[ilds] Agathou daimonos

Richard Pine durrelllibrarycorfu at gmail.com
Wed Apr 27 10:41:45 PDT 2016

In a roundabout way we have received this from Bruce - because it seems the
moderator of this list does not accede to requests to register this as the
receiving address of the Durrell Library of Corfu, despite repeated
requests from our Secretary to do so.

I am not in fact 'a speaker of modern Greek' - merely someone living in
Greece who was able, a whole lifetime ago, to speak and write classical
Greek and is therefore more puzzled than most by the difficulties of
speaking or reading modern Greek. The vocabulary is almost unchanged, but
the grammar is totally different. I suppose my ability in modern Greek
could be described as 'taverna Greek' - limited to the necessities.

So, to answer Bruce's question, Greeks will argue the meaning of almost any
word you care to offer, because of ambiguities, multiple words with nuances
that distinguish one inflexion from another, regional variations (these are
very acute between north and south, east and west, rural and urban, 'Greek
Greeks' and Pontic or Anatolian blow-ins, the Aegean islands and the Ionian
islands (where the Durrell Library of Corfu is based) etc.

I take Durrell's meaning to be:

To Claude
the name of the good spirit


To Claude,
The name of the presiding genius

It depends entirely on a) what Durrell really intended and b) how one
interprets subjectively from Greek to English, which an anglophone will do
differently from a hellenophone.

I am fairly sure that he was saluting Claude, not invoking her or paying
her any tribute, and certainly not offering Claude good fortune, but
acknowledging that SHE was HIS good fortune, his inspiration (in the sense
we use 'daemon' ourselves).
Considering that LD was a) misogynistic, b) that we know from personal
testimony that he occasionally assaulted her but also c) that she was
probably the one wife whom he really respected as a true artist, one could
of course argue a different meaning, but I stick with the two I have
offered above. It's a statement, not an invocation.

For the sake of brevity, perhaps Richard, a speaker of modern Greek, can
summarize his translation/interpretation of the 1962 dedication in
*Mountolive.*  Does the following reflect his considered view (avoiding all
the other possibilities)?

[my] good fortune

So, Durrell addresses his beloved Claude in French but compliments her in
Greek.  It’s not unusual to find dedications in another language, often
classical and untranslated.  But code-switching I find interesting.


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