Jonathan Coe: Stealing the hearts of his readers during a breezy and brilliant encounter at the Thessaloniki Music Hall

Jonathan Coe: Stealing the hearts of his readers during a breezy and brilliant encounter at the Thessaloniki Music Hall
Photo credit: Νικολέτα Σαββάκη/Nikoleta Savvaki

Thessaloniki Concert Hall provided the most beautiful and cinematic setting for the awarded British novelist Jonathan Coe to meet with his Greek readers.

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Coe, one of the best-selling writers in Greece, came to Thessaloniki on Wednesday, 26th of April, for an open discussion on his new book Bournville (Bournville: το Διαιρεμένο Βασίλειο, εκδ. Πόλις) which tells the story of four generations of a British family starting in Bournville, a suburb of Birmingham and the setting of Cadbury's chocolate factory, in the backdrop of 75 years of recent British history, from war to the royal family, to Brexit and the coronavirus.

Christos Galilaias, the Artistic Director of Thessaloniki Concert Hall, welcomed Jonathan Coe and 250 devoted fans. 

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Eleni Godi, Coordinator of the BA in English at ACT, and Yannis Kotsifos, journalist, joined the writer and led the discussion with their insightful questions and remarks, creating a relaxed atmosphere that helped the audience to understand Coe's work and himself better. The popularity of Coe's work abroad (Greece, together with Italy and France, are top fan countries), the interface of politics with everyday life, the implications of the classification of his work as "state-of-the-nation" novels, and the use of satire as social critique were among the topics discussed.

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Jonathan Coe has familiarized the audience with modern British history and his country's political and societal changes, using that as a background to unfold stories and characters, many of whom return to his books. Impressed by the warm reception, he reacted with a witty sense of humor and sincere humility. For example, when a reader at the end told him, "Thank you for being here and for being you," he replied, "Thank you for thanking me for being me… but I had no choice. But I had a choice to be here." 

As for his new book, he said that Bournville was where his mother was born and lived for the first twenty years of her life. "I wanted to go back to the Second World War. I had been planning it for the last months of 2020, and in June, my mom passed away from coronavirus complications. I was angry when it happened and thought the book would bring me closer to my mother just a few months after her death." 

Some of the surprise highlights were when Jonathan Coe took his phone and captured the moment, admitting that this was the best book launch setting and the view one of the most enchanting he had ever seen.

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Another one was when he played on his phone a composition of his own - he is also a published musician, with music being a noted motif in his books - causing the audience to burst into applause.

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Congratulations to Thessaloniki Concert Hall for the series "Writers of the World travel to the Megaron" and the full house event, which was co-organized with Κωνσταντινιδης Bookstore/ Evripidis Konstantinidis.

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Entry passes were sold out in ten minutes on Monday morning, forcing organizers to add more seats to satisfy the public.


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