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Eminent in Greece as the author of many dramas, novels, and essays, Angelos Terzakis is here introduced to English readers (only one play has been previously translated) in his meditations on tragedy born of some 50 years of writing and teaching. Terzakis seeks neither the structure nor a technical definition of tragedy but rather the ""tragic spirit,"" which he evokes intuitively through an existentialist interpretation of the tragic hero. That spirit is not to be found in whole dramas because it arises from a moment in life: the conflict ""between our conscience and the world, the point where they chafe and produce a spark."" Yet, if all human life holds the elements of tragedy, the tragic hero possesses distinct attributes: a will strong enough to be at war with the world, and a will to fight that war to the death. This ""strange passion,"" which compels the tragic hero ""to pursue his destruction, his fulfillment, through catastrophe,"" also ""distinguishes him strikingly from other men"" and renders him ""inspiring and preordained."" What is more, unlike others, he is ""metaphysically conscious"" of his plight: ""the tragic spirit has on its lips the taste of the abyss."" If these phrases ring of existentialist conventions, they do not prevent Terzakis from making some rich and varied, albeit subjective, readings of particular plays (he is most concerned with Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Marlowe). For in his search for the tragic spirit, his imagination lights upon many disparate appearances of drama and life: masks, myth, law, freedom, identity, love, and so on. These readings draw us into the moral substance of literature and lead Terzakis to the nice, understated conclusion that tragedy belongs preeminently to the intense, bold, naive age of youth, in persons, literature, and culture. Terzakis' philosophical seriousness brings to mind the essays on tragedy of Walter Kaufmann, George Steiner, and Terzakis' existentialist friend, Jan Kott. And in unpretentiousness and intuitive, historical sense, especially in readings of the ancient Greeks, he often convinces where his colleagues do not.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin