Death of Franco-Greek writer Vassilis Alexakis, a bilingual at heart

Athens-Paris, Paris-Athens… Vassilis Alexakis, since his arrival in France in 1961, at the age of 17, thanks to a scholarship, has not stopped going back and forth between his two homelands, in reverie and in creativity as in reality. It is this discrepancy, even a certain discomfort – he will constantly stage them – that immediately offered him the linguistic and playful dynamic that was destined to remain the driving force of his fictional work.

If then, in the manner of Samuel Beckett between France and Ireland, or Nancy Huston between Canada and France, he will design and translate his own books into his two languages, he undertakes to write his first three books in French – he publishes the first, The sandwich (Julliard), in 1974, at the age of 31. ” If I had written them in Greek, there might not have been this sort of insolence, humor, all absurdities that came to my mind and that I expressed very freely in French. I felt like I could go further, say things I would never have said in my native language, because of the culture or the environment », He confided in 2000 to the academic Aleksandra Kroh (read the The cross of January 7, 2016 on bilingual writers).

→ MAINTENANCE. “The novel is my religion”

Born in 1943 in Athens, Vassilis Alexakis arrived in France at the age of 17 on a scholarship, to study journalism there. He then returned to Greece for his military service but, after the coup d’état, returned in 1968 to settle in France permanently. He works at World, at The cross and to France Culture. Talgo, son 4e novel, in 1983, marks a more serious inflection in his work, the writer then allowing himself for the first time to write in Greek. And in Paris-Athens (Threshold 1989), he autobiographically asserts his double culture, in a “ little odyssey through two languages ».

Author of twenty novels

It is from the release of The mother tongue (Fayard), Medici prize in 1995, which continues its deep and playful reflection on the words, which Vassilis Alexakis obtains a wider audience. He will publish about twenty novels and short stories, including, in 2007, Ap. J.-C., who received the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française, in which he attacked, in the proper sense, the Greek Orthodox Church and the functioning of the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos, opposing theology and philosophy, and clearly giving the last winner. “ Monks don’t think, they pray », He summarized (read The cross of September 13, 2007).

→ ARCHIVE. Our review of “La Clarinette”, by Vassilis Alexakis

In 2015, with The clarinet, he devoted a moving novel in tribute to his editor Jean-Marc Roberts, who died two years earlier. Another story of words, of languages ​​to work on and always to conquer. Vassilis Alexakis was also a filmmaker, author of five films, the last of which, The Athenians, in 1991 received the Grand Prize of the Chamrousse Festival.

In Paris-Athens, Vassilis Alexakis still had fun playing tricks on death while navigating between his two countries. ” I know she’s capable of making the trip, but hopefully I’ll be gone by the time she arrives. My travels may have no other purpose than to sow her. I secretly hope that she gets tired of knocking on my door, that she deems it superfluous to take care of someone who, anyway, is never there ».


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