ATHENS – Greek poet, lyricist and novelist, Manos Eleftheriou, passed away on July 22 at the age of 80. He had been suffering from ill health recently and was hospitalized before he suffered a fatal heart attack on Sunday morning, according to media reports. President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in a statement, “Manos Eleftheriou belongs to the great Spiritual People, for whom death is the passage to eternity. May he rest in peace.”
Eleftheriou was born on the Aegean island of Syros, studied theater at the Stavrakos School in Athens, and began writing plays and poems during his military service in 1960. In 1962, at age 24, he published his first poetry collection, Synoikismos.
His poem, To treno fevgei stis ohto (The train leaves at eight), was written shortly after while he was in Ioannina. It was later set to music by Mikis Theodorakis becoming a classic recorded by some of the most famous Greek artists, including Haris Alexiou .
The prolific Eleftheriou followed his poetry collection with two short story collections, To diefthintirio Fexis, and H Sfagi. In 1964, his efforts as a lyricist took off, working with composers Christos Leontis and Mikis Theodorakis. In the decades that followed, Eleftheriou worked with practically every famous composer in Greece, including Manos Hadjidakis, Stavros Xarhakos, Giorgos Zambetas, and Stavros Kouyioumtzis.
In October 2014, Pericles Kanaris released his debut album Aoratos, seven original songs that were composed with the verses of Manos Eleftheriou. He expressed his sorrow about Eleftheriou’s passing, posting on social media, “There are no words.”
Eleftheriou also edited two coffee-table books about his native Syros, worked as a radio presenter, and began writing novels in the 1990s. He won the State Literature Award in 2005 for his novel O Kairos ton Chrysanthemum (The Time of the Chrysanthemums).
Among his non-fiction works, he published Mavra Matia- O Markos Vamvakaris kai h syriani koinonia sta chronia 1905-1920 (Markos Vamvakaris and the Society of Syros in the years 1905-1920).
For those interested in his work as a lyricist, Ta logia kai ta chronia 1963-2013 Ta Tragoudia (The words and the years 1963-2013- The Songs) features the unforgettable poems/lyrics as well as commentary by Eleftheriou. His best-loved songs are included, such as, Allos gia Chio travikse, Paraponemena logia, and Oi Eleftheroi kai oraioi, perhaps best known as performed by Giorgos Dalaras.
In 2007, Eleftheriou’s short story collection H Melancholia tis patridas meta tis eidiseis stis ohto (The melancholy of the country after the news at eight) was published, with the author pointing out in a 2008 interview quoted on the Greek Wikipedia page, “The short story is harder than a little novel, you have to exhaust your whole technique and write a complete, concise history without missing out on your descriptions anything from the psychology of your heroes and the surrounding atmosphere. The short stories of Melancholy… were written over many years, they’ve haunted me. The ‘mistake’ in the short story is deadly. It flips it in the air.”
The Athens Academy honored Eleftheriou in 2013 for his contribution to the Greek letters.
The books mentioned above are available online in Greek. The songs with lyrics by Manos Eleftheriou are also available online, on YouTube, and wherever Greek music is played and cherished.