One of the most interesting texts of the past few days was the transcript of the conversation that was held last September in Des Moines, Iowa between the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the writer Marilynne Robinson. The text is freely available online at The New York Review of Books.
During the conversation, Obama had the role of the interviewer and proved himself to be deeply knowledgeable on the writer’s work, both fiction and essays. His questions, ranging from the personal to the more general, from the state of the writer to her ideas, surprise the reader, who is used to treating politicians through stereotypes. But to tell the truth, I do not think there is a Greek politician today who can converse with a writer. Ever more so, I do not think there is a Greek politician that makes references to a literary book and considers it his political guide.
Obama read Robinson’s novel, “Gilead,” (available in Greek by publications En Plo ) in Iowa, in the context of his pre-electoral campaign in 2008. This is why their conversation took place at the public library in De Moines. “Gilead” was a revelation for Obama. The central hero’s story, that of the pastor John Ames who is trying to combine his faith with his family dramas, also showed a way to govern to Obama, one of its elements being acceptance of the other and the widening of the meaning of community. Obama’s policies on social security or education are influenced, as he himself says, by such texts as Robinson’s.
Robinson is a Christian — a Protestant to be precise. In the depths of all her books, there is a Christian thinking or, better yet, re-thinking. Maybe that’s why Obama calls her a theologian. In Greece, the best reader of Robinson’s is a theologian, Father Evaggelos Ganas. His text, “An Unknown American Christianity. Reading Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” in May 2012’s edition of the literary magazine “Nea Estia” is one of the best critical texts that have been written about the American writer.
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