Papatsonis Takis

Papatsonis was born in Athens in 1895. His father, Constantine Papatsonis, hailed from a family of 1821 Freedom Fighters, while his mother, Aikaterine Prassas heralded from an old noble family. He studied Law and Political Science in the Law School of Athens University and public sector Economics in the University of Geneva. He was employed in the Ministry of Finance between 1918 and 1955, finally becoming a higher-ranking civil servant. He represented Greece in many international Economic Conferences and was a counselor to various economic organisations. His job allowed him to visit many European countries.

His first literary appearance was in 1913, when the Acropolis newspaper of Gavriilides published some poems of his, his signature being Papatsonis-Nobilissimus. He was a collaborator of several literary magazines, among them Word, Lyre, Youths, Vanguard, Alexandrian Art and Frangelion, while also collaborating with newspapers, such as Eleutheros Logos (Free Speech), Hemeresios Telegraphos (Daily Telegraph), in which he published his translation of the spanish novel Flames of Love by Ramon Del Valle Inclan, and Demokratia (Democracy), which published his translations of Edgar Alan Poe's poetry. Between 1935 and 1940 he wrote opinion pieces for Kathimerini (The Daily), while he also wrote poems for the Hestia newspaper.

His conversion to Catholicism in 1916 proved to be a major influence on his poetry. His poems are steeped in Christian faith, religious mysticism, metaphysical thought and a vivid feeling of guilt toward the divine. While the poets of his time followed the maxims of neo-romanticism and neo-symbolism, Papatsonis is more interested in different pursuits. He employs his Christian convictions to confront the causes behind the failings of his generation, thus managing to avoid the spinelessness and despair of the poetry written by his contemporaries.

Papatsonis is heavily influenced by T.S. Eliot, some of whose poetry he translated (The Waste Land, Gerontion). In 1934 he published his first collection of poetry, under the title Εκλογή Α΄. The work is divided into five parts, and religious poetry is predominant in it. But Papatsonis profound religiosity, which runs throught his works, is firmly rooted in the ground. He does not avoid worldly matters, he does not refute life and he does not affect to despise ordinary and everyday pleasures, but rather attempts to explain them through the prism of the Divine. Kyriakos Charalampides has this to say: “The ascetic spirit does not serve to deny worldly matters. His Christian spirit is also very much a Greek spirit, which respects form and helps him to hold both body and soul in perfect harmony. His God, although Dark and Inconceivable, is of human measure. He addresses him in a familiar way [...]”

The language he employs in his poetry is based on three factors: the tradition of Demotic Greek, the language of the Orthodox Mass and the Purified Greek which he was obliged to use in his profession. Thus, the language of his poetry is a mixed one, moving between the bounds of pure Demotic Greek, Purified Greek and the intense language of religious hymns.

After the Occupation, he published two aprticularly succesful translations in 1957: Saint-John Perse's Anabase and Edgar Alan Poe's Tamerlane. He reissued Εκλογή A in 1962, while also publishing a new collection called Εκλογή Β΄, also divided into five parts, and covering much the same ground as his first one. The next year he published his work Άσκηση στον Άθω, ήτοι πηδάλιον νηπτικόν για περιδιάβαση του Όρους, which contains his recollections of his five month long visit to the Holy Mountain in 1928. 1965 saw the publication of his Τα Μολδοβλαχικά του Μύθου, a travelogue which attempts to describe Romania on the eve of WWII. The following year he published the first volume of his Essays, entitled Ο Τετραπέρατος Κόσμος Α΄ Four years later he published another tow books entitled:  Friedrich Hölderlin and Εθνεγερσία: Σολωμός, Κάλβος and in 1972 he published one more volume of essays, entitled Όπου ην κήπος which contains, among others, two particularly interesting pieces on Claudel's dramatic works and on Paul Valéry. Papatsonis considered Claudel as the biggest influence on his own poetry. The very next year he translated and published Claudel's work Ο κλήρος του μεσημεριού. Papatsonis' work was completed in 1976, the year of his death, with the publication of the essays contained in Ο Τετραπέρατος Κόσμος Β.