First English translation of a 1978 novel by the eminent Greek author (of Z, 1968, among others), this time an account of a biographer setting out to piece together a coherent study of a celebrated and mysterious writer.
Biographers have a hard time keeping their own lives from intruding on their subjects’, and our unnamed narrator is having a harder time than most. He has been commissioned to write a biography of Greek writer Glafkos Thrassakis by the cultural affairs department of the Common Market—mainly at the behest of a Danish countess who had an affair with Glafkos many years ago (and tried to seduce the biographer, too, at their first meeting). He is happy to take on the assignment, since Glafkos is an important figure in modern Greek literature and politics alike, but there are many difficulties. First, Glafkos (who was eaten by cannibals in New Guinea) left all his papers and archives under seal for 25 years. Second, the writer lived mainly in exile, so most of his friends and colleagues are spread out across the globe. Then, too, in the course of his research, the biographer discovers that much of the official story of Glafkos’s life is plainly false. For one thing, it appears he wasn’t eaten by cannibals at all but murdered by political extremists in West Berlin. More questions arise: Why did an anti-American leftist like Glafkos send his archives to an American university? What was his real reason for leaving Greece? Why did he never return? The more deeply the biographer probes, the murkier the evidence—and the more he despairs of ever finding out who Glafkos really was, if he even existed at all. Even more frightening, he begins to wonder if he is Glafkos. And, if he is, has he invented Glafkos—or has Glafkos destroyed him?
In the tradition of A.J.A. Symons’s Quest for Corvo, a brilliant tale of witty and sophisticated fun. Long established as a classic of contemporary Greek fiction, it deserves a wide audience here, too.