Vassilis Vassilikos Essay - Vassilikos, Vassilis (Vol. 8)

Vassilikos, Vassilis (Vol. 8)

Vassilikos, Vassilis 1933–

One of the leading Greek novelists, Vassilikos is best known in this country for Z, a novel of political intrigue set in modern day Greece. Several other of his novels and stories have been translated into English, but in his native country it was The Plant, The Well, The Angel, three parables of love and alienation, that established his reputation and earned him the most prestigious literary award in Greece, The Award of the Group of the 12. He is also a poet and a playwright. (See also CLC, Vol. 4.)

It may give you some idea of the profound symbolic depths plumbed in [The Photographs] by the author of Z when you realize that it is set in the Greek city of Necropolis and the hero's name—are you ready?—is Lazarus. The book is just chockfull of heavy stuff like that, some of it almost as good.

The plot is easily summarized. Lazarus is in love with a girl. Then he turns into a cat. Then he turns back into a person. Then he goes away. Then he comes back. Then he goes away again….

I wish Lazarus had remained a cat. Some interesting things happened to him when he was a cat. After he turns back into a person, the novel is all downhill. It is like a hangover, unpleasant but not very interesting, and one can scarcely wait for it to get itself over with. Fans of Hermann Hesse will probably love it. Everyone else will have a hard time staying awake.

L. J. Davis, "Better a Cat than a Man," in Book World (© The Washington Post), May 9, 1971, p. 2.

Vassílis Vassilikós is one of the most prolific writers of post-World War II Greece. From the corpus of works he has published—thirty-three volumes of prose, poetry and comedy—the trilogy Ghláfkos Thrassákis stands out as the best example of his style of prose writing….

The trilogy has no beginning, no sequential middle and no closing. Vassilikós's technique rises and falls, ebbs and flows like a tide expanding in time and place….

[No] concrete and well-rounded characters or reconstructions of dramatic events exist. Names and events pop up wherever and whenever they are to serve in knitting together the author's narrative. Scatological expressions, pornographic scenes, declarations of international political outcasts fill in the canvas of the trilogy. The work is loaded with poems (in fragments or in whole), citations from other writers such as Sartre, news items, TV commercials, ads in neon lights, newspaper headlines, hotel bills, radio broadcasts, songs, et cetera, all of which constitute what can be called today's pop culture. Journalistic, cinematographic and linguistic devices are all in full force. With the latter, however, Vassilikós is original: he breaks words down into their original meaning, and through the etymologies and anagrammatisms he injects a dose of humor which contributes to a pleasant reading of the "printed" word.

It is hard to say whether such a style will either survive the times or influence other writers, or whether one can accept the novelty that today's journalism may become tomorrow's literature. Vassilikós's narrative is difficult to follow; but if the reader is able to do so, he will enjoy the black humor and the manner in which the human condition is ridiculed, as in Jarry and Joyce. (pp. 698-99)

George Giannaris, in Books Abroad (copyright 1976 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 50, No. 3, Summer, 1976.

The Monarch by Vassilis Vassilikos … aspires to literature and ends up hitting the ground with an awful thump. Nor can the curious writing be blamed on the translation from the Greek by Mary Keeley, for no mere translator could invent the forced and unnatural imagery of "The Monarch."

Thus: "When I started smoking again, she hung over the balcony of insomnia like wet laundry that cannot dry because of the humidity. I was anxious." As well he might be, with a girlfriend made of wet laundry….

You will need plenty of patience for this one. On the other hand, you will come up with some writing that will make the long winter nights go much faster, especially if selected excerpts are read aloud to connoisseurs. (p. 25)

Newgate Callendar, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 15, 1976.

[The Monarch] is rich in both socio-political implications and in probings into human psychology and motivation. [Vassilikos] has rarely written better or more objectively where both personal and political factors are inextricably intermingled, and yet an individual integrity is insisted on as blossoming apart from the inroads of historical necessity. There is an acceptance of a new order of life wherein the masses may be freed of exploitation but where the individual also may retain his unique freedom, a planned economy that establishes a give and take between these two equal forces….

Those who have seen the film Z or have read the book in one of the forty languages into which it has been translated may now be assured that Vassilikos has a range that extends beyond the last letter of any alphabet. (p. 933)

Kimon Friar, in Books Abroad (copyright 1976 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 50, No. 4, Autumn, 1976.