The award-winning writer, who says he’s always keen to meet people and their stories, this time shares his own stories, from his childhood, his first hobby and bullying in school, to the time of creation and the writing of his first novel. He explains how and why he writes and unveils the most valuable key in a writer’s keyboard.
Life by writing, writing by living
By Christina Katsantoni
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
He strongly believes that reality is incredibly full of inspiration and generous to someone that has sharpened his mind. Since childhood he has kept his curiosity intact and his belief that every human being has at least one amazing story to tell. Christos Chomenidis surely has got a lot.
His date of birth coincides with a romantic story of love. He came in this world on 3 August 1966 precisely nine years after the day his parents gave their first kiss. He grew up in Kypseli, an area which he never left from, in a house full of books, music and of course, love. From that love derived the sense of life joy that defined his childhood. Despite the economic difficulties of the family and their constant relocation, love was always present and capable of protecting him.
His parents taught him to enjoy music, cinema and reading, and to appreciate spiritual aristocracy and not the aristocracy of wealth. In school he was the “black sheep”, the student that got mocked and teased by his classmates because of his unconventional appearance, his afro haircut and his colourful shirts. And this experience taught him that no one could be liked by everybody. But his faith in life and his view of it as a great adventure, with the world being a blessed garden full of fruits that need to be reaped, never faded away.
The Loss and the need to create
At the age of 10 he asked his parents to buy him a typewriter as a gift. In that typewriter he wrote poems, for girls that he liked, which he read only to his best friend, and accepted with pleasure the confirmation that if he had been a girl he would have relented.
A crucial moment in the life of Christos Chomenidis was the loss of his father when he was just 12 years old. Then he saw there was no guarantee that life goes on with joy and safety and he felt his house to be weak in front of every bad threat. He felt the need to create something that could wait for him, but also to have his own autonomy.
He decided that he wanted to be a writer at approximately 16 years old, when he attempted to write prose. The first sense was like sliding in the ice with roller skates. Since then, words continued to flow creating dozens of writings, packages of complete or incomplete attempts, until he saw his first story being published in Playboy at a time when he was still studying in law school, in 1988.
The book that made a difference
One year later, when he was 23, he started writing his first novel. The first to read it were his then lover, and his best friend. She found it awful and told him to throw it away and write something else. But his friend encouraged him to complete it. Fortunately for the sake of many thousands of readers, he listened to his best friend.
That book was the “Wise Kid”, which was published in 1993 and caused a sensation to both readers and critics. The first dithyrambic critiques found a surprised Christos Chomenidis to read titles that compared him to Karagatsis, in the law firm he was working at back then.
The “Wise Kid” was a surprise and was loved with passion by readers. It overturned fake seriousness, the status quo and the established norms of Modern Greek literature, as it remained for many years in the list of best-selling books and was also translated three decades later. Today it’s still vivid and thriving and has been characterised as a benchmark of post-political Greece.
He lives by writing, and writes by living
Ten more novels and three story collections followed with great success and with an absorbed readership consisted of various generations. The most recent is “Her King” which was born unexpectedly at a night of his birthday in a restaurant in Rethymno, when he heard Menelaos in his mind encouraging him to tell his version of the story with the Helen of Troy…
All his ideas that become books are born someway like that. For Christos Chomenidis writing is a way of life. “I live writing and write living” he says with emphasis. He enjoys life along with his daughter, Niki, and his lover, and relishes human communication and the incredible stories of people, as he continues to write novels, short stories, articles and social media comments. He also produces podcasts.
For him, the secret of success is covered by an almost anguished desire to conceive reality and create throughout his work a mirror that can reflect it. That is exactly the motive reflected on his phrase that still follows him with adolescent persistence: “I want to, so I exist”.
*We would like to thank Sikyon Coast Hotel & Resort for the hospitality and the Leaders Talk filming of Christos Chomenidis