The research objective of this proposal is to examine the ways in which the Greek fiction published between the years 1974 and 2015 has renegotiated the memory of the Greek Civil War (1943-1949). Drawing into memory and trauma studies, while taking into consideration the cultural and political specificities of modern Greece, I aim to investigate the complex interplay between fiction, historiography, and the politics of memory of the civil conflict. This thesis will argue that in post-1974 civil war fiction can be traced a transition between two different ways of memorialising the war: from the poetics of rupture to a rather realistic depiction of the past. More precisely, between the years 1974 and 2000 writers narrativised the war as a traumatic, lived experience and challenged the hegemonic (political and/or historical) discourse of the civil strife. During the years 2000 and 2015, however, the authors engage with the postmemory of the civil conflict and its human costs, restaging an unsettling past which still remains for some an ‘unfinished business’.
The end of the Colonels’ Junta, in 1974, is regarded as a turning point for Greece’s political and cultural agendas. The transition to democracy (known as metapolitefsi) gave birth to the emergence of new stances vis-à-vis the country’s traumatic past and enabled artists and researchers to engage with the hitherto silenced topic of the Civil War. In the cultural sphere, Ares Alexandrou’s emblematic allegorical novel, The Mission Box (1975), is regarded as the milestone that heralds a differentiated approach to civil strife; namely, the shift from the fervent representation of the Civil War as a lived experience, to a rather deromanticised portrayal of the war, which destabilised the prevalent Right-Left polarisation. Similarly, since the metapolitefsi the historiographic interest in the Civil War was revitalised, following changing, often conflicting trends, which continued to arouse lively public interest on this issue. Therefore, important questions are raised about the currency and mutual relationship of dominant historical narratives and cultural discourses over the past forty years. There is little precedent on this topic and the relevant literature remains vastly unexplored. Extant studies concerned with the thematisation of the Civil War in Greek fiction cover the time span until 1994 or earlier, taking a rather descriptive approach (Vasilakakos 2000; Nikolopoulou 2008; Apostolidou 2010). My study’s focus upon the different ways of re-writing the Civil War experiences since 1974—while breaking with the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways of doing so—will therefore both address a thematic scholarly gap and contextualise existing historiographic work on this matter.
Throughout my thesis, I also aim to consider, as a framing discussion, the representation of the Spanish Civil War in Spanish fiction, on the grounds that both countries share significant commonalities in the politics of memory of the Civil War after the transition to democracy. Drawing a parallel between the literary discourses of the Spanish Civil War is immensely useful; the exploration of the historical, political, and cultural contingencies between the two countries will allow me to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the distinct modes of remembering the Civil War in fiction, while avoiding the pitfalls of ‘Greek exceptionalism’.
The main body of my thesis why map out the aesthetic and ideological transition between the two generations of authors, who commemorate the civil strife. I will firstly examine the works published between 1974 and 2000, arguing that the authors subvert hegemonic discourses on the Civil War and engage in the poetics of rupture which consist in bringing forward recollections of personal and collective traumas and showcasing that the fraternal struggle and its aftermath resist narrativisation. Then, I will turn to Thanases Valtinos’s Orthokosta (1994), a novel which signals a new round in the Civil War literature, ‘passing the torch’ to a new generation of writers, who has been able to work through political trauma due to temporal distance. Thus, I will explore the work of contemporary authors, who increasingly interested in the civil strife, renegotiate its memory between 2000 and 2015. More precisely, I will argue that they approach the civil strife from a postmemorial position as a ‘historical legacy’ that needs to be preserved through mediated and untrustworthy memories and they engage a rather realist mode of representation.
Overall, this study will argue that post-1974 fiction has functioned as a dense grid of narratives, where the public memory of the Civil War has been reclaimed and contested, mapping out two different modes of remembering the war. Hence, this thesis will enhance our retrospective understanding of the turbulent era of the Civil War, the different cultural responses it engendered and its relevance to the present. Furthermore, it will offer additional insights into the mutual influence between literary production and institutional discourses and how these (re)redefined the politics of memory of the Civil War and recent Greek history since 1974.