“The Arcadia of Mikis Theodorakis” post is a translation of the article: Οι Αρκαδίες του Μίκη Θεοδωράκη, written by Apostolis Giannakidis, Αποστόλης Γιαννακίδης, in the online magazine Orfeas. The fore word of this magazine is written by Tassos P. Karantas, Τάσος Π. Καραντής, which means that this online magazine is owned by him.
Because the website is written in Greek, I had to use google translate, a bad often misleading translator. I apologise for possibly wrong interpretations. Often I translated the text freely: using my own senses for what the context is telling me. I have linked some names and terms to make the text more transparent.
We are in Athens in the spring of 1967. The risk of an upcoming military coup became more and more intense. Mikis Theodorakis, watching the inertia of the Left, invites Grigoris Lambrakis to meet on 21 April to discuss and decide on their next actions, which should be studied and be thoughtful. During this period, Theodorakis has just finished recording the songs of the album «Θαλασσινά φεγγάρια» with performers Vicky Moscholiou and Grigoris Bithikotsis. At the same time he is preparing his new album «Romancero Gitano» by Federico García Lorca in a free translation by Odysseas Elytis, as well as a cycle of songs by Manos Eleftheriou titled «Λαϊκά».
The coup of the 21st of April 1967 surprised the people and paralysed the country. Of course every artistic activity of the composer was abolished. There followed countless arrests and persecutions of left-wing citizens, politicians and various party executives. Two days after the coup, after he managed to escape from being arrested, Mikis Theodorakis considers it as his duty to address a call of resistance, thinking that there should be a voice in the enormous panic that had been created. A voice that would give courage to the people and threaten the dictatorship even with death. Thus, on April 23, he wrote a message calling on all Greeks to join in order to organise themselves to isolate and expel the junta. This text was shared in thousands of homes .
In May 1967, he founded the first resistance organisation against the dictatorship, the PAM (Patriotic Front) and was elected its chairman. The PAM’s goal was, of course, the overthrow of the junta and the restoration of freedom.
At the same time, the junta imposed harsh censorship on the lyrics of every song that was believed to have social or political content, and on June 11 it banned the songs of Mikis Theodorakis with a special order by the General Staff of the Army, General Οδυσσέας Αγγελής, Odysseas Angelis. All radio broadcasts of his songs, the circulation of his records, all kinds of performances, even listening, were forbidden. Those who sing Theodorakis are led to extraordinary military courts .
Thus, Mikis Theodorakis, the protagonist of the developments of this period, became the main target of the junta, forced to hide in various homes, such as a fugitive. These days were hard for him and his family. He was almost unable to find a hospitable home where he could go into hiding, to be safe for the military and the police. People were afraid to host him. Security people have been seeking him for a long time, until finally, four months after the dictatorship in Greece, on August 21, 1967, they arrested him in a shelter house in Haidari.
The “ασφαλίτες” [since the Regime of the Colonels (?) a swear word, a slang term for a human being of the lowest level] took him naked from the house (due to physical research) and put him in a car, leading him to the “slaughterhouse”, “σφαγείο” … in the detention center of the “Γενικής Ασφάλειας” [this term includes again the swear word ασφαλίτες, the total term: Γενικής Ασφάλειας is not in use anymore; the new term is Διεύθυνση Ειδικής Ασφαλείας του Κράτους] at Bouboulinas Street. There, in conditions of absolute isolation and brutal torture, literally waiting to be executed, he composes an amazing work: “Ο Ήλιος και ο Χρόνος“, “Sun and Time“. He composed it on a piece of paper that was brought to him after many days of isolation in his cell and is a cry of hope for life. A project on Life and Death.
The horrific moments he experienced in the detention center, and the delay in his trial led him to a hunger strike.
After a few days, he was transferred to Avéroff Prison Hospital and from there he was taken to Avéroff Prison, φυλακών Αβέρωφ, at Leoforos Alexandras, across from the Panathinaikos Stadium. In Avéroff Prison the detention conditions were more human than the detention centers of the “Special Security” [Γενικής Ασφάλειας] on Bouboulinas Street. During this period, he came for the first time in a contact with Rena Hatzidaki (also known as Marina). After strong international pressure, military dictators were forced to release Theodorakis from Avéroff Prison. In March 1968, the junta released him, but several police teams controlled his move. During this period he lives in his home in Vrachati, Corinthia, making frequent visits to Athens. In August 1968, the dictators decide to put him under house arrest in his house in Vrachati, after he made some statements against the junta. He does not have the right to leave his home or to be visited anymore.
This period proves to be musically very creative for him as he composes several important works such as “Τα τραγούδια του Αντρέα“, “Andrea’s Songs” [music] / “Επιφάνια Αβέρωφ“, “Epifánia Avérof” [music] in poetry by Giorgos Seferis / “Νύχτα Θανάτου“, “Night of Death” [no music found] in verses by Manos Eleftheriou. At the same time, he completes the cycle of songs “Τα Λαικα“, “Laika”, [music], again in verses of Manos Eleftheriou, and finally he composes the great work “Κατάσταση Πολιορκίας” , “State of Siege” [music] with poetry by Rena Hatzidaki.
