By Janet Capella and Alex Vavoulis
Professor Thanasis Maskaleris would answer the question in the affirmative. Translator and editor of a recently published book, he is coming to Fresno to read from it the words of Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the great literary figures of the 20th century.
Maskaleris taught his many students about Kazantzakis as a faculty member in the field of comparative literature at San Francisco State University. In his tenure at that Bay Area university, he was the founding director of the Center for Modern Greek Studies and spearheaded efforts that led to the establishment of the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair in 1983.
Maskaleris immigrated from Greece when he was 17 years old, and his accomplishments were a credit to his own need to become a learned person and they helped make San Francisco State an institution of intellectual quality that inspired faculty, students and the community.
Professor Maskaleris will read from parts of his book, The Terrestrial Gospel of Nikos Kazantzakis, on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at the studio of artist Chris Sorensen (2223 S. Van Ness Ave.). For the subtitle of the book, Maskaleris asks a profound and piercing moral question to all of us: Will humans be saviors of the Earth?
The reading is dedicated to Josiah Maskaleris, grandson of Professor Maskaleris, who passed away from cancer at the age of 30. Josiah was raised in Fresno and was married in the First Congregational Church (the Big Red Church; 2131 N. Van Ness Blvd.). The evening event, therefore, is doubly poignant: the fear of losing our natural habitat and the void felt when losing a fellow human being at such a young age.
The Maskaleris family invites friends to the dedication of the Josiah Community Garden on Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. The garden is located behind the Red Church, adjacent to the Gray House, as approved by the Church’s board and by Victor and Lilia Chavez.
There is an urgency in calling everyone to make a contribution to the saving of the Earth. Roughly half of the American voters do not take climate change seriously, given that half will vote the Republican ticket in November. But Maskaleris foresaw this and selected outstanding people who contributed to the book’s profundity and to the high level of scholarship that the author brings to this book. For example, Patroclos Stavrou and Niki P. Stavrou of Kazantzakis Publications, Ltd., in Athens, Greece, wrote a foreword that with clarity and vision says the following:
This publication could not be timelier, as humanity is experiencing the long foreseen escalation of the scorching, the injuring, the over-cultivating and the overheating of the Earth, whose natural mosaic has now been altered severely. This long-scale devastation can no longer be contained in dismal environmentalist projections; it is manifesting in absentia as sensations, scents, sights and sounds are gradually fading from human memory. One may easily visualize a future when our connection to the Earth may be found only in literature, as the multisensory bond between humans and the natural world verges on the brink of being permanently lost.
Janet Capella is the mother of Josiah, a teacher, an artist with the Chris Sorensen Studio and a community activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-974-5541.
Alex Vavoulis is professor emeritus in chemistry at Fresno State. Contact him at email@example.com or 559-224-4140.
Reading by Professor Maskaleris
November 8, 7 p.m.
Exhibition: Nudes in November
by Fresno Artists
6 p.m.–9 p.m.
Chris Sorensen Studio
2223 S. Van Ness Ave.