Andreas Embiricos, the great Greek surrealist poet, photographer and psychoanalyst

August 3, 1975: Andreas Embirikos / Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος, Greek poet, novelist, photographer and psychoanalyst, dies in Kifisia, a suburb of Athens, Greece.

Born in Braila, Romania (September 2, 1901), he and his family moved to to Greece in 1902 and later studied philosophy and English literature at the University of Athens and at King's College London.
He lived in Paris between 1926-1931, where he became acquainted with the circle of surrealists. He was also interested in psychoanalysis, through his own psychoanalytic sessions with the founder of Psychoanalytic Society of Paris, Rene Laforgk.

Embirikos is a prominent representative of Greek surrealism. He is also the founder of the first Greek psychoanalysis group. Many of his works were published posthumously, i.e. the novel The Great Eastern (Ο Μέγας Ανατολικός), a bold erotic and political allegory which expands in 8 volumes, and is compared to works such as Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days Of Sodom.

Embiricos was born in Raila, Romania by Greek parents and raised in Athens. After taking some time in the business ventures of his family in ship broking, he moved in Paris where he lived between 1926 and 1931 and met with Andre Breton and his surrealist circle. He published several collections of surrealist writings (poetry and proze): Ypsikaminos ("Blast-Furnace" 1935), Endochora ("Hinterland" 1945), Grapta, e Prosopike mythologia ("Writings, or Personal Mythology" 1960) and Argo, e plous aerostatou ("Argo, or the Voyage of a Balloon" 1964-65). Most of his works, however, including his sex-themed eight-volume novel O Megas Anatolikos ("The Great Eastern") appeared posthumously.

In parallel with his career as a writer, he began practicing in Greece the profession of psychoanalyst after he was accredited by the French Psychoanalytic Association, continuously until 1951. Embiricos also took an interest in photography and made his first retrospective exhibition in 1965 in Athens.

In 2001 the Greek Ministry of Culture to commemorate 100 years from Embiricos birth, declared that year as "The Year of Andreas Embiricos" and sponsored a number of events in Greece and abroad including public lectures about The Great Eastern and the publication of a collection of photographs titled Fotofraktes ("Shutter" 2001).

Andreas Embiricos, Untitled (Before 1930)

In March 1935, eleven years after the publication of the first manifesto of surrealism by Andre Breton, two hundred copies of a collection of sixty-three prose poems entitled Blast-Furnace were circulated in Athens. The collection was signed by one Andreas Embiricos (1901-1975), the offspring of a well-known shipping family, with no work published before then. Born in Braila, Romania, to a Greek father and a Russian mother, Embiricos studied economics in Switzerland, literature and philosophy in London and psychoanalysis in Paris. In 1929 he entered the circle of French surrealists, was initiated into the technique of automatic writing and made the acquaintance of Breton in person. Two months before Blast-Furnace appeared, he gave a lecture on the subject of surrealism to "a grim middle-class audience who listened in obvious annoyance", as an on-the-spot witness named Odysseus Elytis (Nobel Prize 1979) noted.

Blast-Furnace holds a unique place in modern Greek poetry. No poet prior to Blast-Furnace - in spite of indications that surrealism was known in Greece before 1935 - and no poet since, has put together a book so heretical, so cryptic and so 'difficult' - one which nevertheless sold out in no time, 'not because it was of interest, but because it was considered so scandalous, written by someone deranged', as the poet himself reminisces. Without punctuation, in a language mainly scholarly and precocious - something which the proponents of demotic Greek found particularly annoying - with interminable phrases, perfectly constructed but without any apparent logical coherence, yet with the typically Greek fifteen-syllable meter clearly

discernible, Blast-Furnace seems to have met the requirements of free association and the resultant automatic writing. It would be difficult however plausibly to maintain that these poems had an 'automatic' or 'chance' origin or that no work was done on them, in spite of the fact that Embiricos himself stated that his poems do not always develop 'within the limits of consciousness'. Every poem, he says, is a 'poem-event', dynamic and self-contained, and its elements remain 'free of any compromised or standardised aesthetic, moral or logical construction'. The recipe was never to be repeated, in spite of the fact that the experiment succeeded in bringing to the forefront the most authentic Greek surrealist writing.

