Vic City Express by Yannis Tsirbas

Vin city Express by Yannis Tsirbas

Greek fiction

Original title – Η Βικτώρια δεν υπάρχει

Translator – Fred A Reed

Source – review copy

It has been five years since I have featured a book from Greece, in fact, there are only three books on the blog. A quick look at Complete review shows there aren’t many modern greek novels out there. So I was pleased to get sent this slim novella by a young Greek writer Yannis Tsirbas. This book was shortlisted for the Greek national literature award. This book was part of the idea behind the well regarded greek Film Amerika square. The book has been published by Montreal based publisher Baraka books a few months ago.

I look him over and can’t resist the impulse to egg him on. I keep listening to his voice over the monotonous clicking of the train.

“And does it ever stink, pal! Hash and piss. They toke up, if you get my meaning, all along Heyden in old buildings just before Fillis street you get high just walking by . They kae a drag and then cut a slash right there on the sidewalk. Snort; then piss it off. Moroccans, Algerians, people like that. They’re the ones with dope; grows wild down there. And  the exact spot the Algerian was pissing the night before the Pakistani lays out his bed sheet and sells underwear the next day; see what I meean?”

The train passenger listens to him rant early on here.

This book is set on a train ride in the north part of Athens as we follow two passengers on the train one a loud mouth talking to the other about what he sees has happened to the Vic city as he starts talking about the place he knew and how it has changed in recent years with all the people that have come to Athens via Turkey. The shops they have opened and what they have changed about the Vic city. His fellow passenger keeps interrupting as we see him clearing the emails from his spam box these little glimpses of capitalism and the usual emails we all get for such things as HIV test and restaurants still being sent even thou there is an economic downturn. The book is formed as outburst each chapter is a separate monologue from one about kids at the school another start with having not eaten for a few days only a discarded sandwich and each of these tales are drawn back to the angry man’s bile about those immigrants he sees everywhere. The man tries to defend his position but as his words get harsh describing the immigrants as a cockroach. A stark view of modern Athens and how the economic crisis has brought the city to its knees but also drawn deep lines of hatred in some peoples hearts that see the city another way.

Three days. Since I ate. Three days. A cheese sandwich missing a bite. Some kid dropped it. Bang, a slap from his mom. And into the garbage. I fished it out. Ate it. Three days. A cheese sandwich. Head spinning. One step forward. Stop two steps; stop again. I’m at the square. Hungry. Thristy. Fountain. Water. I ask for money, Stretch out my hand. Ten Drachmas. Twenty. Nobody gives if you’re young. Dizzy. I remember what food was like. Hunger is like a dream. Taste of food.

Another voice describes there hunger in the chapter Happiness is a sandwich


Fred Reed says this book was inspired in some ways by the rise of the Golden Dawn movement in Greece a far-right party that had grabbed the populist view. The book is Greek but the beauty f the narrative that Tsirbas has used with no names and even the places are not fully seen as Athens landmarks. Means this could be anywhere in Europe where the right-wing Populist that have been taking power or gaining power. The way the Angry man talks about people you have heard many times before around Europe and here from UKIP to the national front in France. The man’s bile is so well caught as he describes the way these folk views the world full of hatred and the fact they see the world as one way, not another. They Blame immigrants for the countries woes. The book is only 90 pages and backs a punch I read it in an evening. A fresh take on the economic problems in Greece as they ride on a train.

What Lot’s wife saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou

whats lot's wife saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou

What Lot’s wife saw by Ioanna Bourazopulou

Greek fiction

Original title Τι είδε η γυναίκα του Λωτ;

Translator – Yiannis Panas

Source – review copy

Well when this dropped through the door ,I wasn’t sure about it but then read the back cover and thought it was different to my usual fair .I saw a review the publisher tweeted from a sci-fi site that had called it speculative fiction (I am alien to genre fiction titles ,so I had in my head it was dystopia fiction  myself ) ,but then an interview with female first by the writer herself said she wasn’t sure where it should be placed and I ll go with that it is a book of many parts ,as such is hard to be cornered as one thing or another .Ioanna Bourazopulou started of studying hotel management in both her native Greece and then in the Uk ,she decide to try fiction in her early thirties .This is her début novel ,it won the Athens ,and was also shortlisted for three other prizes .

