, the translation always depends on the era
and the circumstances under which it has been written. Hence, every
translation is bound to die and be reborn through constant rewriting.
But it always gives an idea and an essence of the original text.
The “idiomynon” was a Greek law that prohibited “insurrectional”
speech. The poem’s title references the public sphere, but the
speaker’s concern for Myrto drives home the personal stakes for the
speaker. From your perspective as a translator, how important is it to
you that an English-language reader understand the politics of Gogou’s
In my opinion, political concepts within Katerina Gogou’s poetry can be
understood and enjoyed even by readers who are not well informed of
Greece’s political history. The “Idionymon” Act of Law, which sentenced
to the penalty of six months imprisonment anyone who attempted to apply
ideas that manifested subversion or to overthrow the social system
through violent means, or to cause partial detachment of the Greek
State, or implementing through actions proselytism, was brought down in
a superficial way, in 1974, after the fall of the Greek Military Junta.
However, up until 1980, the secret service of the Greek State
kept and renewed its secret records and files that contained the
political acts and profiles of every Greek citizen. These files were
actually burned and destroyed after 1981.
Nevertheless, Gogou’s use of the word “Idionymon” in the title is
totally her personal idiosyncracy and choice. It actually retains its
polysemous meanings in the framework of the anticommunist
campaign until the Junta, but Gogou gives it meaning from an
anarchist’s point of view. After the removal of the original “Act
of Idionymon crime,” the New Democracy party’s government passed a new
law in 1976, which shielded and protected the security forces, the
Military Peacemaking Groups, and the Riot Police from individual
protesters and strikers.
Katerina Gogou refers to this new law in the same way that the
anarchist circles of the time did, as “Idionymon,” the hidden offspring
of the old statutory law, while at the same time she was preserving her
own, private meaning for the word. Gogou’s poetry is full of
ecclesiastical, urban and surreal images. We would not call this
iconography a delirium (even though she does mention delirium tremens),
for she achieves a cinematic record of reality, which is beyond time
and political connotations. An iconography that retains its disgusting
appeal. Protesters and anarchists will always fight with riot police,
as Gogou describes. Be they at the Puerta Del Sol in Madrid, and the
anti-austerity movement, or during the Occupy Wall Street movement, or
the riots at Brooklyn Bridge. The political and economic impasse will
be the same, and the hyper-real images caused by abuse of drugs in
combination with alcohol, in any language, will remain enigmatic as in
the poetry of Gogou.