Throughout the ages, fiction has been used to convey ideas and experiences of ultimate import. In the West, there is a long literary tradition of addressing religious topics or using religious practices as a backdrop for fiction even before Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In the modern era, George Bernanos’s Diary of A Country Priest
Alexandros Papadiamandis (Papadiamantis) (1851-1911) was the most important literary figure of nineteenth-century Greece and arguably of modern Greek literature more generally. Through his lively, tender, and profound short stories of the simple lives of the Orthodox faithful of his native island of Skiathos, Papadiamandis reveals a world of organically lived Orthodoxy, largely lost in the disintegrating order of modern life. As with Dostoevsky, Papadiamantis enjoyed close friendships with holy men of his age, such as St. Nicholas Planas. Likewise, as with Dostoevsky, he does not portray a romantic, ideal world but rather a profoundly human world of struggle that always has the possibility of transfiguration through life in Christ and His Church. For many decades overlooked and largely rejected by the Academy, Papadiamandis’s work is finally coming into its own. It is an exciting time for Westerners interested in Papadiamandis and the world of Greek literature, for this volume is being joined by wonderful new English translations of the majority of Papadiamandis’s works, which are presently being edited for publication. In "Greece’s Dostoevsky," with great warmth and sympathy Professor Keselopoulos provides the first serious attempt to plumb the spiritual depths of the riches of Papadiamandis. One of Professor Keselopoulos’s chief concerns is Papadiamandis’s description of the spiritual and liturgical life of Skiathos, which he shows to be an authentic expression of Orthodox faith. He also aims to show how, because Papadiamandis is an authentic bearer of the Church’s tradition, his creative works become tradition. As with Fyodor Dostoevsky, Papadiamandis’s faith transforms his work, providing it with an authentically Orthodox spiritual dimension absent in most modern art. Professor Keselopoulos’s book is read in Greek both by laymen, entranced by his successful marriage of profound theology and the beautiful world Papadiamandis describes, and by students of theology at the University of Thessalonica, where it is used in the Pastoral Theology class. The book begins with a Foreword by Hieromonk Alexis (Trader), author of "In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord: An Orthodox Interpretation of the Gifts of the Spirit," previously Lecturer in Patristics at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and now a monk on Mt. Athos. A translator’s Introduction follows, which considers the Orthodox understanding of art outside of its strictly liturgical bounds, as it appears in the works of both Fyodor Dostoevsky and Alexandros Papadiamandis. The body of the book is divided into six chapters, the first of which provides the reader unfamiliar with Papadiamandis with an introduction to his life and work. The remaining chapters are based on Papadiamandis’s stories and develop different aspects of the faith: “The Clergy” (pastoral service, education, the relationship between the monastery and the parish), “The Role of Lay People” (clergy/laity relations, lay people as concelebrators, Church-State relations), “The Tradition of the Church” (Biblical tradition as liturgical tradition, Eastern and Western traditions, diachronicity in tradition), “Liturgical Order and the Typicon” (influences from the monastic typicon, liturgical precision and Economy, form and essence in worship), and “Art in Worship” (the meaning of liturgical art, the theology of the icon, the “museumification” of liturgical art, the authentic and the false ethos of Orthodox art). The book also includes two of Papadiamandis’s stories, a glossary, map, and more.