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.

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?”

“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 ?

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