Birmingham Modern Greek Translations

Cover image for the Last Varlamis by Thanasis ValtinosThanasis Valtinos, The Last Varlamis

Trans. Stathis Gauntlett, 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7044-2860-7

The name 'Varlamis' summons forth a shadowy figure from the margins of modern Greek history — the curiously recumbent protagonist of a brigand ballad of dubious authenticity. Thanasis Valtinos is clearly in his artistic element using such raw ingredients. His construction of a trajectory for the fabled bloodline from the first to the eponymous last Varlamis is a bravura performance of his trademark 'faction', an unsettling hybrid of fiction and what passes for historical fact. The Last Varlamis is an entertaining and richly nuanced tale of opportunism, lust, brutality and artistic creativity spun upon the frame of selected scenes of modern Greek history. While the narrative affects the sobriety of scholarly discourse, it violates the basic tenets of historiography with varying degrees of subtlety, as if to strike a blow for the recognition of historical memory as a function of the creative imagination.

Cover of Yannis Skarimbas, Mariambas, trans. Leo Marshall, 2015.

Yannis Skarimbas, Mariambas

Trans. Leo Marshall, 2015. 
Recipient of Greek State Literary Translation Prize
ISBN 978-0-7044-2851-5

Skarimbas's voice is unique in European fiction, as unique and inimitable as Laurence Sterne's. Mariambasis an account of the events leading up to a suicide, but one quite consciously unlike any in the great novels of the nineteenth century: Mysteries, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina. With its complicated chronology, its interlocking embedded narratives, its shifts of register and narrative perspective, its stylistic pastiches and parodies, its plot mechanism as intricate, as funny and distressing, as a Feydeau farce, it subverts the tragic coherence of life in nineteenth century fiction. For Skarimbas life is too complicated, has woven into it too many incongruous strands, ever simply to seem empty. It seems, like the moon in Mariambas, to be mostly half full; and therein lies tragedy, but also comedy, enough.

Cover of ELIAS MAGLINIS, The Interrogation, Modern Greek Translation Series

Elias Maglinis, The Interrogation

Trans. Patricia Felisa Barbeito, 2013.

Recipient of the Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize awarded by the Modern Greek Studies Association (USA)

Kostis, a retired journalist-translator, refuses to talk about his past. A former dissident during the junta era in Greece, he was arrested and severely tortured by the military police (the notorious ESA). These experiences continue to haunt him: they shape his most intimate relationships and the regular nightmares that jolt him awake. His artist daughter, Marina — an acolyte of the ‘grandmother’ of performance art, Marina Abramovic — believes in the transformative power of confrontation:  ‘Let it all out, dad,’ she admonishes him. She uses self-mutilation as a form of expression and a means of getting her father to lay to rest this past.  

In these characters’ attempts to find a common ground and a resolution to their family’s pain, the novel charts the decades of violence unleashed by the polarized struggle between the right and left in Greece. Set in Athens at the turn of the twenty-first century, The Interrogation focuses on the fraught relationship between a father and daughter haunted by a traumatic legacy. 

C.P. Cavafy, Selected Prose Works

Trans. Peter Jeffreys (published by The University of Michigan Press with the cooperation and aid of the series) 2010.

Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933) is arguably the most important modern poet of Greece and Greek culture. Long a resident of Egypt and then Constantinople, Cavafy in his poems and prose works tended to focus on Greco-Roman antiquity, on Greece's national identity, and on personal and mythological images and themes including his ethnicity and sexual identity. He wrote some 150 poems, plus a few works in collaboration with his brother John.

His poetical works have been much translated and discussed, but until now, very little consideration has been given to his prose works, in part because many remained untranslated from the original Greek. This book collects Cavafy's more interesting prose pieces and translates those that originally appeared in Greek.

Michael Fais From the Same Glass cover

Michel Fais, From the Same Glass and Other Stories

Trans. Jane Nisselson Assimakopoulos, 2007
ISBN 0704425718.

The stories in this award-winning collection depict life and its upheavals in the newly re-aligned ethnic checkerboard of pre-millennium Greece. Faïs’s artistry, at once exquisite and crude, takes the reader on an intense journey through alternate bouts of rage, panic, self-deprecation, lust and melancholy, as mirrored in the mindscapes of natives and immigrants alike. He is equally adept at the short narrative story form as at a minimalist novella, a monologue, a one-act play, a diary or a series of journalistic notes, all of which here coalesce into a symphonic whole themed around the (living) dead and the dying—inhabitants of a world forever changed.

Kostas Karyotakis Battered Guitars: Poems and Prose

Kostas Karyotakis, Battered Guitars: Poems and Prose

Trans. William W. Reader & Keith Taylor, 2006
ISBN 070442519X.

