The 50th anniversary of the political novel “Z” and why it matters in 2016
“In a way it holds the essence of the Greek national identity.”
Photos: A. Christofilopoulos / FOS PHOTOS
With the republishing and 50th anniversary of the book “Z” from 1966 by Vassilis Vassilikos, authors, movie-makers and professors elaborate on why the book, addressing the murder of a socialist MP and the subsequent investigation of the case, still matters.
When Vassilis Vassilikos wrote the book “Z” readers knew who the character “Z” was intended to be: The socialist MP Grigoris Lambrakis, who was killed leaving a political meeting in 1963. People were rallying outside.
The audience knew the story. They knew that a three wheeled vehicle was driving through the rally aiming for him. They knew that he was hit in the head with a metal bar, by a man standing on the back of the vehicle.
They knew that the episode was watched by Thessaloniki’s Chief of Police and the Inspector General of the Gendarmes of Northern Greece. They knew the aftermath; the troubled investigation, the many testimonies given by the people involved.
“This war between ideologies is a part of our DNA.”
And while the reader knew all this, the novel “Z” still holds an important place within modern Greek literature; it unfolds the hidden structures of the society at the time. We see more clearly how the murder came to take place; we understand the structures and the political climate leading up to the dictatorship that was to follow.
“Z” is based on the more than 5,000 pages of testimonies from the trial against the murderers, and written by Vassilis Vassilikos while the trial was still ongoing.
In 1967, when the military dictatorship broke out, Vassilis Vassilikos was forced into exile in Paris due to his political activities. Had he not been living in Paris, “the book would have earned him a place on the islands’ death camps now holding thousands of patriots” Dan Georgakas notes in a review of the book, back in 1969.
Today Vassilis Vassilikos is 82 years old and living in Greece, and “Z” has been translated into 32 languages.
“Democracy is not self-evident, it is not something that we once won; we have to still fight for it.”
Efi Theodorou, a theater director, put the words of Vassilis Vassilikos into a play at the National Theater back in 2012 because “in a way it holds the essence of the Greek national identity” she says. “This war between ideologies is a part of our DNA, and the clashes between them is something that identify us. It has followed us since the German occupation to the civil war, then the dictatorship, and until now.”
She also put the theater play up for a second round of performances after the Greek Rapper Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by a Greek neonazi in Keratsini, a southern working class district of Athens. “So all the young people who came to see the play were talking about the recent murder. So ‘Z’ is alive, or Fyssas is alive. And we have to recognize that the values from back then are still alive. Fascism and nationalism are still alive” she adds.
When it comes to the political and social climate today “democracy is not as weak as in 1963; it is safer now than back then. But nationalism is alive, and Lambrakis was fighting against this. So even though we don’t have the same conditions, we have to understand that we have to take care of democracy. Democracy is not self-evident, it is not something that we once won; we have to still fight for it. That is a lesson from the book, which we still have to understand” she concludes.
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