illustrated memoir, translated from the modern Greek by Leslie Finer, hardback, 150 pages, ISBN 0-87376-022-0
The memoirs of the great Greek shadow puppeteer and his history of the art of Karagiosis. This extraordinary book describes his beginnings, gives the main schools of shadow puppetry, and lists the best know plays, among many other topics related to this personal stagecraft. Spatharis wrote his memoirs on a roll of kitchen paper. He taught himself to read and write by studying gravestones. In this simple telling of his own life he shows the hardships the Greek people endured throughout the 20th Century and shows himself to be a person of great wit and courage.
Sotiris Spatharis is one of the last great puppeteers of the Greek shadow theater. His unpretentious creative genius was largely responsible for the renewal of interest in Karagiosos during the past sixty years.
Times Literary Supplement
Behind the White Screen is fascinating as art, as a human document, and as history.
When I was very small, about four or five years old, we lived in a house in Peloponnese Street. In the summer we used to spend the afternoons sleeping on mattresses outside in the courtyard. One afternoon, when my father and mother had dropped off to sleep, I went out into the street. Suddenly a carriage pulled up right where I was playing. In it were a lady and a gentleman. Without my guessing what was going to happen the gentleman grabbed hold of me and pushed me into the carriage which set off at full speed. The faster we went the louder I shouted for my father to come and rescue me, while the lady and gentleman gave me toys and sweets to try and keep me quiet. Just as we turned down the first side street there was my father. He stopped the horse and roared:
“Give me the child back or I’ll tip you over!” When the lady saw his hands take hold of the side of the carriage and start lifting she cried:
“No! no! For God’s sake! Take the child!”
from Behind the White Screen
Sotiris Spatharis’ father was blinded by a stone falling on him while he was working as a laborer on the Acropolis. His mother took in washing. After the accident he led his father out begging during the days. At night he sneaked off to the shadow theater. Karagiosis became his great passion. He worked first as a puppeteer's assistant and was able to start on his own when a neighbor gave him a sheet. This he made into a screen which he slept beside outdoors at night so that it would not be stolen. He made his own puppets, scenery, signs, wrote his own plays and performed them with the help of a singer.