The early decades of the twentieth century were particularly chaotic in Greece, but gave rise to the major work of Kostas Karyotakis (1896-1928), a poetry both lush and precise, both tragic and ironic. Sometimes considered post-Romantic or an heir to the symbolists, sometimes as either a modernist or a pre-cursor of the post-modern, Karyotakis fits uneasily into our categories. He created an art that, though rooted in the personal and the political, moves far beyond the boundaries of his own life and time. In this work poetry is the necessary but reluctant, almost involuntary response to the swirl around us. “We are just some battered guitars,” he wrote. “When the wind blows over us,/it awakens verses and dissonant sounds/on strings that droop like watch chains.”

Menis Koumandareas Their Smell Makes me Want to Cry

Menis Koumandareas, Their Smell Makes me Want to Cry

Trans. Patricia Felisa Barbeito & Vangelis Calotychos, 2004
ISBN 0704424258

A “man’s man” with a curiosity for the perverse, Euripides has the sympathetic eye of one who has faced others’ passions, foibles, and biases up close, in his barber shop mirror. A type of secular confessor, Euripides “lightens” his customers’ soul by cropping their heads into a uniform short-back-and-sides and filtering their lives through a well-worn irony and working class ideology. The reader is invited to inhabit the space between Euripides and his customers, and to reflect on his or her own perspectives on the human drama that unfolds in this corner of a rapidly changing, urban Athens, a place of magical and deadly transformations. Where individuals from vastly different backgrounds are thrown together to comment on ignorance, compassion, guilt, death, illness, illicit desire, immigration, cannibalism - and share their pain, even if only in a glance or in hushed acknowledgment.

From the pen of one of Greece’s most celebrated novelists, nine magical short stories, in which - to echo Pablo Neruda - the smell of their barbers’ shops makes us want to cry….


Sotiris Dimitriou May Your Name Be Blessed

Sotiris Dimitriou, May Your Name Be Blessed

Trans. Leo Marshall, 2000
ISBN 0704421895 (Out of print)

May Your Name Be Blessed consists of three interlocking narratives in all of which the surge is present of the great tides that have raced through Balkan history in the last sixty years, bu t reflected in the mirror of a rural dialect. In this, the boundaries between personal and collective tragedy become blurred, and each is invested with the properties of the other. Death and old age come to be felt as part of the tragic passing of a whole world, and the passing of a whole world as carrying within it all the accumulated pathos of each and every death. The result is a work quite unlike any other; rarely does one find such poignancy and tragic weight combined.

Stratis Doukas  A Prisoner of War’s Story

Stratis Doukas,Prisoner of War’s Story 

Trans. Petro Alexiou, 1999

ISBN 0 7044 8570 2 (Out of print)

Doukas's story is one of the most powerful literary accounts of the ordeal of those Greeks who were unable to escape in time across the Aegean to mainland Greece after the Greek-Turkish war of 1922. Acclaimed for its oral simplicity and captivating narrative qualities, it is the story of Nikolas Kozakoglou, an Anatolian Greek prisoner of war, who escapes death by pretending to be a Muslim. His story is one of survival, not heroism, hatred or revenge. It is a testimony to sheer human versatility and resilience and indirectly reveals how, although Greeks and Turks lived together on the whole peacefully in earlier times, they also remained deeply ignorant and suspicious of each other’s religious practice. A Prisoner of War’s Story can be seen as an episode of a larger epic, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction, legend and history

Haris Vlavianos Adieu

Haris Vlavianos, Adieu

Trans. David Connolly, 1998
ISBN 0 7044 1886 X 

Haris Vlavianos (born 1957) is one of the finest and most prolific of contemporary Greek poets. In 1983 he published his first collection of poetry and since then has published five more collections, a book of aphorisms on poetry (the form of Wallace Stevens's Adagia which he has translated), and a number of translations of leading poets including: Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, John Ashbery, William Blake. He also edits the biannual journal Poetry, which publishes Greek poetry, articles reviews and essays on poetry as well as translations of foreign poets.

Adieuis his most recent collection, published in 1996. It is a lyric farewell to his family, particularly to his mother, to his student life at Oxford and his past as a whole. By conversing with beloved persons, places and poetic voices of the past, it represents a rethinking and a reassessment of love, of poetry and of the human condition. The four sections of this collection represent the stages of Vlavianos's development from a difficult childhood to poetic maturity. It is as if poetry compensates him for the disintegration of his family and at the same time emerges as the positive outcome of this traumatic alienation.

Dimitris Hatzis The End of Our Small Town

Dimitris Hatzis The End of Our Small Town

Trans. David Vere, 1995
ISBN 0 7044 1609 3

Through the experiences of the characters in these seven interrelated stories Dimitris Hatzis portrays the life of a provincial town in north-eastern Greece during the interwar period and partly during the Occupation. As more traditional modes of living give way before the onset of modem innovations the impact such changes have on his characters is the author’s central concern. In this respect, this particular community stands for all communities exposed to the inevitability of change and the altered ways of thinking that ensue. Whilst he willingly embraces the new, the teller of these humane tales cannot simultaneously help regretting the passing of the old, and this tension characterises much of the book and contributes to its special feeling.

For more information, please contact the General Editor Professor Dimitris Tziovas. Email: