This morning word arrived here in Shrewsbury that the Greek edition of 'Athens - The Truth' had been published! An hour later photos appeared, showing that dozens of copies had already been placed in the windows of Savalas's showroom in Exarcheia, central Athens.
The translation project was initiated in May 2012, so it's been a long haul, almost three years, but it's been the very best - a rare adventure. Nikos Dramountanis, Savalas's Publishing Manager, and I were agreed from the outset that the translation had to be the very best possible. To that end then a kind of informal tendering began, and soon four professional Greek translators, all based in Athens, were invited to provide a sample, a translation of part of the book's first chapter. Once the samples had then been received, Nikos and the editor, Evangelia Sophianou, were in complete agreement that the task of translating 'Athens - The Truth' had to go to Beatrice Cantzola-Sabbatakou, an accomplished translator who has won awards for previous work. For her sample Beatrice had most impressively translated the entire first chapter (a long one!) and I was assured by both Evangelia and Nikos that she had done it very well. And so contractual arrangements for the task began.
The bulk of the work, the translating and the editing, was of course seen to by Beatrice and Evangelia, and it was a pleasure to observe how well they collaborated. In their determination to provide an entirely faithful translation, one reflecting every nuance and subtlety of the original, they each deferred to me a great deal over the course of 14 months, for clarification on even slight details. I was thrilled to receive their questions, and thrilled again when often they returned to me to insist on a certain point or to seek deeper clarification. They were thoroughly painstaking and assiduous in their efforts.
And now the Greek edition is out! And what a very handsome and substantial volume it is! The book is available from every major bookseller in Greece and one Greek bookseller is even feeding it through to Amazon, so that anyone in the UK wanting a copy of the Greek edition can obtain it with ease from this page at amazon.co.uk. In Greece most booksellers are discounting the book by roughly a euro but the bookshop offering it at the most competitive price, with a deduction of three euros, is currently Politeia Bookshop on Odos Asclepius, close to the corner of Asclepius and Akadamias (210-3600235, 210-3616373, Mon to Fri: 9am to 9pm, Sat 9am to 6pm).
So the Greek edition having appeared with the first daffodils it too has heralded the coming of spring 2015, and I've sat today with Master Peibyn down by the River Severn and wondered for a moment at the extraordinary journey that began way back in 2009 and which appears now to have finally come to an end.
My deepest thanks to everyone involved!
This morning in a remote and sleepy hamlet in the Shropshire Hills, England, I hear Wellington Libraries is offering its readers several copies of my book ‘Athens - The Truth’. As the city of Wellington was for me a crucible of the happiest of young dreams and imaginings, I’m delighted.
The book’s about modern Athens but it’s underpinned by my passion for a particular form of Greek music, as discovered in a small Greek music section in a long-gone record shop in the Cuba Street Mall. At any one time there were only about fifteen LPs in the rack there, and all of their titles, in the strange alphabet of Greece, were completely incomprehensible to me. But I found the music devastating.
When I became a student, I worked the summer holidays sorting mail in the large new Post Office building on Waterloo Quay. From 6 each morning I was perched on a stool popping letters and postcards into pigeon-holes for delivery all over Wellington. It would’ve been mind-numbing if my head hadn’t been full of those Greek melodies. And every day amongst the never-ending piles of mail there were always a dozen or so colourful postcards from Greeks in Greece, written to friends and family in Wellington. How I wished back then that I could decipher that alphabet! But the images on the cards were sufficient: so many alluring horse-shoe harbours, each surrounded by pantile roofs glowing terracotta under the Grecian sun, and the waters always that deep, rich, sparkling Aegean blue.
At 9 we ascended to the Post Office’s top-floor cafe for morning tea. The bank of pigeon-holes in front of my nose was suddenly replaced by massive glass windows, air and light, and a stunning panoramic view of Wellington’s harbour, sunshine sparkling upon blue water. The postcards from Greece had all sprung to life! For me the harbour below was a Greek bay, and all of Wellington was Athens.
