Monday, October 21, 2019

The Cell Where Alexandros Papadiamantis Lived for Ten Years

In a small poor cell big enough to fit not much more than a bunk bed in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Psyri, a neighborhood of Athens, the celebrated writer Alexandros Papadiamantis spent about ten years of his life.

While living in Athens he was unable to afford his rent anymore and was of poor health, so a monk from Mount Athos and a childhood friend from Skiathos named Nephon invited him to stay in the same cell he lived in at the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Psyri, where Nephon served as sexton. It was during his stay here that he wrote portions of his most celebrated novel, The Murderess. Also, it was in this church that he sometimes chanted while Saint Nicholas Planas was the celebrant priest.

Much of his day to day life was spent at the tavern of Kachrimanis two blocks from the church. This was because he couldn't afford any paper, so Kachrimanis gave him paper bags to write on. Papadiamantis would cut the bag into rectangular shapes and write his short stories on them. For his generosity Papadiamantis considered Kachrimanis a man of God for giving him some paper to write on, and only God knows what would have happened if he was never given this paper to write his stories and make his translations. Every day for twenty-seven years Papadiamantis would go to this tavern to eat and write. Most of his Athenian short stories were inspired by the daily lives of people in the city and what he observed. A characteristic example is his short story The Monk, which was inspired by his friend Monk Nephon.

The cell of Papadiamantis is still preserved today and belongs to the church. The church intends to build a library and museum dedicated to Papadiamantis in the coming years, with a small cafe in the courtyard as they were in the time of Papadiamantis. As for the church, barely anything has changed from the time of Papadiamantis. Even the chanters stand from which he chanted is still there. Unfortunately, the tavern of Kachrimanis recently closed. Fans of Papadiamantis would visit the tavern with nostalgia until its recent closure due to the financial crisis.

This neighborhood reveals to us how Papadiamantis, perhaps the greatest author of modern Greece who was known as being a "monk in the world", received pretty much nothing in his life while he immortalized his homeland by his works.