Vassilis Vassilikos

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Vassilikos, Vassilis (Vol. 4)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Vassilikos, Vassilis 1933–

Vassilikos is a Greek novelist, playwright, and screenwriter best known for the novel Z.

Most Left-of-center novelists, following in the Marxist tradition, get tangled in their message, producing caricatures and losing sight of artistic goals. Vassilikos almost always remembers that he is first of all a novelist. He accepts experimental techniques as compatible with his didactic purpose and as by no means an intrusion of form into content. Obviously [he is] well-read in the European new novel….

Robert J. Clements, "Prefiguring the Coup," in Saturday Review/World (copyright © 1968 by Saturday Review/World, Inc.; reprinted with permission), November 16, 1968, p. 51.

In [Z,] his only book available here since "The Plant, The Well, The Angel,"… Vassilis Vassilikos … demonstrates new and considerable storytelling and lyric powers. Designing a pattern as gracefully complex as an oriental carpet, he weaves fact with poetic fantasy, produces a texture peopled with dozens of characters, and knots them tightly one to the next….

Transcending the grisly tale is its poetry. Images ripple, cascade, flood through every page. Other-worldly spirits, voices from the dead, great birds with human souls, all harking back to Olympian deities of old, hover in the murky air, wail for persecuted man, now and again swoop down to caress him. At times, these lyric flights rampage into a deluge of verbiage. (Shades of Thomas Wolfe in a Hellenic idiom!) But Vassilikos's gifts are dazzling, and these excesses of the imagination are also his book's chief beauty.

Albert J. Zuckerman, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 17, 1968, p. 81.

In his … novel, The Photographs, Vassilikos has chosen the title for its symbolic resonance: literally 'writing with light'. The author means, presumably, that he is trying to cast light into dark corners of his native country. The city in the novel, Necropolis, the same as in Z is, of course, the city of the dead. The deadness is due to the passive conformity of its people….

The Photographs … is a kind of surrealist dream or, at times, nightmare that makes reality more acceptable than if the author had used a more traditional 'naturalistic' method. In this way, too, he conveys more effectively the poetic nature of his hero. Naturally, for a Greek expatriate writer, politics can never be far away….

Vassilikos wants to make the point surely that man chooses his own destiny; he is not at the mercy of outside forces, the sport of the gods or a Hardyesque President of the Immortals. The death-wish is inside each one of us—Freud turned to the Greek in naming it 'Thanatos'—but a man can choose not to yield to it and opt instead for life and freedom. By saying that 'nothing can happen in Necropolis' Vassilikos is insisting that no creativity is possible where men are not free to express themselves as they wish. There is an insistence, too, on the necessity to choose the freedom and pain of exile rather than be stifled as an artist. No doubt he has felt the need to justify his own position.

The Photographs is a novel that works on various levels and is therefore open to various interpretations. Its terms of reference are both public and private. Yet it cannot be dismissed as merely another propagandist effort since the 'message' is so subtle and so ably woven into the total structure.

Robert Greacen, in Books and Bookmen, December, 1971, pp. 64, 66.

The Photographs is a novel in which the main emphases are verbal, structural and thematic. Vassilis Vassilikos is too competent a novelist to let the lavish application of "technique" completely suffocate the human lack which is expressed by his story….

This potentially interesting theme is vitiated by the iambic prose reverie which the translation offers us at so many points. It may sound like poetry in Greek; in English the banality of the prose rhythm merely emphasizes the whimsicality of...

(The entire section is 1,332 words.)