Occasionally a sleek cruiser was docked near Oriental Bay, a blue and white flag resonating with the brilliance of Wellington’s sea and sky. It was a liner from Greece! So as soon as lunchtime came I scooted from wharf to wharf around the quays to behold a piece of Piraeus, right up close. I’d board the ship and chat to its crew. They were real living Greeks! I was beside myself.
But decades passed before I finally got to grips with the city of my dreams. It happened in 2010, just as Greece’s troubles began to erupt. Then I wrote the book, got told by publishers that moneywise it was too risky for them, and so in late 2013 I published it myself. Ever since it’s been selling well and all over the world.
A publisher in Greece then appeared, wishing to produce the book in Greek. So right now two accomplished women in Athens are preparing the translation, and taking very impressive care to ensure complete faithfulness to my text. The Greek edition is planned for publication either later this year or early next year, 2015.
When the publishers released their announcement of the deal, I was intrigued to see that it warned:
David Cade’s ‘Athens – The Truth’ leaves readers startled and fascinated and gives them food for thought. It is a bold, penetrating look at today’s Athens, an enchanting and exasperating city full of contrasts and secret charms, its people and culture, the tempestuous history of a small but proud nation, and the controversial issue of its agonizing present state. Through his plethoric, well-meant criticism, the writer offers us his own truth. Do we have the courage to listen to it?
It’s true I’ve been forthright, but that hasn’t stopped some readers describing the book as a kind of love-letter to Greece. Also, I couldn’t write about Athens without referring occasionally to my own country, New Zealand, so that too receives both praise and criticism. The mix is working. Already ‘Athens - The Truth’ has brought me some valuable new friendships in Greece, the UK, the USA, and Australia. Maybe the same will now happen in New Zealand.
The photo above shows much the same view as I enjoyed from the top of Wellington's General Post Office, now "The New Zealand Post Building".
Savalas Publishers (Athens) have announced the publication later this year of the Greek edition of 'Athens - The Truth'. Nikos Dramountanis, at Savalas, has contracted superb translator Veatriki Savvatakou and the exceptionally talented editor Evangelia Sofianou to produce a fine translation. The Savalas announcment reads as follows:
Savalas Publishers have the honour to announce to their readers that they have obtained the rights to David Cade’s book Athens – The Truth: Searching for Mános Just Before the Bubble Burst, which has been scheduled to come out in Greek.
David Cade’s ‘journey’ to Athens began over five decades ago in New Zealand, when he started to become infatuated with Greek culture and history. However, it was the magical music of Mános Hadjidákis, as it ‘emerged’ from the sheet-music he accidentally discovered in a tiny Greek bookshop in London much later, that ‘haunted’ young David’s imagination and gave rise to his desire to visit the country where the great Greek composer lived and created his timeless works. This dream came true in early 2010.
As newscasts all over the world are already making extensive references to the oncoming economic crisis in Greece, David Cade talks with Athenians, explores many of the city sights, delves into the most crucial periods of Greek history, and discovers aspects of Athens unknown even to its own inhabitants. In an unprejudiced, objective narrative free of any touristic superficiality, and with no intention to sound pleasant or flatter, he shows today’s Greece and its people through the eyes of a foreigner, speaks of the impression Athens makes on its visitors, and tries to explain what makes this city so special.
David Cade’s Athens – The Truth leaves readers startled and fascinated and gives them food for thought. It is a bold, penetrating look at today’s Athens, an enchanting and exasperating city full of contrasts and secret charms, its people and culture, the tempestuous history of a small but proud nation, and the controversial issue of its agonizing present state. Through his plethoric, well-meant criticism, the writer offers us his own truth. Do we have the courage to listen to it?
