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The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems of Kiki Dimoula in English
Kiki Dimoula’s poetry—the most praised and prized in contemporary Greek literature—is a paradox, both mysteriously intricate and widely popular. Her magic lens defamiliarizes all that is familiar, compressing distances between far-flung realms, conflating concrete and abstract, literal and metaphorical, physical and metaphysical. Exacting and oracular at once, Dimoula superimposes absurdity on rationality, caustic irony on dark melancholy.
This first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Dimoula’s oeuvre brings together some of her most beguiling, arresting, and moving work. The demands on her translators are considerable. Dimoula plays with the Greek language, melds its levels of diction, challenges its grammar and syntax, and bends its words, by twisting their very shape and meaning. Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, Dimoula’s award-winning translators, have re-created her style’s uncanny effect of refraction: when plunged into the water of her poetry, all these bent words suddenly and astonishingly appear perfectly straight. The book is available at Amazon and major bookstores.
Kiki Dimoula is a full member of the Academy of Athens, one of three women ever to be inducted. She has been awarded the Greek National Poetry Prize twice, the Grand National Prize for lifetime achievement, the Ouranis Prize of the Academy of Athens, the Aristeion of Letters of the Academy of Athens in recognition of her complete oeuvre, and the European Prize for Literature. She published her first collection of poetry in 1956 and has since been widely published in Greece and translated into English, French, Danish, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages.
Cecile Inglessis Margellos is a translator from French, English, and ancient Greek, a scholar, and a literary critic. She has translated into Greek works by Céline, Antoine Berman, Colette, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Jean Giraudoux, Raymond Queneau among others, and is preparing an annotated translation of Plato’s Symposium from ancient to modern Greek. She divides her time between Geneva and Athens.
Rika Lesser, twice the recipient of translation prizes from the Swedish Academy, is the author of four books of poems and seven books of poetry in translation. She resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.
This review first appeared at Yale University Press.