Thursday, 6 October 2016

Max Richards shares: 1, Dimitris Tsaloumas


When Max Richards (1937-2016) moved from Ruffey Lake Park in 2012 he gave into my care a large part of his extensive library. Religion and Spirituality went to the Carmelite Library in Middle Park, while Literature found its way to our place, onto Ikea shelves supplied by Max himself. We managed. The riches of his library included the cuttings of articles, reviews, letters, lecture notes &c. appropriate to that book, dating from the fifties onwards. Sometimes his books double in size from all the additions, each one dated by Max. Max was a genuine collector of every kind of knowledge and equally an astounding sharer of newly discovered knowledge. This translated into the current age, where email in particular served to spread the knowledge to anyone he thought might find an interest. Links to articles, reports of visits, poem of the day, he was irrepressible. His last email to me was at the Library on the day before he died, an article he thought would attract my interest on Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin, the ancient library of Fez in Morocco.

In an email of 13th February 2012 Max writes: “John Barnes took me to visit Dimitris Tsaloumas a few weekends back, and I may later find my jottings and send them to you. I also wrote a little light poem about him and another 'senior', Judith Rodriguez, which I gave him and have posted to her. Still in my old two minds about his poetry, as if I lack the right sensibility for his style.” That last apology is typical, it is not the poet’s fault Max cannot fully appreciate the poetry, it has to be Max’s fault, of course. His jottings followed that day in another email.

John Barnes and I asked deaf old Dimitris about Judith R and also Tom Shapcott.
I gather she has shared a meal or two with D in the last couple of weeks.
I don't think he'd seen Tom who sounds as though he's housebound.
D was shocked that Lehmann and Gray are said to have left T out of the big new anthology, which he has yet to see.
He thinks it very eccentric of them to have chosen one early Greek poem, trans Grundy, to represent him.
Thanks for liking Two Seniors!
I gave D a slightly improved copy - after we'd asked was he still a Vespa man on Leros?
Yes, and he's now got a four stroke, quieter and slower.
His French translator, a philosophy professor in Paris, he says, visited him there and fell in love with the whole island and is making himself a base there.
He showed us his French guide to correct expression, an old copy.
We sat in his little study and he poured us Greek brandy (Metaxas?), brought mugs of instant coffee and opened a packet of biscuits.
This is all out of strict chronology, of course.
He showed us his notebook with some poems in progress, all tiny regular Greek script. Only when a page is almost illegible does he get out his old electric typewriter, and that's all. Computers? no. Email, no. Letters for the post…
For someone born in 1921 he is amazingly spry. Complains of an old back pain brought back by plane trips.
Wears sandals. Crocs. The tan on his feet and ankles is very dark mahogany. Maybe he wears a hat as his scalp looked vulnerable but not ruined.
Laughs a lot, sometimes in the wrong places, maybe because of his deafness, and today not using his hearing aid.
House in Glenhuntly Rd Elwood orderly with its books in order, many pictures of Greek scenes, landscapes in oils I guess and most not of great artistic merit but no doubt potent for him.
He says 'Les Murray hates me!' and we said Les needs to have enemies. But D doesn't know what he's done. There was the anthology of Aus poems he made with his Greek translations, and maybe it was to do with that.
He showed us some of his treasures, artist's books done with a small selection of his poems. Michael Winter. Petr I-forget.
Early rare books of his published in Greece, and their stories.
When the generals were in power - the junta (till 1979), he would jog round the perimeter of the playing fields at Nunawading High - taught and lived near there - thinking of bitter satirical phrases against them. He translated the long title of a tall book, and I think it was the monologue of a public servant in Ancient Rome, but readers would have recognised it as a satire on the evil junta.
(One of the few things I know about them is that their soldiers were ordered to shoot to kill student demonstrators in Athens and hundreds died.)
Bedtime here, and maybe tomorrow I will remember better!
Oh yes, he said 'these are just my private treasures, and two days before I die I should destroy them.'
Of course we protested.
I said 'three days before John must come round and collect all these things.'
That's as close as we got to discussing death.
His daughter lives in Athens but visited him here over the holidays.
Sons, three I think, and the ginger cat was left here by him.
Grandchildren not mentioned, no doubt many.
He used to take his violin round to Judith's and they'd have musical evenings.  I think J was also a violinist.

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