An hour with the writer Eleni Karamagiolis – Talking about the “Insulating Tape”

What can you say in an hour with a writer? If it is about Eleni Karamagiolis, even though she first appeared in the Greek Letters, many, very many, so much that the specific time is not enough. Her first collection of short stories entitled “Isolating Film”, published by Iolkos publications, provides plenty of material for discussion and stands as an occasion for all kinds of extensions, literary and non-literary.

Before meeting her I wanted to sketch the character of the man who wrote these 16 short stories (so many are contained in the book). How can she be a writer who writes about stories of ordinary everyday people, but describes them in a slick and often playful mood and basically uses them as a vehicle for revealing and demystifying the stereotypes of our (small) urban life?

Although I occasionally lose bets, I was probably not wrong here: the neat but not heavily elaborate and pretentious style of the short stories, the penetrating look at the characters that are carefully crafted down to the last detail and the skill of the writing were intended for the measured and structured speech, the style and ethos of the author – elements that constitute a passport and guarantee for a (at least) remarkable and noteworthy course in Greek letters.

The first thing I ask her is what are the main things she would say to someone to introduce themselves.

Eleni Karamagioli

-I would start from my absolute love and faith in literature, I would continue with the awe I feel for some great writers, like Borges or Roth, and then I would talk for a while about music, cinema, travel. Yes, I think I would say very simply “I’m a lawyer, I like my job, since I was a child I read a lot, I wanted to be a writer, if I had time and an archaeologist and a journalist, I didn’t have time, I’m interested in living, observing, learning and to write”.

What would you tell someone to buy your first book?

– Difficult things now, the author cannot and should not convince about his book, that’s why we write, to talk to the reader about the book itself, the heroes, the stories. Now, for one to choose it, I’d say it’s a book for those interested in the present, sixteen stories about sixteen men and women today, in Athens, who seem ordinary but who themselves are surprised at how easily they can transcend their limits with unforeseeable consequences for themselves and those around them.

I’m tempted to ask her if it’s hard to be a lawyer and a writer at the same time. How can the realism required by the lawyer’s profession not conflict with the romanticism of the writer? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron to a degree?

-“As long as literature does not interfere with law and they keep a safe distance between them, they combine just fine,” he says with disarming self-confidence that is not open to doubt. “They are two different worlds that I live in parallel. I also feel lucky, others read or write about different lives, I experience them first. I am a material hunter, I hunt for raw material for writing everywhere, I have a feeling that stories find us in the most unlikely places, in the strangest circumstances, that seem conventional, predictable. There are not a few times, that with the law I have caught characters and small stories. On the other hand, literature offers escape, balance, mobilizes imagination, observation. I’ve even noticed that I may still be surprised, annoyed, confused by some people at work or in general in everyday life, but because of writing I feel like I understand them better, that I somehow understand why they do what they do, what it is that they haunts or motivates them. This is also important.”

During the conversation, she confides to me that she admires the restless spirit of the writer Lucia Berlin, who wrote in her short stories the stories she experienced adventurously. “He lived and then wrote, that says it all,” he emphasizes.

I could not know whether the 16 short stories in the collection contain elements from the life of Eleni Karamagiolis – something similar to what Lucia Berlin did. To the relevant question, he answers that they exist. They are, however, disguised, they are perhaps an occasion to start the fiction. I also count this as a positive. Love for Lucia Berlin does not turn into a sterile copy, it becomes an occasion for something genuinely creative and original.
And indeed, Eleni Karamagioli is inspired by the small, but also the big, elements of her own life and puts them in a masterful way in the lives of her heroes. Her post-neorealism (permit me the neologism) which permeates all her short stories and unites them with an invisible but powerful thread, is emblematic and perhaps her trademark, one of the elements that make the short stories her especially and individually.
In addition to what I myself have understood from reading the book (of which the banality that is usually said in such cases that it is “read without breathing”, is fully valid – you will understand when you take it in your hands) I ask her what the degree to which the heroes are fictional or real – if that can be determined of course.

-The heroes are invented with truth, they collect some elements from “real” characters, I would say better, instead of real ones, because even fictional characters are real if they are solid, from characters, that I somehow met. Of course, they have their own traits, their own unique impulses and desires. But, within their autonomy, they are a mixture of many different truths.

In closing, I ask her how she imagines her path in Greek letters after about two decades. “What is your literary dream, where do you want to go?”

Eleni Karamagioli

– I dream, that is, I hope, that I will have inspiration and good ideas and after twenty years from today, that I will find something different to say, something to narrate in my own way. I would like to try to write a long form as well, a short story or a novel, but, most importantly, my deepest desire, is that there will always be someone out there, who will discover something of their own in what I write, who will identify with a hero , with a story, that they will feel that someone else, that they don’t know nor will probably ever meet, is talking, writing about what they have felt and that for moments or whole years, they didn’t confess, didn’t admit to themselves. In short, to succeed with my books, to some extent, even a little, to affect, to touch the soul of the reader, even momentarily, as they have succeeded so effortlessly and continue to do with the same intensity to me completely, important writers, whom I admire.

A genuine bibliophile who knows how to appreciate good short stories (and not only him) the book will surely compensate him. Simple everyday stories with equally simple and everyday heroes take off with the strength of the author’s perspective and the wealth of her unpretentious expressive ways, through which one can discern a well-spring and promising writing talent.
I don’t like the phrase “I highly recommend it”, it’s a cliché and often carries with it the suspicion that it’s said without any real substance, but until something else is invented I’ll use it for this occasion as well. Look for “Insulating Tape” and you’re sure not to miss out. Helen, have a nice trip and we look forward to the next one!


Curriculum vitae

Eleni Karamagioli was born in Thebes. He is a lawyer specializing in copyright and community, co-financed by the European Union, programs, he works and lives in Athens. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines, in “Book’s Journal”, “Map”, “Frear”, “Book Press”. Her first book entitled “Insulating Film”, a collection of short stories, is published by Iolkos publications.
Contact details: [email protected]

The article is in Greek

Tags: hour writer Eleni Karamagiolis Talking Insulating Tape

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