Time and again, assiduous New Zealand painter Clare Reilly has conveyed the magic of New Zealand’s native forests. She has placed New Zealand’s indigenous landscape’s most beguiling elements in seemingly endless imaginative combinations. Her canvases, at once emblematic and poetic, conjure up all the magic of the sweet and dripping rain-forest or the Kiwi bush of high summer, the whirring of wings and the rapturous music of New Zealand’s native birds. Her paintings are an inspiration. They lend support to New Zealand’s many worthy wildlife conservation projects.
With a typical New Zealand bay as background, the painting above features the tui, New Zealand's highly intelligent, white-tufted, parrot-like honey-eater; the elegant and symmetrical nikau palm; and the giant pohutukawa tree, which blossoms blood-red every year at the height of summer.
View Clare Reilly’s extraordinary body of work at:
So much of New Zealand offers natural majesty and grandeur that every once in a while I have a yen to return to those beautiful islands of the South Pacific where I was born and raised.
On one side of the planet are clean and dramatic shores, pure rainforests, fresh snow-capped mountains, geysers, braided rivers, and hot bubbling mineral springs - such a stunning variety of scenic attractions - while on the opposite side of the world lies the extraordinary birthplace of all the European arts.
Two heady and delightful extremes.
So far apart.
The "great project" of the last five years is nearing its end. Later this year its 400 pages will finally be printed and bound. The subject of the book is Greek, a passion I've had for decades. The title is "Athens - The Truth". And there's still a mountain of work to be done. For example, the above is a holding picture only: artwork is to be commissioned for the final cover.
There's an extraordinary dramatic feast on offer at the moment in London for all atheists, humanists, freethinkers, sceptics, and possibly even religious secularists. It’s the National Theatre’s production of Ibsen’s "Emperor and Galilean", currently being presented, with great panache and spectacle, on the magnificent thrust stage of the Olivier Theatre.
Every Ibsen drama I’ve seen has seemed to raise a mighty fist at its climactic moments in support of some great and important truth, and Ibsen’s "Emperor and Galilean" does the same: it succeeds in demonstrating the futility and the delusions of religion. With the religious constantly broadcasting their imaginary nonsense, in the media, in churches, on soap-boxes on our High Streets, or uninvited at our front doors, here’s an epic and profound statement against all religions, superbly adapted, brilliantly staged, and sounding out loud and clear from the main stage of our national theatre. For the atheist and the humanist it’s a work that gives cause for rejoicing.
Until the Romans established themselves in Byzantium, the classical Greeks revelled in their gods, in Hellenic Polytheism, and their mythology was very tightly bound up with all of the flowering and the productivity of Ancient Greek culture. Shrines and temples to the gods were everywhere about the landscape. But then along came the Christian Romans and, with them, religious persecution. For several centuries the Roman Emperors of Byzantium passed law after law to force the Greeks away from their ancient gods and traditions and towards "the Christ". Though one law might order the destruction of "pagan" shrines and temples, another had subsequently to be passed threatening death to anyone who continued to even look in the direction of the desecrated "pagan" shrines, for the people were reluctant to give up their old devotions.
"Emperor and Galilean" opens in Constantinople in 351 with Roman Emperor Constantius II still seeking to rid Greece and Asia Minor of Hellenic Polytheism. Constantius’s young cousin Julian, although raised a Galilean, a Christian, has concerns as to how Christianity ought best be practised. Life for him will not be easy: he chooses to seek the truth. And so from this point the drama proceeds, over a period of twelve years, to Athens, and then to Ephesus, before Julian is eventually returned to Constantinople as Emperor, free to create a world entirely according to his conscience. When he rejects Christianity, and restores the freedom, joy, and colour of all the old gods, of Dionysos and Apollo, relieving all those who have been forcibly converted to Christianity of their burdensome and joyless restrictions, of "Thou shalt not! Thou shalt not!", he has trouble on his hands, for many cling now to the path of the Galilean as once they clung to their Hellenic gods. The confrontations, violence, and tyranny of all that thus follows in the course of the second act draw us eventually to the play’s ultimate statement, delivered in the final seconds and stunning in its effect.
