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Two Stories by Vassilis Alexakis

Rebecca Dehner-Armand


Vassilis Alexakis (1943) is a Greek-French author, self-translator, cartoonist and film director. Born in Athens, Vassilis Alexakis has spent his literary career interrogating the exilic condition, the impetus to write in a language other than one’s own and what it means to belong (or not belong) to a place or to a people. He grew up in Greece but moved to France as an adolescent to study journalism in Lille, returning to Greece after his studies to fulfill his military service. In 1968, in the wake of a devastating military coup d’état there, Alexakis went into what would become a lifelong exile in Paris. He began his writing career in French, first as a cartoonist and journalist and later as a novelist. In the 1970s, Alexakis published three novels in French. In 1983, he wrote Talgo, his first novel composed in Greek. Following this publication, Alexakis adopted the practice of self-translating, writing his works first in Greek or French (depending on the subject matter and the setting) and then translating the work into the other language. Alexakis has received a variety of France’s most prestigious literary awards, including a Prix Médicis (1995), a Prix Albert-Camus (1993), and a Prix de la Langue Française for his entire body of work (2012). He has composed a singular oeuvre marked by his particular staccato and wry style, that illuminates the experience of a growing sector of French society: immigrants, exiles and foreigners. In spite of the prescience and timeliness of this body of work, only two of Alexakis’s novels have appeared in an English translation. The author now splits his time between France and Greece; this oscillation between his adopted and native countries is evident in his fictional works characterized by a lack of rootedness in space or time.

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