Sunday, August 14, 2011

Interview 11: Donatos Zkeris-Intellectuality is the future

Donatos Zkeris (DZ) a young writer is this week interview of Dubai Profile News (DPN) Blog. He is a promising intellectual person who thinks out of the box and has loads to share with us. Let’s meet him better.

DPN: Who is in your opinion the best author in history ever and why?
DZ: I would have to say that the best authors in history are the authors of all kinds of religious books from the testament, the Bible to the Quran and the books of all the religions around the world. As far as story telling goes, we have to admit that they are they the best. Everything they write has a lot of fiction in it and it is full of miracles, continuous battles of good against evil, fear, killings, blood, rivalries, armies of angels, prophets, demons, beasts. You name it. Everything is in there. And of course we can’t overlook the fact that their books sell a lot. So either they are very good at what they do or they are backed up by an exceptional marketing team (maybe the church?).
DPN: Do you believe that a story creates a life or a life creates a story?
DZ: When the story is not fictional then it is life that practically dictates the story and it is up to the writer to see it, listen to it and present it in a way people will like.. When the story is fictional then it is the life of the writer or a life that the writer creates in his mind that makes the story. In any case the story jumps out of something alive.
DPN: What’s your first, most vivid memory from your childhood?
DZ: My first, most vivid memory is a smell. The smell of fried onion rings at a fast food chain in Chicago. Until this day whenever I smell fried onions, my mind travels back to the first five years of my life in Chicago.
DPN: Can you describe the neighborhood you grew up in?
DZ: I spent my first five years in Chicago USA and the rest of my childhood in Marousi Athens in Greece. I have some memories from both neighborhoods but if you are asking about the neighborhood that I believe that influenced my life more, than it will have to be Marousi. When we first moved to Marousi Athens the road where our house was built resembled a village road. It was kind of a cultural shock for me to move from a clean and tidy neighborhood on the suburbs of Chicago to a small place full of dust with no roads and very hot. All houses in the street were old small refugee houses with gardens that looked like small forests. I grew up eating all kinds of fruit from my garden and the neighborhood’s gardens. Of course everyone knew everyone else. It was like a small community. One of my most vivid memories of my neighborhood is climbing on our roof with my best friend Kostas and watching the sea of Piraeus which is over 30 km away. I enjoyed my neighborhood very much. There were a lot of kids and we used to play all day sometimes until late at night without any cars coming by. I consider myself very lucky because I grew up in a place where I was given the chance to play outside and be constantly in contact with a little bit of nature!
DPN: Apart from USA you lived in a period of your life in Czech Republic. What does this country mean for you?
DZ: The Czech Republic for me represents three things.
1. “Love for literature”. I haven’t seen anywhere in the world people reading books everywhere (in the metro, at home, at bars, cafes and clubs). It is just amazing how much they like to read.
2. Beer. No comment. You have to visit the country to find out what I mean.
3. Standing on my own feet. It was the first time I left the country alone and actually I chose to do it without thinking much about it. I went to Prague without knowing anyone except my employer whom I have met only once. For some people this would seem frightening, but for me it was an adrenaline boost. I remember being eager to see the city live the life of the local people and embrace the culture. I ended up learning the language and crying when I had to leave the city.
DPN: What was the best gift you remember receiving ever?
DZ: My electric guitar I guess. I bought it to myself for 100€ two years ago. Still using it every day, but it is time to get a new one.
DPN: What was your first job? What did you like or not like about it?
DZ: My first real job (excluding internships) was for an IT consulting firm in Greece where I worked as a SAP Consultant. I didn’t like anything about it. The wage was very low for an engineer and above all the job was very boring. I don’t want to seem racist, but people working in the IT sector are very boring and I am 100% sure that the boredom comes from the job they are doing.
DPN: Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence?
DZ: Talent: Never had much talent in anything or if I do have some kind of talent I haven’t discovered it yet
Intelligence: Always had it. I guess you are either born with it or not
Education: Got it on the way
Persistence: Had it but lost it on the way. I am still very stubborn though.
If I had to choose one of the above I would go for intelligence. So far it has helped me to avoid a lot of traps in life.
DPN: Do you have any special sayings or expressions?
DZ: I have a few but my favorite quote is not mine. I will have to give credit to Bill Hicks, in my opinion one of the most influential comedians of the recent years. The saying is the following: “There is no such thing as death. Life is only a dream and we’re the imagination of ourselves”. And to add to it a twist of my own, I believe that our life, the society we live in is just a hallucination, a vision, a product of our imagination and we are hallucinating together as though we are all on some kind of drug. For some the drug is food, for some it is money, for some it can be something simpler like water or benzene. The bottom line is that no matter how we begin dreaming in the end we are living the same dream.
