The collection of Yannis Palavos short stories, entitled “Joke”, consists of seventeen short stories, first published in magazines between 2008 and 2011. These short stories are gathered in a collection introduced by the lines of Kostas Montis (1914-2004), one of the most important Greek-Cypriots poets, and they prove that not only beautifully rendered short stories entice readers but also that there are contemporary skilled novelists, able to represent this kind themselves and their readers are reassured that they can trust them in each and every “joking” or realistic narrative.
Two of the most important characteristics of Palavos’ short stories are the dreamy dimension as a support to deal with the harsh reality, and on the other hand the reality itself -not necessarily harsh- as seen through the author’s eyes. The way actually the fantasy and the real blend with each other and the way this hybrid world is created is a sample of Palavos’ talent in the technique of magical realism.As for example, in the short story “For a Change”, in which there is no obvious information on whether the main character is dead or alive after the accident, however we see him transformed into a staple found in a public service office, commenting the public, people’s relationships, love, friendship, secret desires, religion or psychoanalysis, performing social criticism and expressing the author’s personal views. Daydreaming and the dreamy dimension of events are presented as the best way to avoid an immediate confrontation with unbearable situations, exactly like Tasos does while facing the death of his grandmother (“Old People”) or like Thanos does when it comes to his authoritative relationship with Alexandra (“For a Change”) or Stavros when he faces his father’s cancer diagnosis (“Joke”).
Another typical characteristic of his short stories is that his topics originate from hishometown and the broader region of “semi-mountainous Macedonia” and end up in Athens. Several of his short stories remind us of the“ethography”that Papadiamantis or Karkavitsas gave us. Therefore,either it is about rural or urban “ethography”, the river Aliakmonas - even if it is not namely mentioned- is a landmark in his short stories and the artificial lake surrounding his village is intertwined with his experiences and inextricably connected with his psychosynthesis in Athens, as typically illustrated in his stories “Lights”, “Maria” and “Nikos Tsoumpas”.
The modern way of living, the insanely boring life of civil servants, our secret desires, religion, psychoanalysis, love, relationships, friendship, fantasies, memories, the effects of unemployment, immigration, melancholy, death, people’s existential anguish, nostalgia, our need for sexual adventures and our grotesque experiences that make us define and redefine ourselves are all topics imaginatively illustrated in Palavos’ novels.
In the Blog for the short story by the literary magazine Planodion, Bonsai Stories-The aesthetics of the little one, with which Palavos collaborates, he himself records the characteristics of a worth- reading short story: condensation, literary thrift, hint, ambush, accuracy, unusual language, personal viewpoint and the shivering met in poetry.He forgets to include the impression in memory, a feature that we definitely add to his list, which emerges after reading his own short stories. It is not of small importance if one considers that his stories remain pinned in the long-term memory of the readerinfinitely and in such a way that we no longer know whether we have lived, dreamed, imagined or simply read them. And these stories are ready to be recalled at any time. If this is not the writing talent and mastery of the small form then how else can one characterize these narrative contributions?
In almost every of his short stories we can either clearly or latently perceive Palavos’ love for writing, something also proven by his sharp eye and also proves his resourcefulness, the unexpected and the intelligent knitting of his stories using a special and immediate language that absolves the profane and non-allowed. And it is not only his love for writing but also the way he himself handles the language as well as his love for reading; it is obvious that Palavos is an excellent reader. If we carefully observe his stories, we will realize that he takes our hand and leads us to his favourite books, to the special fictional paths of Vikelas, Theotokis and Viziinos and this intertextuality makes his short stories even more charming. The intertextuality is also visible in the cover of the book, which depicts one of Takis Giannousa’s paintings, also born in the central square of the Velvento village in Kozani, in 1923.
The fact that all the above mentioned are given from Palavos to the reader in an immediate and modern way can only lead the reader to conceive the freshness of his texts and feel a deep satisfaction for the representatives of the contemporary Greek story writing.
Nefeli Publications (2012)
Yannis Palavos was born in the village Velvento in Kozani in 1980 and after studying journalism in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki as well as Cultural Management in Panteion University, he presented either individually (“True Love and Other Stories”, IntroBooks 2007, The Child, Nefeli, 2019) or collectively (“San Angre-The tears of Fon Brown”, Topos, 2009) his short stories, as well as scenarios for comic books in cooperation with Tasos Zafiriadis (“The Corpse, Jemma Press, 2011 and “Gra-Grou”, Ikaros, 2017) illustrated by Thanasis Petros. The short stories collection “Joke” was honoured by the National Literary Awards as well as by the Short Stories Award of the online literary magazine “The Reader”. Observant reader and an exciting writer, Palavos is also an exceptional translator. We can’t but