The regime of the colonels was afraid for a possible interference from abroad and this made the dictators create new, tougher decisions. Mikis Theodorakis had to be exiled to a more “safe” place.
Then the command was given to find this place, to isolate him from the world. On 21 August 1968, he was quickly transported to the center of the Peloponnese, deep inside the mountainous land of Arcadia: the village of Zátouna, inhabited by about 20 families. Zátouna is surrounded by an enormous desolate terrain, with an abysmal wild forest. Apart from being a quite [almost completely] deserted village, Zátouna had the reputation of being anticommunist. Being exiled in Zátouna, within all these circumstances, meant that Mikis Theodorakis had no civil rights, and that escaping or to be liberated was impossible.
The custody of Mikis Theodorakis took over a full squad of gendarmes who patrolled the house and the whole village on a 24-hour basis. He had the right to go into the village for only four hours a day [.. in this interview Mikis Theodorakis speaks about this situation], accompanied by two police officers and was required to appear twice a day at the police station. The gendarmes had instructions not to allow Theodorakis to communicate with the outside world. He was in complete isolation. His wife and children were surveyed every time they were going out of the village, and re-entering the village. At times, gendarmes received new orders for sudden home searches. These orders for sudden investigations had their main purpose to upset them, in a more effective way than just to investigate for anything forbidden.
At first, they did not allow him to have or to read books and magazines. They also did not allow some correspondence, and even the gendarmes themselves were forbidden to speak with him. But since they were “exiled” and isolated together with him, they started to like him, and became familiar with his music. In fact, they became the first audience of the songs, later bundled in the songs cycle with the name “Arcadia”, composed by Theodorakis on the piano. As he has stated, the gendarmes themselves had begun to sing his songs.
In October 1969, for the sake of an even tougher isolation [Mikis Theodorakis talks about this in this interview], he was taken to the prison of the Oropos concentration camp. Finally, in the spring of 1970, the dictators allowed him to leave Greece, after the French intervention and many solidarity-based démarches with the initiative of many personalities from many countries [… information in the interview]. In this way, Theodorakis is exiled to Paris in April 1970, but the junta keeps his family in Greece.
During this time of adventures in exile and prisons, Mikis Theodorakis did not stop to compose music and produce work.
Zátouna, in the mountainous Arcadia, is a beautiful village about 4km west of Dimitsana. It is the birthplace and homeland of the hero Staikos Staikopoulos, but also the place of origin of many fighters of the 21st [month? year?] and members of the Φιλικής Εταιρείας. From August 1968 to October 1969, Zátouna was to “host” of Mikis Theodorakis and his family, during the difficult years of his exile, because Theodorakis was designated by the regime as a dangerous subversive. Let us note that the house that was left by Theodorakis in Zátouna is still preserved.
During his imprisonment in Zátouna Mikis Theodorakis has composed almost constantly [..in the interview he explains how important creating is during hard times, to be able to survive the psychological terror]. Until October 1969 he composed 11 song cycles, all titled “Arcadia”, the music of the film “Z” by Kostas Gavras and Vasilis Vasilikos, the song “Oταν χτυπησεις δυο φορες“, “When you knock twice” which later entered the album “Τα τραγουδια του αγωνα“, as well as the song “Μαρκ Μαρσώ”, which was never released on a record. At the same time he wrote dozens of articles and letters of political content.
(More information about Zátouna in my former post.)
Till so far. The original article contains also information about more recent happenings in Zátouna, related however with Mikis Theodorakis, but these are characterised as celebrations, in which the people of Zátouna are honouring Mikis Theodorakis. These celebrations are not relevant for explaining the Arcadia song cycles.
The following part of this serial about the Arcadia song cycles contains a long list with musical, poetical, and important circumstantial details.
1. Spyros Kouzinopoulos, Vlassis Vlassidis, Angela Fotopoulou, Memories of April 21 – Interview: “Ο Μίκης Θεοδωράκης θυμάται”, “Mikis Theodorakis remembers”. Macedonian News Agency
2. Ποντίκι – Songs and Tracks – 19/04/2007
3. Ελευθεροτυπία, Eleftherotypia – 30/07/2002
4. Ελευθεροτυπία, Eleftherotypia – 05/10/2006
5. Mikis Theodorakis orchestra for concerts in Dimitsana and Examilia in 2003.
6. Το Χρέος, The Debt – Mikis Theodorakis – 1970-71, Volume B, pp. 84-85.
7. Ελευθεροτυπία, Eleftherotypia – 05/10/2006
- MAGNUM photos: Athens 1967
- The Guardian: From the archive, 2 May 1970: Greek junta has created a ‘slaughterhouse’
- Our Athens: History of Averoff
- Grece: Pnevmatiko Emvatirio, Katastasi Poliorkias
- Official Website: Patriotic Front (1967-1974)
- Blog Gerontakos: Μίκης Θεοδωράκης: “Κατάσταση πολιορκίας”
- Exploring Greece: Photos Zátouna
- New York Times: Athens Frees Ailing Theodorakis