Editing my grandfather’s autobiography

O Tata! in paperback, released in Greek in 2014.

My grandfather Chrysostomos Papastefanou, was born a Cappadocian Greek in Turkey in 1897, and his family was forced to migrate to Greece in the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. He wrote down his biography in several notebooks, which have been interpreted and edited by my father, Georgios Papastefanou, into the book “O Tata” released in Greek in 2014.

 

The aim is to release the book to an international audience in English in 2018. That requires not only a translation, but an extensive rewrite, since the original is incoherently written and covers subjects that require more context or explanation. 

I’m working from a direct translation, rewriting it into a more digestible format, which can be understood without prior knowledge of the language, culture or history.

Writing where a true Greek enjoys it the most – at a café.

While I enjoy doing it, it’s a lot of work, and I can always use some extra motivation. So any likes, cheerful or inquisitive comments – be it in English, Svenska or Ελλινικἀ – in any channel are most welcome 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from the chapter Childhood memories:

Another time, I think I was three or four, when I noticed that everyone, young and old, men, women and children, kissed the hand of my father, but no one else’s. It intrigued me.

One evening, before dusk, I caught my father alone cutting wood, I asked him

“Father, everyone kisses your hand, why do they do that?”

While thinking up a good answer, he lay the ax down, put the kalymmafchi – the priest headgear – on his head and then he said

“Because I’m big, so they kiss my hand”. 

He really was big. They said he was 192 cm tall, and dressed in his billowing priest robes, he seemed like the biggest man in the village. 

“Who is bigger than you?” I asked.

Raising his cassock, he took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his nose, blowing loudly. He then put the scarf under my nose and said ‘blow’. He wiped the snot from my nose and said 

“Go inside, so you don’t catch a cold”. (Πήγαινεμέσαναμηνκρυώσεις…)

‘Tell me, who is bigger than you’ I insisted.

“Only the Bishop is bigger than me” (Στη μένα άου μέγα αιν μόνο ο δεσπότ), he replied.  I wondered to myself how much bigger the bishop could be.

Near our house was the village well, used daily by everyone. In the winter the water would rise by half a meter, and you could fill your buckets without needing to lower them with a rope. Next to the well was a trough made out of carved stone. It was equipped with a drain hole, that could be plugged with a corn cob wrapped in a cloth. Villagers would fill the trough from the well and bring their animals to drink. One day when my father was filling the trough for our six oxen I asked him 

“Could the Bishop drink all this water with a single sip?”