“Unwittingly, my life became entangled in History and I became a part of it too. So my writing work, like it or not, is full of History. If I managed to get the children to at least listen to her, the future will tell”, said Alki Zei, one of the greatest Greek writers and a woman who left a valuable legacy for the next generations of readers.
He lived a fictional life with constant movements, self-exile, meetings and unforgettable experiences. A turbulent life and a literary work that left a deep imprint on Greek letters. During her long career she received important honors and awards. Widely read and translated, with books loved by young and old. I remember the times I was in her apartment on Alexandra Avenue, a house full of indelible moments and memories. Of course, all her notes were always in Faber number two pencil, which was placed on the marble kitchen table.
When Metaichmio asked me to write a book about Alki Zei, I went crazy with joy. I didn’t hesitate for a moment! I was given the opportunity to write something different for my friend, something beyond the usual review notes for her books.
All these and many more came to mind as I leafed through Marisa Decastro’s delightful book entitled “Alki Zei – Eyes like a blue sea”, which is published by Metaichmio publications. An original edition that is expected to move readers of all ages and take them on a journey to the most important stations of the author’s significant writing world. In particular, we have the opportunity to get to know her multi-faceted life, rich in events, experiences and emotions, as well as her award-winning work, discovering difficult but also happy moments in a vivid, almost cinematic way.
Marisa Decastro studied pedagogy and literature for children and young people at the Sorbonne. He writes knowledge books for children and translates literature for young people and adults. In this venture she creates a rich and unique illustrated biography. It is a very useful educational tool that offers a panoramic overview of Zee’s way of thinking in her almost hundred years of life, which is intertwined with History and literature. It is enriched with an impressive pictorial material, chronological details and reference points of a tumultuous course.
Mariza Decastro says about her book: “When Metaichmio asked me to write a book about Alki Zei, I was overjoyed. I didn’t hesitate for a moment! I was given the opportunity to write something different for my friend, something beyond the usual review notes for her books. Because Alki was a friend, we read each other’s books, we spent holidays at her house in Pelion… She was also my mentor, since she introduced me to children’s literature. I have written about Alki Zei, but this book you are about to read is different. My perspective here is different, because on the one hand I was flooded with emotions and on the other hand I had to write her biography. I needed, therefore, to match feelings and memories with testimonies based on her writings and opinions, so that everything would become a biography that would be of interest to her readers and the general public. When you write a biography, you refer to sources, and that’s what I did. First source, re-reading her work. So I started by reading all of her writings. I know her books inside out. But what if I had missed something that I had passed over because it seemed small and unimportant? Indeed, there was a lot – empty sentences, an idea, a short passage from a novel – that went into the book.”
And he continues: “In her autobiographical works for adults I found events, the flow of her life interspersed with the thousand and two that preoccupied her. In the children’s books I found her ideas about how she wrote, the composition, the characters, the themes, their connection to History and her own story, but above all to her pedagogy, which made her the first of the greatest Greek writers for children. However, the greatest source was what we had said and experienced up close over the years, from 1973 until her death. Everything had to be composed in an after-the-fact dialogue and also told in her own words, so that her restless, fighting, generous, humorous spirit could be seen.”
I read an excerpt from the book: “When Alki Zei passed away, her family opened drawers and cupboards to organize her files. And there she found, among her papers, as often happens with writers, an unpublished short story with the title TITLE. The dedication read: “To Antonis who does not eat melon”. It was a gift for her grandson, whose name is Antonis. The signature, Cooley Andersen, who had written it in her own hand, was very mysterious. Of course, everyone knew that Coolie was her pet. But Andersen? What did the great storyteller think about Grandma Alki’s gift? Alki set up a game, a writing desk! He took Hans Christian Andersen’s The Lead Soldier, was inspired by the plight of the lame soldier, and wrote the story of a suffering, useless Pokémon.” This was the great lady of children’s and adolescent literature.
And at another point we can see her undying love for young people: “Alki was loved by young readers because she was honest, respected and took their thoughts seriously. And if she taught them something, it wasn’t from a chair and a teacher, but from her life and her values. She was appreciated by teachers and parents for the way she talks to children and young people about everything, difficult or simple. However, she was the children’s Moose.”
Undoubtedly, this is a tasteful publication with great visual interest, which reveals the multifaceted character and complex personality of the much-loved author who lived a life like a fairy tale and defined an entire era with her literary vision.
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