You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone: thus this slender but deeply charged novella concerning an unspeakable—but sadly imaginable—act of terrorism.
“He keeps to himself, we don’t see him often. He doesn’t socialize like everyone else and rarely speaks.” So, inevitably, says one of his neighbors after a 21-year-old Athenian known only as Ch.K. (“only his initials were released to the public”) blows up the crowning achievement of classical Greek architecture, the Parthenon. Ch.K.’s logic is impeccable, after a fashion: the building is so beautiful, so powerful a testament to a civilization superior to the Greek present, that it forces Athenians to cast their eyes downward at their grimy, dirty city, “and that puts us into a bad mood, because she’s unworthy of It, and no matter what we do, we will never become worthy of such a masterpiece.” One can read Ch.K. as a nihilistic heir of Albert Camus’ antihero Meursault, or one can see in Chrissopoulos’ plainspoken tale, told as a multipart procedural, an extended metaphor for the decline of Greece as a poor stepchild to the European Union, overrun by refugees and mired in apathy. Naturally, like Mohamed Atta and company, Ch.K. sees grandeur in his act of destruction, a dare turned into deed: if everything in Athens “looks evanescent,” as he proclaims, then how much more permanent a bomb crater will seem, something to shake the bourgeoisie to their core and rattle every window around. The state, naturally, has other ideas, and if some of the interviewees quietly agree that Athens truly did not live up to its wondrous past, that won’t stop a few things from happening, one of them the construction of a “New Parthenon” scheduled to go up in months rather than centuries.
Reminiscent of a half-century–old ancestor, Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1966 novel Z, in its sardonic protest of things as they are.