Critics on Eleni Dikaiou
Meni Kanatsouli, Professor of Children’s Literature, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Eleni Dikaiou has been writing children’s literature for the past twenty five years. During this time her work has attained maturity and artistic perfection while retaining its freshness and youthful vigour to the full. In her long career Dikaiou has attempted innovative and versatile thematic approaches with considerable success, often returning to the same or similar literary subjects with consistency, assiduousness, and an obvious love of her craft. Her commitment to experimentation in both form and narrative strategies matches her investment in language: Dikaiou’s attention to crafting narratives of linguistic and realistic power result in a style which could fairly be described as ‘poetic realism.’
Nominated for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award by IBBY GREECE
Eleni Dikaiou: an Overview
By Ada Katsiki-Givalou, Professor Emerita, Hellenic Philology, Capodistrian University of Athens
Extracts from an article published in “Bookpress” magazine:
Eleni Dikaiou belongs to a younger generation of Greek children/ YA authors, whose work combines literary style and versatility of subject with narrative techniques which privilege the child’s point of view. Personal experience and daily life are often the starting points in her work, which includes a large variety of forms - novel, short story, flash fiction, illustrated fairy tale, non-fiction – and is often motivated by intentions of imparting and sharing knowledge. Her critically acclaimed work has been translated into other languages and has received numerous prizes and distinctions in Greece and abroad.
Eleni Dikaiou – Candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize
By Manos Kontoleon
Extracts from an article published in “Fractal – the Geometry of Ideas” magazine
From her very first novel, Eleni Dikaiou has shown an efficient and subtle mastery of the wealth of the Greek language. In that novel as well in all her ensuing work, she has also demonstrated her extraordinary skill in crafting characters. From the child’s viewpoint (The Story of the Little White Tomcat) to the teenager’s angst (Could You Please Teach Me How to Smile?), from the engagement with social solidarity (I’ll See You Again, My Little Friend) to the passionate pursuit of ideals to the bitter end (Looking for the Lost Heroes), Dikaiou adds perfectly rounded and convincing characters in the portrait gallery of Greek children and YA literature.
With the same effortlessness she recreates the past in the retelling of ancient stories and timeless myths from a modern viewpoint. Her Greek Mythology series as well as her novel on Alexander the Great (The Gods Do Not Die in Pella) are models of a narrative standpoint on how to write today on subjects that have shaped the mythology not only of the Greek people but of the whole Western culture.
The freshness of the child’s outlook on the world is also ever-present in Dikaiou’s work, in her modern fairy-tale stories (The Little Horse, the Lucky Ladybug, a Bear and We, etc.) and in her fantasy novels (The Ghosts of the Glass Courtyard, Adventures with a Princess) or in her ecological science fiction (The Valley of the Butterflies).
NATIONAL BOOK CENTRE OF GREECE – website “The Little Reader” – Section Author of the Month, November 2011
How did you start writing books for children?
I started writing when I was very little, but I had never written what we call children’s literature until I read about a competition on children’s and YA novel on Asia Minor Hellenism, the refugees, and their lives after the Disaster of 1922. I very much wanted to write such a book, because I came from a family that lived through those events, but I didn’t know how. So I decided to become a child myself, to become Katinaki and Maritsa [the heroines of The Girls in the Sailor Suits], whose characters were inspired by my mother and her twin sister and their lives in Smyrna and later in Nea Ionia, in the refugee neighbourhood where I was born and raised. There it was. I wrote The Girls in the Sailor Suits, and I discovered that I could speak the language of children, a language understood by young and old alike.
What are the tools of your creativity?
My tools are my eyes and my ears, which provide me with images of the world around me; the books that I read; but my most important tool is my heart which takes all these stimuli in and sifts through them with love, then says to me: ‘This you should turn into a book now, that you must put aside until its time comes.’
What is magic?
Magic is what you see in the eyes of children when you show them your love. They mirror you and make you feel like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, or perhaps a small god who can take away all sadness, who can do anything.
What happens after ‘and they lived happily ever after?’
Life goes on, perhaps with new adventures; the only difference being that the villains in those adventures are not so villainous, and it is not necessary for the hero to wear out a pair of iron shoes until he reaches the castle where the beautiful princess is imprisoned…