… The colony is not visible from the sea .On this everyone agrees,even the most experienced mariners such as captain Cortez ,who has served the consortium for twenty years and can navigate these violet waters with his eyes closed .Indeed ,that is the best way to approaches ,with eyes firmly shut .

from page four of the letter of Xavier Turia Hermengildo

So to the book What Lot’s wife saw is set in the near future .A major crack appear in the earth eating up middle Europe so Paris is now a port and new land that appear called the colony is a mix of the displaced from the disaster and people who were born and grew up there .Also when this happened it caused something called Violet salt was found in the time since then the world has slowly become addicted to this mineral .The   Governor of this region one Bera has turned up dead .This is where we are introduced to Phileas Book ,he lives in Paris and consider the best crossword compiler of his time .He has been brought in by a shadow organisation called the consortium .This consortium is the complex organisation that actually runs the colony ,a strange place with a different system of government .Book is given letters from the six people suspected of the crime and has to try to find out what happened ,he is well placed as the inventor of a complexed 3d crossword ,so we see him struggle to find the truth .

… We lifter Bera’s naked body from the bed .We sponged it down throughly and dragged it to the door .We’d decided against putting the ceremonial uniform back on since it was in shocking condition .Looking for the key ,we had ripped the pockets and the lining off .But it had been in vain .

The discovery of Bera’s body .

This book is genre busting ,it’s easy to put it with Dan Brown a man that makes puzzles solves puzzles ,sounds rather like the lead man of his books ,but no that would be putting this book down ,this is far more complexed than a Brown thriller.Another thing before I started the book I thought of was the seventies film Soylent green in which a man tries to discover where the food of the title comes from and yes in some ways this book and that film have a lot in common ,shadow secrets are abound in both .The book  also examines what happens when the goal posts are moved and society changes and adapts after a massive shift in power that saw mainland Europe disappear  cause an unfair regime and system to take hold with just a privilege few .The way the book is set out is refreshing ,in the same interview ,I read with her on female first she talks about using ,her previous experience in writing plays had helped her  in setting the book out so what we get via the letters is a collection of small scenes and as the book unfolds these scenes are almost like clues in a giant crossword each one helps the next one along giving a little more light on what had happen to Governor Bera .We also see a hidden past appear and what lead to the killing .As with the title this book maybe like the story of Lot shows a post modern Sodom and Gomorrah in the colony .

Have you a favourite Greek novel ?

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 ?

Four walls by Vangelis Hatizyannis

Vangelis is a greek writer living in Athens in 2001 he won the best new writer in Greece the diavazo prize ,the french translation of this particular book won the Laure bataillon for translation ,his follow-up novel stolen time has also been translated in to english by Marion Boyars .The book focuses on Rodakis a young man returning after traveling the world to his dead father’s house ,initially he decides to become a builder ,but is slowly drawn back to his father’s buisness ,which was beekeeping and honey selling ,in doing so he uncovers old wounds in the area what was his father’s secret recipe ? Also he is persuaded to take in a young women to look after .he ends up getting trapped by monks and in four walls !

S rodakis ,long since dead had been a bee keeper with enough hives to keep half the island in honey .There was a time when he had so many orders that he couldn’t keep up with them ,for ten years in a row ,he was literally overwhelmed with work ,and he no longer sold unlabeled honey whole sale .he devolped his own packaging in metal tins and pasted specially printed labels bearing his name with the picture of a bee under it and under the bee the legend –


A description of his fathers business success

The book jumps in place like Vangelis doesn’t know where to take the story ,but the characters are enjoyable Rodakis is a man facing a decision carry on with the life he had away from the island or embrace the island and live in his family tradition ,in the later stages of the book where Rodakis is held slightly echo Kafka and there is always a sense of good versus evil as an undercurrent to the text .It shines a different light on greek island life than the one I have often seen portraied in films and books ,it brings them in to modern world kicking and screaming

Winston’s score

After couple of books that I just couldn’t score here is one I can giving it a solitary bee score ,as rodakis is like a solitary bee ,hard-working but in lots of ways alone in the world .

March 2023


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