Let Us not Give up on Ourselves
Hristos Katsanis for the Literary Balkans magazine
Tell us a few names of Greek and Bulgarian authors you have read in the past years that you liked Ė maybe even from the Balkan Library series, which has reached 24 publications and started with your personal humane commitment?
Iím more classically tuned and have to think about this. Otherwise I read lots of literature, and not only by authors from Greece and Bulgaria.
So this question poses some limitations to you?
Right now Iím reading many books on Argentina which I visited not long ago. It has nothing to do with the Balkans, but the country and Latin America are very interesting for me. A continent of interest, of magic, I would say.
Maybe it resembles the Balkans just a little?
Maybe it does, but in many things the continent differs considerably from the Balkans. I really have to think which names of favorite authors of mine to mention in order to be fair after all. For example, Kavafis, Seferis, Elytis, Dimitar Dimov, Yordan Yovkov, Simeon Radev, Nikolay Haitov, and, of course, the writers of our region whose books have been published by ĄBalkaniď.
How do you imagine the Balkans in 20 years, as conditional as such a prognosis might be?
What it would be in 20 years, if I have to be honest, I canít know that. Iím quite worried now that we may lose our Balkan identity. Because there is something good on the Balkans Ė itís the strong national character of the peoples who live here. This is very good if itís not accompanied by nationalism. Through its national character, each nation opens up for world civilization. The problem is that on the Balkans, maybe because of the desire to adapt to the new world givens, we easily forget about our own culture and very quickly become Ąinternationalď. Many people forget their language using extremely often foreign words. They forget the classics, history. Iíve heard about Bulgarians, Iíve seen on TV, who speak with an unpleasant feeling about Ivan Vazov, Hristo Botev. Why do we have to speak about their works, about Bulgariaís national liberation revolution? They say it is unacceptable, because we speak of violence, and children should not be exposed to violence and so on. There are people, unfortunately, who make systematic efforts so that Balkan peoples forget their history, their literature, their language, their culture, and this, I think, is absolutely unacceptable. Let there be an opportunity through solidarity one with another to enrich our own culture, to show respect among ourselves. Help each other like neighbors. We have a common culture and fate at the same time, which doesnít exclude our being open to all world tendencies. And benefit from everything that is happening around the world, but in an authentic way! Not in the sense some businesses, companies, centers want to impose on us.
What is the biggest challenge for Greece as a natural regional leader?
I donít know if Greece is a regional leader but what is very important for Greece is to protect its own economy. Because the Greek economy, in particular, despite the growth rates weíre shown and the development rates, I think is not that strong. What I mentioned in the previous question about Bulgaria is extremely important for Greece too. We need the educational system to become much more developed, to be more educated regarding new and higher technologies.
Now too we continue to be a society open to the world. Greeks have always been open to the world. Itís necessary to avoid all kinds of racism and xenophobia, although part of the Greek population suffers from such symptoms. A great role in this have some politicians and some mass media. We have to better understand ourselves and our neighbors, and together to develop our societies for the good of the ones and the others.
Letís not forget that what is going on on the Balkans affects Bulgaria, affects Greece, but is not only up to us. There are different centers trying to do things on the Balkans which are not necessarily good for the region.
What is your discovery about Bulgaria, which we also didnít know about ourselves, in your upcoming book in Greek?
This is an interesting question. Iíve written an awful lot of material but I havenít yet decided on its final form in the book Ė more historical, or more technocratic, or more essayistic. Iím almost sure there wonít be just one book. It will all depend on our health and many other things.
I believe Bulgaria provides great material for much research, not only in the field of economy, but society, art, culture, even humor and satire. At this moment Iím terribly short on time, I canít be busy with many books at a time. One book will be published in Greek by the beginning of next year. It will contain information about the citizens Ė about Bulgarian economy, the banking system and at the same time it will provide information on the history of Bulgaria.
Letís hope ĄBalkaniď will be lucky enough to publish your book in Bulgarian.
I hope so!
Christos Katsanis was born in Athens in 1956. He graduated from the Economical Faculty of the University of Athens, then went on to study in Paris where he did his doctorate in Banking. He worked in Athens, London and Brussels. Since 1992 heís been in Bulgaria representing the National Bank of Greece. He speaks seven languages. Executive-director of OBB.