Ashes by Sergios Gakas

Ashes by Sergios Gakas

translator -Anna-maria Stanton-ife

Greek fiction

Source – review copy

Sergios Gakas studied in france in paris ,he studied theatre ,after that he took up writing first with plays for children finally turning to fiction in 2001 ,this book was published 2007 .his books have also been translated into french and Italian .

Ashes is set in Athens in 2004 just before the Olympics and there is a huge fire in a house  ,a former actress Sonia Varika is in the house she shares with a African family of refugees ,but she is the only member of the household to survive the fire ,it so happens that the next two nearest people to house ,fire and case happen to be here Ex’ lovers .one  is the landlord of the house Simeon Piertzovanis  he is a man who has drifted, he was a lawyer and now a slum landlord and a man looking for solace in the bottle  ,the other is Colonel Chornis Halkis ,he is the police man assigned to solve how the fire started and who had started it , he works for internal affairs in the Hellenic police force .So as you see this is  in the classic noir formula if you weren’t told it was Greece by the names and places it could be any where ,ex lovers ,secrets and lies ,love rivals all play a part as the  book  unfolds ,given the fact that Gakas has mainly work in the theatre before writing fiction this book is driven forward by the dialogue between the characters partly the two male leads which have some great inter actions during the course of the book .also the fact space is need for the olympics that is just round the corner and Athens is all of a flutter with that as well .

“When did you first meet her ?”

“21st July 1999″

the policeman was visibly irritated .”look- either you’ve got a very good memory or -”


“or that date must be important to you ”

“it’s my name day – St Simeon the holy fool .It was during the break in a game – she opened her diary and wished me a happy name day – the only person to do so all day ”

Simeon and Vhronis meet early on in the book .

I like this book as soon as it hit the door step ,I love old noir films the tense and darker side of the world where no one is black or white just lighter and darker shades of grey ,so it is here the two men both have the failing but in varying degrees ,Sonia is a classic femme fatale but one who’s beauty is past and is in decline but she has at times touched these mens lives and that plays its small part in the case ,there is also pressure on Chronis from outside  and inside the police and also this leads Chronis into drugs himself much as Simeon is heading deeper into the bottle .also racism raises its head as there is a lot of tension between  the refugee /native greek communities .so all in all a classic noir reset in modern Greece .the translation works well the dialogue in particular has a good flow to it .

Do you like Noir ?

Have you a favourite greek book ?

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 21:08:27

    Loved the cover & like you said this is classic noir territory. As for my favourite Greek book, It’s going to have to be a cop out, as if I remember correctly It’s set in Cyprus & was by an Englishman in all but residency – Bitter Lemons – Lawrence Durrell, sorry couldn’t think of anything else, unless we go poetry & a big influence on Durrell ,Cavafy.


  2. Matt Craig
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 21:33:01

    Great review, Stu, and a timely reminder that I need to get the finger out and read this one. I’m a big fan of noir, mainly the old American stuff. You’ll go a long way to outdo Jim Thompson, especially the classic THE KILLER INSIDE ME.


  3. Anbolyn
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 00:24:05

    I love noir films, but haven’t read much noir fiction. This novels sounds really intriguing, though, and does have such a great cover! I wanted to read it before I even read your comments.


  4. The Book Whisperer
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 10:32:01

    I’ve had this book on my radar, Stu, a) because it’s a crime fic book and b) I love Greece and have been trying to track down more books set there.

    I have only read Laurence and Gerald Durrells books and other English authors who have set their books there but I really want to read something by an actual Greek author. Thanks for the review.


  5. Sarah
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 15:46:48

    I have read nothing Greek and very little noir. This one is ticking all the right boxes, and you make it sound very appealing. Thanks, Stu.


  6. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 19:38:40

    Ashes is not available in the US–arggh! Perhaps it will be soon, especially if you and others keep praising it and Gakas.

    I haven’t read any modern Greek fiction ever, but I was interested to see that Graywolf Press, in the US, published the Greek novel The Scattered Papers of Penelope by Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, translated by Karen Van Dyck. I’ll have to look into that.

    I was thrilled by I Curse the River of Time by Petterson. Magnificent!

    Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! My best to Winston,

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


    • winstonsdad
      Aug 21, 2011 @ 13:06:29

      I ve asked Maclehose if there publishing it in us via Quercus awaiting a reply ,hope they do ,please you liked Per he is such a thought ful writer ,all the best stu


  7. Trackback: Book review: Ashes by Sergios Gakas | Petrona
  8. Trackback: Eurovision of books 2013 what to read from the final | Winstonsdad's Blog

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August 2011


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