Panos Ioannides was born in Famagusta, Cyprus, in 1935. He studied Mass Communications and Sociology in the USA and Canada. He served as Director of Radio and Television Programmes at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation. He has been writing literature, mostly prose and theatre, since 1955. Works of his have been translated and published in their entirety or in parts in French, German, English, Russian, Romanian, Chinese, Hungarian, Polish, Serbo-Croat, Turkish, Persian, Bulgarian, Swedish, and other languages. His plays Gregory, Peter the First, The Suitcase, and Ventriloquists have been staged in Greece, England, USA and Germany. He served as Chairman of the Cyprus Theatre Organization (ThOK) Repertory Committee, and as President of the Cyprus PEN Centre. He lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Short Story Collections

Gregory and Other Stories
(Armida Publishing, 2009)

reviewed by A J Kirby

Interview with Panos Ioannides

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Panos Ioannides: The twelve stories in this volume were written, with another twenty five, over a period of nineteen years, beginning in 1960, the historic year when Cyprus became independent, and ending in 1979. All the thirty seven short stories which I wrote during this particularly productive period for me, are contained in four collections which came out in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1979. A fifth collection, with three novellas, was published in 1988. I have not included an example of this later work in Gregory and Other Stories.
   I would add that since 1988 I have not written other short stories or novellas. I have concentrated mainly on the writing of novels and plays, two genres which have always interested me and which I also engaged in during the period when I was writing my short stories.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

PI: What interested me – and interests me – when writing is to treat my subject in the most effective way and to perfect its form as completely as possible, rather than the final use it will be put to. Since, however, in the various productive periods of my writing career I was much occupied, sometimes exclusively, with a particular group of subjects of a similar kind: in my first collection, In Ethereal Cyprus ... (1964), with the freedom struggle of Cyprus, in the second, Cypriot Epics (1968), with the changes independence brought to the country and the difficulties of adapting to the new socio-political conditions, in the third, Chronaka (1972), with the turbulent ancient and mediaeval history of the island which has haunted and cast its ramifications over the fraught present of my country, and in The Unseen Aspect (1979) with the coup d’état and the Turkish invasion of 1974, it was natural that each new short story which I wrote during those days could easily find its place in the collection which gradually took shape from texts with a common or related thematic core.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

PI: For this specific collection I chose twelve of my short stories which had been translated into English and were representative of my concerns and of the particular style which I adopted in each period. Although the idea of mixing them, of alternating the dramatic with the satirical, the historical with the contemporary etc., tempted me, I finally considered it wiser to put them in chronological order according to the date of publication of the collection in which they appeared. In my opinion this makes it easier for the interested reader to see my course as a short-story writer and its most important milestones.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

PI:  The words "story" and "short story" enchant me. I want to believe that there has always been a story-teller in my genes and that the mixing of the reality of everyday life or of history with controlled imagination creates a magic and turns simple things into complex ones, small into great, transitory into long-lived ones. To me, the short story is one of the most perfect forms of literary expression, a microcosm that is self-sufficient, independent and self-reliant. In its good moments, it manages to pack into a few pages memorable specks of life, sketches and brings to life human characters with short, swift brushstrokes, sets out with the greatest possible brevity and suggestiveness problems and situations, develops and culminates and brings the human comedy to a conclusion or an impasse.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

PI:  When I am writing short stories, and my other literary works as well – novels, plays, poems (because I occasionally write poetry) – I have no reader in mind but myself, who am willy-nilly the law-maker, the judge and also the first recipient of my work. Who else will be moved, how many, where and how, and will endorse what I write about the things that move me, bother me, make me rebel or laugh or deride, does not concern me during the writing process. These things begin to concern me when the ink dries on the page...

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

PI: Yes, of course. I would like to hear from my readers if they were able to move comfortably in the fictitious world I created, if and how much the sufferings, adventures and the ideas of my heroes awoke their interest, if they moved them and if they gave them food for thought. What I would never dare to ask them is if their contact with the specific text has changed them, even a tiny bit...

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your books?

PI: Each time a sales account comes from the bookshops which stock my books, however meagre it is, it makes me feel vindicated and satisfied, hoping that my desired secret communication and mute dialogue with my reader are beginning to be articulated.

TSR: What are you working on now?

PI:  For the moment I am planning, and from time to time I write chapters of, an autobiographical novel.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

PI: Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I read for the third time, My Grandmother Athena by Costas Tachtsis and the collection by the Cypriot prose writer Niki Marangou, The Demon of Prostitution.
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