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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Penelope Delta (Benakis)

Penelope Delta (GreekΠηνελόπη ΔέλταAlexandria, 1874 – Athens, 2 May 1941) was a Greek author of books for children. Practically the first Greek children's books writer, her historical novels have been widely read and influenced Greek popular perceptions on national identity and history. Through her long-time association with Ion Dragoumis, Delta was thrust in the middle of the turbulent early 20th-century Greek politics, from the Macedonian Struggle to the National Schism. She committed suicide on the day German troops entered Athens in World War II.
The Benakis family temporarily moved to Athens in 1882, where she later married a wealthy Phanariote entrepreneur, Stephanos Deltas, with whom she had three daughters, Sophia Mavrogordatos, Virginia Zannas, and Alexandra Papadopoulos. Stephanos Deltas was a nephew of mathematician Constantin Carathéodory. They returned to Alexandria in 1905, where she metIon Dragoumis, then the Vice-Consul of Greece in Alexandria. Ion Dragoumis, like Penelope Delta, also wrote about the Macedonian Struggle and his personal recollections of it in his books. Penelope Delta formed a romantic relationship with him for some time. Out of respect for Deltas and her children, Delta and Dragoumis decided to separate, but continued to correspond passionately until 1912, when Dragoumis started a relationship with the famous stage actress Marika Kotopouli. In the meantime Penelope had twice attempted suicide.*Wikipedia*
Penelope Delta's innate literary talent had been evident since childhood. Her contribution to literature decisively influenced the evolution of the children's book in a period when it was otherwise neglected. Inspired principally by Greek historical events, her books were read by generations of children, and continue to be relevant to the present day. "The Nameless Story", "In the days of the Bulgarslayer", "The Secrets of the Swamp", "The Mangas", and the most beloved of all, "Crazy Antonis", a story about her brother Antonis Benakis, remain indelibly etched in the Greek collective memory. Penelope Delta was elected to several learned associations and societies, and contributed in countless ways to the advancement of literature and culture.

Her contribution to the collection of oral testimonies about contemporary Greek history is generally acknowledged to be of great importance. Starting out by recording the memoirs of veterans of the Macedonian struggle--all of which represent valuable sources of historical information today--she proceeded to gather oral narratives about the most important political and military events of her time. Her family's prominent role in society and her own sensitivity about national issues meant that she was personally involved in the some of the most difficult periods in Greek history. For instance, in 1918 she took part in two missions to Eastern Macedonia aimed at assisting hostages returning from captivity in Bulgaria. She revealed the same patriotic tendencies in the aftermath of the catastrophe in Asia Minor in 1922 and in the Greco-Italian War of 1940.

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