DPN: What’s your favorite book?
DZ: I will redirect you to an older post on my blog. Keep in mind that the more I read the more books become my favorites.
“What is the scent of life? Is there an elixir of immortality? How does it smell? What color is it?
How many blind people can make blindness? What would you do if everyone around you was blind and you could still see?
What is the answer to the biggest question of the universe? Is melancholy a choice or is it just a result of boredom? If I fall from up high and simply fail to hit the ground does that mean that I can fly?
How far can an ancient Egyptian doctor go in search of love?
How much water fits into a dried up well? Who took the cat?
For answers to all these questions and many others you can just read the following books. The best books I've read so far in my life.
Tom Robbins - Jitterbug Perfume 
Jose Saramago - Ensaio sobre a Cegueira
Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy
Mika Waltari - Sinuhe, egyptiläinen
Haruki Murakami - The Winding Bird Chronicle
And if you cannot buy some of the books due to the financial crisis just give me a call and I'll bring them right at your door. Because there is nothing more inhumane for a book than to kill it by letting it rot on a shelf of your library”
DPN: Who are three people in history you admire most?
DZ: In general I don’t admire dead people. I am sure every great dead person has already got the admiration he/ she deserved. So let’s talk about living people. I can only think of the following people right now (but the list is endless): Dimitris Diamantidis, Lionel Messi, Josef Koudelka, Michael Jordan, my grandfather Donatos
DPN: What kinds of things bring you the most pleasure?
DZ: Things that have to do with seeing, smelling, touching, listening, tasting. And of course things that challenge me to think.
DPN: If you could go back to any age, which age would it be and why?
DZ: I would like to back to the moment when great minds of each time gave birth to historic ideas. I would like to go back to the moment the Greeks funded democracy, to the moment the Greeks discovered math and science (Evripidis, Archimedes) and to the age when the Arabs began writing poetry. If I had to choose only one of the above then it would have to be the age when Archimedes lived.
DPN: Describe a person or situation from your life that had a profound effect on the way you look at life.
DZ: A friend of mine whom I met when I was in my first year of studies in Patras. He made me change the way I look at life, to think of it in a shorter time basis and to cherish the present without worrying that much about the future. He also taught me how to bring some chaos in my life and stop living such an organized life. I believe that meeting him was one of the turning points in my life so far.
DPN: Describe us the place that inspired you most to write a story about it.
DZ: I believe it is the neighborhood I grew up and I described earlier. It is the inspiration and the basis for a lot of places I write about. The stories are not only about the place and the way it looks, but also about the people that lived in my neighborhood and the way they all lived and live together until now.
DPN: Living in difficult ages globally, do you believe that intellectual people may play a leading role nowadays?
DZ: Intellectual people can play a leading role in societies where thinking and questioning are highly thought of and encouraged. Unfortunately, politics, money and religion have managed to suppress any thought of free thinking in the modern western type societies. Therefore I believe that it is more difficult nowadays for intellectual people to influence the societies they live in. People see them more as entertainers or weirdoes than as enlightened personalities. In any case, intellectual people have the duty to keep trying until someone will eventually hear them. And when this happens then I believe that they can make the difference. After all, there a lot of times in history when intellectual people gave solutions to problems of the society.
DPN: Do you really consider the “writing” as a strong weapon?
DZ: A weapon is something you use either to attack or to counterattack. Writing isn’t meant to do harm. I would say that writing is more like a tool which can help one person (the writer) to stir the emotions of another. It depends clearly on the reader whether those emotions are good (sympathy, love) or bad (anger, hatred). In any case, writing is only meant to trigger something that is already there. When writing becomes a weapon then it is either journalism or propaganda which in my opinion is more or less the same.
DPN: Apart from writing you are also occupy some of your time in photography, photos which you promote through your own blog which is the: Do you consider a photo like a thousand words?
DZ: First of all, I would like to make something clear. Even though I love photography, I don’t see it as a kind of art. Art exists only in the artist’s mind and the artist chooses to express in the form that he desires to give it. Art is creation. Taking a photograph of something that you haven’t made can’t be art. I would say that a photograph is just a moment of life, a fragment of time, printed on paper or in some MBs of hard disk space.  It can wake up emotions, it can make you cry, it can make you admire the world you live in, it can show you things you have never imagined that exist, it can do lots of thing but it can’t substitute the power and the beauty of the language. The role of a photograph is different from the role of a word so I think it would be fairer to consider them unique and make them work together. Why substitute one with another?

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