Saturday, 14 March 2015

Meeting Andreas Georgiadis and Seeing His Alexandria Quartet Illustrations

Last night I went to the Hellenic Centre in London to see the exhibition of Alexandria Quartet illustrations and to meet the artist himself, Andreas Georgiadis.  I was glad to have the chance to see the illustrations close up.  They are drawn in ink on cotton paper and are wonderfully subtle and detailed.  Andreas is highly knowledgable about the city, the cosmopolitan Alexandria of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and takes pride in the contribution made by Greeks to reviving Alexandria - even as he now records in his drawings what is being neglected and destroyed.

Andreas Georgiadis, Frank Pike and Michael Haag at the Hellenic Centre.

One good piece of news I picked up from Andreas is that Constantine Cavafy's flat looks like being saved for posterity by the energy of the Greek consulate in Alexandria.  For many years the flat had been a broken down pension; then the Greek consulate leased the flat from the owner of the building and turned it into a museum.  But the fear has always been that one day the building would be torn down, like so much else of cultural value in Alexandria is being torn down, not least the Ambron Villa where Lawrence Durrell lived during the Second World War.  Andreas tells me, however, that the Greek government, acting through the consulate, will buy the entire building, safeguarding the future of the flat-turned-museum, preserving something of the atmosphere of the past and commemorating one of the greatest poets of modern times.

With me at the exhibition was Frank Pike.  Frank began his career at Faber and Faber as copy editor on the last volumes of Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet.  Later Frank became Durrell's full-blown editor and worked on The Avignon Quintet and Durrell's last book, Caesar's Vast Ghost, his ruminations on Provence.

Andreas has so far exhibited this collection of drawings in Athens, Cairo, Alexandria and now London.  Next he hopes to take it to Corfu. I suggested he arrange to present the exhibition at the White House at Kalami where Lawrence Durrell lived in the late 1930s and where he wrote The Black Book; those same years that were later to be the material for his beautiful book about Corfu, Prospero's Cell, written in the tower of the Villa Ambron in Alexandria.  The White House is owned by Tassos Athinaios, grandson of the man who originally let the house to Durrell and his wife Nancy. An exhibition there would be a homecoming of a sort.