It seems that the run ends on the 10th of August but there were plenty of empty seats last Wednesday night - perhaps because this is not a play for those who don’t like to think! Nor is it a play which is easy for Christians or other religionists. Two expensively-dressed young couples sitting near me failed to return after the interval, and as I left the theatre at the end of the evening I overheard a suited dad quietly and firmly telling his three teenagers that the play had not been fair to Christianity. I’d like to think his three youngsters, like Julian, harboured a different view.
and Talking Books.
It's been almost two whole years since I last wrote anything here! I can't believe it! How time has flown! I've been involved in an important project - nothing to do with producing further CDs - but something else, very creative, very time-consuming and very rewarding. The result should appear later this year or early next year. Whether the three further talking-books which are in the pipeline will now ever see the light of day I'm not sure! For now there are other exciting possibilities on the horizon.
The reason for revisiting this page today is to post some information which will hopefully answer the emails I regularly receive from young people and some actors asking for advice. The following summarises generally what I tend to say and I hope it will answer people's questions.
1. "I want to be a professional actor. Should I go to a Drama School? Can you recommend one?"
My response to the above kind of question generally goes as follows. Firstly, are you a natural actor? Have you been faking things since you were knee-high to a grasshopper? If not, then bear in mind that dozens have and so they've got one hell of a headstart on you!
Next, the life of a professional actor is continually "on the edge": there's no guaranteed job, no regular income. Why do you want to put up with that throughout your entire life? Or why do you think that you're so talented that you, unlike 99.9% of all other actors, would be continually employed as an actor?
OK, you still want to go ahead with your dream. Then act wherever and whenever you can in your spare time but get yourself into a decent well-respected university (not some new "university" that may possibly have once been a rather low-level polytechnic and which will probably not provide you with the best tuition that is available), and get yourself a good degree, in something that is very likely to get you a regular job for years to come. Remember, if you have talent in acting, nothing can kill it: it'll always be there. While at university, act as much as you can, in your spare time. Once you have graduated, if you still wish to act professionally then begin the endless task of approaching every theatre company you can find an address for and offer to do ANYTHING with them. Get in and "learn the ropes". If you are liked you will eventually be offered a small part. If you really have talent it will be recognised and you will get more parts. It won't be easy. There will be times when you will have to get a day-job, just like all actors, but when you do get acting work you will be increasing your experience, you will be learning. Successful actors have two things: an incredible burning drive and outstanding talent. But even with these, usually, or often, there is no work for them. But you have your decent degree from a decent university. You have something to fall back on - unless you, miraculously, become a mega-star overnight, of course.
Should you go to Drama School? Well, it depends, and it depends what kind of Drama School you are talking about. The people who have generally written to me are leaving university or have left university and are considering doing a one-year course. However, it is possible to do a three- or four-year degree at a number of drama schools and, before that, it is even possible to go to another kind of Drama School from the age of five. Yes, always bear in mind those people who have been at it since they were five: by the time they are eighteen they have acting technique grafted into their very bones! That doesn't mean they are guaranteed a life-time of acting work though! They may never have had any remarkable natural acting talent in the first place. However, they are well equipped and there are hundreds of them out there competing for the work.
But let's say you have finished ordinary school, have got the acting bug, and are wondering whether to attend a university or do a degree at a Drama School. Degree courses at schools of acting (now affiliated to universities, or offering degrees in their own right) are just that: degrees mainly in preparation for work in a theatre. In other words, you will not emerge with skills or knowledge directly relating to other spheres of employment. You will have little choice but to plough on and try and find work in theatre. But with a degree from a mainstream university, in biology, law, literature, or whatever, you emerge with wider options. Remember, if you have remarkable talent in acting it will never die. It will be there, sitting beside your other qualifications.
