Alexander Papadiamantis was born in Skiathos on 4th March 1851. His father was a priest while his mother came from an old aristocratic family. Alexander had one other brother, George, and four sisters, Urania, Sofoula, Kyratsoula and Charikleia. In 1874 he enrolled in the School of Philosophy at Athens University, where he attended the first two years before abandoning his studies. Through independent study, however, he became fluent in English and French. Perhaps best-known for his short stories, his most acclaimed works include The Murderess and… He wrote in the local dialect and old ‘katharevousa’ language of the time, posing a challenge to modern translators.
Papadiamantis’ childhood years may have been overshadowed by the scourge of poverty, but they were happy years. He himself was a reserved boy, who enjoyed studying for hours, writing verse and painting saints, while his overprotective mother would keep him away from socialising with lively children. Despite this, he remembers the affection and warm human communication of those years, excursions to the countryside and the powerful atmosphere in the chapels where his father worked.
Thus, in the years that followed, he often recalls these memories with deep nostalgia. And from those years he acquires the habit of closely observing people, later conveying their joy and pain in his short stories. He sees Aunt Sofoula mourning her last godchild who drowned in an accident at the well. He hears legends about Aunt Chadoula Fragogiannou who drowned girls to save them from the dreadful fate that awaited them when they would become women. And the neighbourhood Casanovas who told him of Seraino Karachmetaina whose bones were scented from the boundless kindness she showed throughout her life. He observed his relatives’ grief up close when they learned of their beloved’s shipwreck, but he also experienced the captain who would return joyfully every autumn and treat the patrons of the seaside coffeehouse. And in some magical moments as a teenager in the sweetest Skiathos spring countryside, God blessed him with visions of the divine beauty of Moschoula, who swam in the waves like a dream, or of Polymnia, who would walk all around the lake with her red umbrella.