A writer full of optimism
A summer evening in the garden of Oasis, motivated by the book “The Tango of the rain”. The meeting with Stelios Viskadourakis in Heraklion, Crete, was something more than rewarding. How it could be different, when it is about a person full of optimism, positive aura and always willing to convey these personality traits to others, either they are people who talk with him or people who read his books. This happens because he is really interested in the opinion of both of the above. An interview that looks like a discussion among friends, an exchange of opinions about life and the way we face it. The questions were open, sometimes interrupted by others which came spontaneously. As far as his answers are concerned, we can only say that Stelios Viskadourakis is an open book. Let’s get to know him better.
There are many names of locations in all of your stories. It is as if the reader learns about Heraklion without having visited it before. Does literature offer us a journey both literally and metaphorically?
Literature is a journey both literally and metaphorically, this is for sure.
Do your narratives resemble folk tales giving a moral?
I do not write a lot, but I do listen. My next book may be released in two years. And I can write anything. You can give me something now, a clue, as we are sitting in this table and I can write you a story. But this is not the point. In what I am more interested is the way you are going to submit a story. As I have already said in other interviews, it is not important to write stories, but to decode characters and situations. This is the real definition of “writer” for me. So, this is what I am struggling for. My last story is “The dish of disloyalty”. I do not know if it is one of my best writings, but I was suffering a lot while writing it because I had to do with living people. I wanted to keep balance, to describe a real dish in a restaurant and to invent an imaginary story at the same time. This dish is in the menu of Vourvouladiko, if you visit the restaurant you can taste it. There is great suspense in all the above, they have an interesting life, plus my personal condition. My condition, you know, is very interesting, I mean the multiple sclerosis. I used to be a physiotherapist, I used to have patients. And then I saw that definitely my situation is serious, but it also gave me the chance to observe reactions. There are patients who were scared because I was their therapist and now I lost my power, they are wondering now “what happened?”. On the other hand, I realized that I was self-possessed because as a therapist I could see things in a different way. I mentioned the above in order to answer your question: yes, observation is required in order to achieve the one you asked me.
Tell us a few things about the writing procedure. Under the titles of your stories you write where and when. So, does a story begin and end there and then?
It needs a lot of thinking. I wrote “The Tango of the rain” almost five years ago. It needs a lot of thinking before holding the pen and write.
Do you use a pen, not a keyboard?
A pen, roller 0,7 and then I write on my computer. There is a difference between writing in pen and writing using a keyboard. There is another thing I want to add. If I could write automatically my thoughts then my literature would be better. You are just thinking and then you have to write down your thoughts immediately, because they can be lost. Inspiration is a charisma sent by God. If I can sometimes touch my readers, it is exactly because they get something, which could be lost in a different occasion. This is how “The Tango of the rain” was created. I write every day from 5 a.m. to 8-9 a.m. Now, the exact time I mentioned bellow my titles may be random.
Rain has the leading role in your stories. Is there something behind this? Is there a specific meaning in rain for you?
I saw one day some clouds and they were as if they were dancing tango. This was the beginning. Rain, for me, is the reason I wrote this book. It is the connection between God and humans. I think that rain is the only way for God to get in touch with humans.
So, we are talking about a short story collection with an existential background?
Of course, yes.
You painted the cover of your book. When art is anyway in your life –you paint, you take photos, you are interested in sculpture, although you never say that you are a painter, a photographer or a sculptor- why did you turn your look to writing? Is there something that is covered only in writing?
For me, all the above are just one. I say it very often, that I tend to one side, you tend to the other side of art. I don’t mean that I am a painter just because I paint. My brother, who is a professional painter, can also write well, but he is not a writer. A philologist, for example, can make art in the classroom. There is a big difference between those who are teachers and those who are qualified with a degree.
Is everything literature, after all?
It sounds selfish, so I can tell you that in a different way, as I have already told it before, that we are all trying to make a fairy tale: some people by painting, some others by writing, and others with music. Art is one single thing.
Music plays also an important role in your life. Apart from the story with the title “The soloist”, music appears in many other narratives.
Of course. I am especially interested in the music of the words in my writings. For “The crack of time” I can tell it for sure. Especially this book has music, you can listen to the difference in words, it is not a simple sound, but the music of words and sentences. There is harmony.
Raindrops make your heroes contact with their feelings and they function like small mirrors, in which they can see for the first time their real self. Is writing a procedure of self-knowledge, both for the writers and the readers?
Writing is mainly a procedure of self-knowledge. And if you manage your readers to find their way to self-knowledge, then this is success.
Then, this is success and balance as well? Because you always refer to balance in your stories too.
You sometimes wonder why you write. For glory? Yes, I have already been awarded. So what? This self balance and if you succeed in passing this balance to your reader is the goal.
Can this balance that literature can bring both to the writer and the reader, change, on a more expanded level , the negative sides of our society?
It could, but to do so, there must be the appropriate educational background. People who are interested can search, perceive seriously what a writer wrote, then evaluate it and give it to others. This is also success. I read a couple of days ago a phrase by Saramago. And then I said “oh my God, I’m 56 and I’m wondering what he said. He said: “happiness and misery come and then go again” and there is always balance. You can experience both happiness and misery, you cannot choose between them. Two things that someone needs in order to survive are harmony and serenity. So, literature should change one’s life, in order society to change as well, and the first depends on each one separately. It depends on how much a person wants to see through different eyes. It needs a lot of courage to dive into yourself, because this is what you do with literature, and then criticize yourself. We can easily criticize others but not ourselves. It needs great courage to look for self-diving. And where are you going? It needs courage.
It needs courage to confess, as in the story with the title “the monk and the devil”, which has to do with dualities: bad and good, light and dark, morality and sin, youth and corruption, integration and disintegration, movement and stillness, saintliness and sacrilege companionship and loneliness. It is a story about four confessions and in depth it is like everyone confesses in front of themselves.
Can you see balance?
Are there any autobiographical references in your stories? This return to childhood is your attempt to dive in yourself?
There are many experiences which are mine, like in the story “The soloist”. The hero’s return to childhood is something I have experienced. There is a point in your writings if you manage to put this in your stories. Self-analysis both for me and the reader. But it is important not to say “now I am writing for the others”. No. I do not read a lot, because I want to bring out what I really have in me. When I read great writers, Kazantzakis, Karagatsis, Dostoevsky , I am shocked, I need days to get over. And I need blinkers in order not to be influenced. I want to be me and myself. There was nothing else while I was writing “The Tango of the rain”, for example. Only me and the Tango.
There is an opening book dedication to your father. What does it mean? You write: “to my father for those he gave me and those he didn’t give me”.
My father didn’t give me because he couldn’t realize or he didn’t have the education. A man who had a difficult life cannot give so easily. A man very clever and you are wondering how a life can be lost. Stories like my father’s life are “raw material” for writings. I haven’t done it so far because I am still looking for the codes.
Stelios Viskadourakis was born in Heraklion, Crete, in a family of painters. In such a family environment, he got familiarized with images and art in general from a young age. He is interested in painting, sculpture, and photography and he has organized or taken part in exhibitions in Crete, Athens and Thessaloniki. He writes for newspapers and magazines. He was awarded in literature competitions both in Greece and abroad (Argentina 2011). His first book “In the crack of time” was published in 2009 by Taxideutis editions and then re-published in 2016 by Mystis editions. His second book “The Tango of the rain” was published in 2015 by Gavriilides editions. He also contributed to a collective work “The diary of writing 2009” by Orionas editions.