Some reputable mainstream universities offer degrees in drama. They are academically respectable. You study the dramatic medium and its history, you analyse dramatic works in a manner similar to the methods of students studying literature. You also study theatre arts, but largely as a method of penetrating the dramatic medium. Acting is not the priority of such a course, but, again, if you have remarkable talent, it will be noted. Graduating with such a degree allows entry into a good number of careers that do not involve theatre. However, if at the end of such a course you feel the feedback has been sufficient to warrant optimism with regard to your chances as a paid actor, then you can proceed straight into theatre having already been immersed in a solid and sound practical and academic study of drama. Unless you have some extraordinary "connection" though, you will still have to get down your knees and beg every theatre company in the country to take you on. And, again, your letter will be one of hundreds that artistic directors receive from budding actors every week, every month, every year.
And now the option that most people have written to me about: whether to go to a Drama School for a year after having graduated from university. My first response is to ask: have you been given an indication by people who are not related to you and who have a sound knowledge of theatre that you possess absolutely remarkable acting ability? If so, then act! Pester every theatre company you can and offer to do anything. Make the tea and sweep the stage, until such time as somebody gives you a line or two. Your parts at first will be miniscule but you will actually be acting. You will be doing it. And you will be paid as well. You will be able to call yourself an actor.
But you say you don't feel confident enough yet, you feel you need to prepare, and you are inclined to go to a Drama School for a year, and so you want to know which ones to apply to. For some reason you think that your one year at Drama School will enable you to compete with all those who have been going to a Drama School since they were five years of age, and also to compete with those who have been acting solidly on an intensive three-year acting course at a college that provides degrees in acting. Well, your one-year course MAY enable you to compete provided you are absolutely outstanding as an actor. Have people with professional authority and reputation in the theatre given you the impression that you are? Or are you just hoping and dreaming? No, you say, I really believe that I have what it takes, so tell me which drama schools are best!
Well, in London there are four. I will leave it to you to find out which they are, but here's an easy clue: they are the four finest ones, the four famous ones, the four that everybody is desperate to get into. These four, at the top of the league, churn out well over a hundred highly talented and ambitious young actors every year, decade after decade, and all the agents and casting directors know it! Why do I mention these agents and casting directors? Because it's no use you forking out something like £20,000 (all told, once your living and travel costs are included) for a year at a drama school if that drama school is not respected, or even looked at, by agents and casting directors.
So now my strongest word of warning: all of the other drama schools that exist, and there are many of them, are, of course, run and staffed by people whose salaries are provided by the students' fees! They need your money. So beware: every one of those drama schools will lure you for all they are worth, they will assure you that all of your dreams could very well come true and you will be very tempted. But once the course is over, you are out on your neck, and the next lot of hopefuls is in. Thus the bottom line is this: if you are hell-bent on putting off actually seeking work in acting, and hell-bent on filling in for a year by going to a drama school, only do so if you are offered a place at one of the top four schools. And if you audition for one, or more, of them and you are not offered a place, then you would be extremely foolish indeed to continue hoping that you may spend your life being paid as a professional actor.
2. I am a working actor/author and I'm thinking of recording talking-books. Have you any tips?
Yes. Don't bother! It's nothing but grief. Have you heard of piracy, of counterfeiting? It's rife unfortunately, and because of the nature of the internet it is uncontrollable. What this means is that if you produce a recording and if your recording is of any worth, within days of the first copies having been sold through proper channels ruthless and conscienceless individuals will have ripped it (copied it) and uploaded it to illegal file-sharing sites all over the planet. I have had protracted discussion with Equity and other bodies about this problem and they have articulated their powerlessness to control it. Equity have even informed me that all the major talking-book companies employ a member of staff, full-time, to simply sit in front of a browser and search the internet endlessly, trying to track down sites offering illegal copies of products in the company's catalogues. But that doesn't mean to say that the problem is stopped. It can only be lessened. Because as soon as one illegal site finally agrees to remove an illegal download (and that usually occurs only at the end of very unpleasant, very upsetting, and oftenimes lengthy correspondence), another site pops up somewhere on the planet and offers your work for free. And month by month the internet is getting bigger, the pirates are getting cleverer and more callous, and the problem is worsening. It appears that greedy consumerism has convinced many that they have a fundamental right to enjoy the creative works of others entirely for free, that for the first time in human history they need not express their appreciation of something of value by paying for it. It's strange that they don't turn up at hotels and demand rooms for free. Mind you, as we know, there are many who will try every trick in the book to leave a hotel without paying the bill! It's an appalling mentality and it's seriously damaging the audio industries, not to mention the music and film industries.
