The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis: A Novel

Overview

A brilliant work of the imagination as well as a meditation on writing itself, the story follows a biographer’s investigation into the life and works of a famous, yet highly mysterious, deceased Greek author named Glafkos Thrassakis. At the crossroads where magical realism and political fiction meet, Vassilis Vassilikos’s buoyant literary imagination flourishes beyond the confines of conventional narrative structures.

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The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis: A Novel

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Overview

A brilliant work of the imagination as well as a meditation on writing itself, the story follows a biographer’s investigation into the life and works of a famous, yet highly mysterious, deceased Greek author named Glafkos Thrassakis. At the crossroads where magical realism and political fiction meet, Vassilis Vassilikos’s buoyant literary imagination flourishes beyond the confines of conventional narrative structures.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Best known in this country as the author of Z, later made into the 1969 Costa-Gavras movie, Vassilikos is one of the most respected and prolific figures in modern Greek letters. His fictionalized autobiography is very much a work in progress, with four substantially different versions published before this English-language edition. In fact, this book's superb translator, Karen Emmerich, tells us, the author continues to rework Glafkos Thrassakis — as if, like the biographer here, he felt that his book could never truly be finished unless he were, too. — Mary Park
Publishers Weekly
The travails of a literary biographer are the subject of this playful, dense patchwork of a novel by the esteemed and prolific Greek writer best known for his 1967 novel Z. Reworked over a period of decades and further amended for the English edition, the novel satirizes various aspects of literary and political life in Greece over the last 75 years. In the whimsical, cheekily morbid opening chapters, the unnamed biographer-narrator outlines the story of fictional, pseudonymous Greek writer Glafkos Thrassakis. Thrassakis's controversial work forced him into exile, where he was finally devoured by cannibals on a remote island in Papua New Guinea. So far so good, but the novel loses ground when some of Thrassakis's lost manuscripts are discovered, which leads to a long, uninteresting middle section in which the narrator launches into an in-depth retelling of his subject's stories. The third-hand perspective drains the energy from the narrative, and Vassilikos's attempts to get things going again in the final chapters are only fitfully effective as he describes Thrassakis's various conflicts with the government and his legacy in the world of Greek letters. Vassilikos is an engaging, literate writer whose ironic humor emerges at unpredictable intervals, and he offers intriguing observations on the Greek experience of World War II, the country's civil war and its 1967-1974 military dictatorship. But the uneven structure and the long-winded treatment of Thrassakis's work reduces the effectiveness of this elegantly written (and pristinely translated) satire. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
First English translation of a 1978 novel by the eminent Greek author (of Z, 1968, among others), this time an account of a biographer setting out to piece together a coherent study of a celebrated and mysterious writer. Biographers have a hard time keeping their own lives from intruding on their subjects’, and our unnamed narrator is having a harder time than most. He has been commissioned to write a biography of Greek writer Glafkos Thrassakis by the cultural affairs department of the Common Market—mainly at the behest of a Danish countess who had an affair with Glafkos many years ago (and tried to seduce the biographer, too, at their first meeting). He is happy to take on the assignment, since Glafkos is an important figure in modern Greek literature and politics alike, but there are many difficulties. First, Glafkos (who was eaten by cannibals in New Guinea) left all his papers and archives under seal for 25 years. Second, the writer lived mainly in exile, so most of his friends and colleagues are spread out across the globe. Then, too, in the course of his research, the biographer discovers that much of the official story of Glafkos’s life is plainly false. For one thing, it appears he wasn’t eaten by cannibals at all but murdered by political extremists in West Berlin. More questions arise: Why did an anti-American leftist like Glafkos send his archives to an American university? What was his real reason for leaving Greece? Why did he never return? The more deeply the biographer probes, the murkier the evidence—and the more he despairs of ever finding out who Glafkos really was, if he even existed at all. Even more frightening, he begins to wonder if he is Glafkos. And, if he is,has he invented Glafkos—or has Glafkos destroyed him? In the tradition of A.J.A. Symons’s Quest for Corvo, a brilliant tale of witty and sophisticated fun. Long established as a classic of contemporary Greek fiction, it deserves a wide audience here, too.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583226544
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2004
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1933 in Kavalla in Northern Greece, VASSILIS VASSILIKOS grew up mostly in Salonika. After the military coup in 1967, he spent seven years in exile, returning to Greece in 1974. Author of some 120 books, translated into more than twenty foreign languages, Vassilikos is Greece's formost living novelist. His novel, Z, was adapted for film by Costa Gavras, winning the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969.

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Table of Contents

Translator's Note
Introduction 3
Prologue: Biographical Information 9
Pt. 1 Novel 21
Pt. 2 The Findings of the First Sack 165
Pt. 3 Berliner Ensemble 275
First Afterword: Conversations with Andreas Kalvos 337
Second Afterword 345
Third Afterword 357
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