Embiricos' next collection, Inner Land (1945), as well as a short volume of prose, Writings or Personal Mythology (1960), contain texts bathed in surrealist light, but with coherence and logical consistency. It is now quite clear that what was mainly of interest to Embiricos was to keep alive the subversive and emancipating strain of the European surrealist movement and to promulgate the vision of a world free of every type of oppression, a world 'without borders and without limits'. Political, social and particularly sexual liberation were Embiricos' main concern, so much so that he emerged as the Greek poet and visionary par excellence of a world system of politics and co-existence. His city, Oktana, described in the collection bearing the same name, "will be the capital of the New World, in the heart of mankind's future", a universal city, filled with poetry, love, pleasure, justice and freedom. The eight-volume novel The Great Eastern (1990-1), is the most extensive and the most daring modern Greek text, where all of Embiricos' fantasies, doctrines and visions are developed in an epic tone.

(Y. Yatromanolakis, from the volume Greece-Books and Writers, National Book Centre of Greece, 2001).

Andreas Embiricos ( Ο Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος) – Untitled, c. 1938-1940, (print, Printed 2011, courtesy Faggionato Fine Arts, London)

The Great Eastern

The Great Eastern is Embiricos magnum opus novel, written in the 1940s and developed during the next decades as he read parts of the manuscripts to enthusiastic friends.

The novel accounts for the sexual goings in "The Great Eastern", a steamship leaving England for the New World. In The Great Eastern all Embiricos' fantasies, doctrines and visions are developed under a formally polished style and archaic language. Full of literary references, his transgressive writing, which could put Marquis de Sade to shame, develops in several episodes of multi-level narrative which features all the sexual taboos of his era including homosexuality, interracial sex, bestiality, sado-masochism and all four variants (man/boy, man/girl, woman/boy and woman/girl) of pedophilia.

Embiricos must have based the characters of The Great Eastern people he met during in his experience as a psychoanalyst but also, as his correspondence reveals, in his study of sexual histories sexological books. From his research, Embiricos knew well what went on in the sexual underground across Europe and the episodes in Great Eastern even sometimes parodically hilarious or exaggerated, do not sound completely unbelievable.

Embiricos himself wrote one a note that he would like to see The Great Eastern published after his death uncensored. His only compromise would be the use of a pseudonym to avoid implications to his family. Nevertheless, his family which owns his estate decided to publish it using his real name. The work, based on the unfinished manuscripts which Embricos continuously re-edited to his death, came out in eight volumes by Agra Publications in Athens between 1990 and 1992 and surprisingly, given its content, there was little, if any, controversy. Surely Greece's literary community unanimous endorsement and praise of the work as great fiction must have helped.

Even though the eight volume work is primarily preoccupied with heterosexual practices and man/girl pedophilia, the book is of particular interest of boylovers in Greece, since there are several instances of sex between men and boys. Consider the following extracts, originally written by Embricos in English (which does not do justice to the stylish Greek language used in most of the book) about a woman secretly reading the narrative of a diary:

"The well-known novelist (he was a man of about 60), who has just read a letter delivered by a good-looking messenger boy of about 13 years old, was asking the boy his name and how old he was and telling him he thought he looked very handsome." (Vol. 3, Part 6, Chapter 65, pp. 71-72)

The man makes a sexual advance offering to pay the boy an extra half a crown. The boy reluctantly accepts the offer and...

"Mr. Lingham drewn his gently between his open legs, as he sat there in a comfortable armchair, and unbuttoning without much ado the boy's fly, he took out of the trousers a pretty young prick absolutely white and absolutely hairless, taking care to take out as well the boy's balls which seemed to have the size of two almonds, before one peels off their shells." (Vol. 3, Part 6, Chapter 65, p. 73)

...and then he continues with five full pages describing a scene of mutual masturbation and the man performing oral sex to the boy, whom ejaculates three times.

Andreas Embiricos ( Ο Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος) – Untitled, c. 1938-1940, (print, Printed 2011, courtesy Faggionato Fine Arts, London)


As noted, Embiricos was also a prolific photographer. His early work includes surrealistic images of masks and other objects while he later concentrated in portraiture and street photography. An important and much acclaimed aspect of his photographic work regards his candid and often erotic pictures of little girls. His contemporaries, like Nobelist poet Odysseas Elytis wrote favorable of this fascination of his while his photography of little girls has often been compared to that of Lewis Caroll (of the Alice fame). Embriricos also took many pictures of boys, some of them in the nude, that, nevertheless, were never erotic (an example of which can be found at Fotofraktes collection).

See also
Worldwide Shipping: 🖤 T-Shirts / Hoodies / Mugs / Stickers >>       I WOULD PREFER NOT TO.
Bartleby, the Scrivener: “I would prefer not to.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...