Sunday, 29 May 2016

Guest Post - Greek Fiction by Christine Philippou - Greek Week

We hear a lot about translated literature these days, the popularity of Scandinavian Noir a case in point. And we hear a lot about books set in Greece (and Rachel will be bringing you plenty this week!). What you rarely hear about is Greek fiction, and this is a shame indeed.

One of my favourite books of all time, an exquisitely written novel tracing backwards from the present the exploits of five school friends, in snapshots, every World Cup, is not only unavailable in English, but is also now out of print in Greek as well. It’s called Στα ψέματα παίζαμε (loosely translating as ‘We played at Lies’), and it’s heart-breaking that so few people have had the pleasure of reading it. The same goes for the play Kαληνύχτα Μαργαρίτα (Goodnight, Margaret) by Gerasimos Stavrou, which looks at a previously aristocratic family self-destruct through stupidity and misunderstanding during WW2.

Then there is the Greek fiction that has been translated but is no longer available (yes, there is a theme, and I’ll come to the reasons for that soon). The Third Wedding Wreath, an oldie (published in the 80s) but goodie, is a wonderful insight into the lives of middle-aged women in Greek society at the time, more so when looked at through the lens of the reader and their modern life.

On a more positive note, there is some translated Greek literature that remains widely available. Yes, this is where I mention Alexis Zorbas (Zorba the Greek) by Nikos Kazantzakis, a wonderful portrayal of character, set in pre-WW1. Another international bestseller was Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture, a study of the beauty of intellectual quests and mathematics. And as for children’s literature, you can’t do better than Eugenios Trivizas, The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig being among his very prolific list of books.

And then there’s Greek crime. Petros Markaris is the foremost in the genre (translated – yay!), and his latest trilogy (still with the same wonderful Greek policeman as the protagonist), The Crisis Trilogy, deals with the reality of everyday life in Greece since the crisis hit in 2008, in combination with delivering great police procedurals. But there are others, Giannis Maris being among my favourites.

Then there is Greek fiction written in English (directly) by previously Greek bestselling authors, examples of which are The Birthday Party by Panos Karnezis and Poor Margo by Soti Triandafyllou. What most Greek fiction dealing with themes in modern Greek life has in common is its darkness. Again, written in English, but still steadfastly Greek fiction, Black Greek Coffee looks at the darker sides of life in Greece, away from the whitewashed houses and the azure waters in touristville.

So why isn’t Greek fiction popular? Is it because a lot of the themes in Greek fiction are dark and people like to associate Greece with sun and islands and love? Or is it because so few speak the language that a lot of it gets lost in non-translation? I like to think it’s the latter, and hope this post has gone some way into shedding some light on Greek fiction.

Thank you, Rachel, for giving me that chance J

About Christina Philippou 
Christina Philippou is an author and book blogger, whose novel, Lost in Static, due to be published on 15 September 2016 by Urbane Publications, is written in English about English university students, but then we can’t all write Greek fiction, can we?

Thank you so much Christina for this fascinating look into Greek Fiction, and best of luck for your own book. 

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