Z by Vassilis Vassilikos


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Marx, paraphrasing Hegel, once noted that history happens twice, first as tragedy, then as farce. Nowadays, at least in Greece, it's more like melodrama (the Rightist military coup), followed by sheer fiasco (King constantine's sparrow-hearted counter-coup). Z, a novel published in Greece in 1966, can perhaps be seen from the vantage point of today as a prophetic lamentation of things to come, but to say that would be to give Vassilis Vassilikos tight, somewhat sardonic writing a poetic character it does not assume. The novel is rigidly political -- events, figures, ideas, dialogue, atmosphere, even the ironic touches move across troubled Athens like pilgrims and banners in a morality play, with every speech, every allotted its predetermined pace, significance, drama, Vassilis Vassilikos is a clever author; he knows the technique of the camera's eye, both from Dos Passos and from films, and the uses of the interior monologue as well. But his tale, essentially a documentary thriller (the interlocking reactions of all shades of Athenians to the murder of Z, the progressive humanist done in by reactionary thugs), lacks not so much verisimilitude as imagination and a genuine rapport with the idiosyncrasies of feeling and character. To be passionately anti-fascist, to expose the ruling classes and the Lumpenproletariat is simply, alas, not enough.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1968
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux