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Sunday, 16 May 2010

Cohen in Corfu

This isn't about Leonard Cohen; he hasn't changed islands, from Hydra to Corfu, but I'm sure he would have been pleased to be in Corfu for this international conference and commemoration of the life and work of the writer Albert Cohen (1895 – 1981), who was born in Corfu and who felt lifelong nostalgia for the island.

The Municipality of Corfu, the Mayor Mr. Sotiris Mikalef, and Dr. Spiros Giourgas and his committee, the local community and international supporters are to be congratulated on this significant event. Unfortunately I missed most of it, as I was unable to obtain a programme in time, after my recent return to Corfu. Participants appear to have been delighted, and I heard high praise of some of the films and concerts and of the lecture by Dr. Anthony Stevens, amongst others.

I did manage to attend the unveiling of the commemorative plaque this morning, and the well-attended Service of Remembrance, which revealed how beautifully Corfu's surviving synagogue has been restored. The singing of the Adonai hymn of prayer to God by the Jewish Community Choir of Thessaloniki was very moving. Speeches in front of the ruins of the Cohen family house (the lower two storeys) were also of great interest, offering hope for the restoration of the building and the creation of an Albert Cohen museum there (this and many other buildings were destroyed during the 1943 bombardment).

From tonight the focus will be on the Durrells again, and on other Corfiot writers like Theotokis, at the Durrell School of Corfu seminar on The History and Culture of the Ionian Islands. It is hoped that participants will have the opportunity to visit the Jewish Quarter, the Philharmonia Society, as well as Vido and Mandouki.

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