So, you may hope that sales of your disk through fully legal outlets like bookshops and internet bookshops will balance out the losses caused by piracy. Unfortunately no, they won't - at least, it isn't likely. All bookshops, whether internet-based or situated on the streets, take, as standard practice, 65% of the Recommended Retail Price of the books and talking-books that they offer for sale. Furthermore, they do not buy disks from you but rather only take a few copies in the hope that they will sell. If they sell, the store then forwards you your 35% and asks you for copies to replace the ones that have sold. And just as they don't pay you for these in advance, neither do they cover the cost of postage to their distributor, warehouse, or receiving department. You must pay for that as well. Thus, at the end of the day, the publisher receives just 30% of the Recommended Retail Price. Your disc will therefore have to be sensational to move enough copies to generate enough return for you to make a profit, since that 30% you've got back has got to cover all your costs. But, and here is the awful paradox, if your disc IS "sensational", you can guarantee that an army of conscienceless pirates will rise up out of nowhere and be offering it for free on illegal internet sites that you simply cannot keep tabs on. Thus you are most likely to find it difficult to cover your costs.
The talking-book industry is only viable for large internationally-spread companies that can manage to keep ahead of the losses by selling absolutely massive numbers of each item worldwide by a process of international marketing and saturation.
I hope all of the above will help answer people's questions.
Long ago I discovered that creative satisfaction can be derived from many different sources because creative satisfaction, for me at any rate, largely derives from being able to perceive the DIFFERENCE that I have made - how I have taken something, be it a role, a script, or an object, and breathed new life into it, altered it, and improved it. Why am I saying this? Well, as explanation really for not having posted anything on this blog for too many months! Here's what we've been up to.
The exterior of the house is finally finished. It's been nerve-wracking and exhausting and the whole process has taken, so far, almost an entire year. All we have to do now is get oak flooring down throughout the ground-floor, replace the bathroom, plant the garden, and then, at last, probably by the end of this summer, we'll be able to fully unpack. Anyway, here now, in the hills of Shropshire, is the fruit of eleven months of another sort of very trying but extremely fulfilling creative work!
I have just watched "I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed" (France, 2005: "J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka)". See this extraordinary film, if you haven't already! Something akin in style to film noir and also to Oliver Stone's "JFK", it seeks to piece together everything that is known about the disappearance of Mehdi Ben Barka, the anti-colonialist left-wing Moroccan dissident who linked leaders of The Third World (Africa, Asia and Latin America) with a view to seeking their emancipation and an end to American domination. But be warned that you will at times not be sure what is happening in the course of this reconstruction: this is only because much is unsure concerning the disappearance of Ben Barka. However, what is known is that at some level the French police were involved, as were the CIA, Moroccan secret services, and the underworld. The score is dark and delicious night-time 60s jazz. And much of the action takes place in a cold, unwelcoming, and inpenetrable Paris.
So if, like me, you cannot forgive the French their arrogance in seeing nothing wrong in using the once-pure waters of the South Pacific as a place to play at nuclear testing (up until 1998 France set off 193 nuclear detonations around the Polynesian islands of Mururoa and Fangataufa), and if you remember how France dispatched secret agents to New Zealand to blow up the protest yacht Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour (killing a man in the process), then there will be much in this film for which you will be grateful to its very brave director, Serge Le Peron.