Sunday, 3 July 2016

Orthokosta by Thanassis Valtinos

Orthokosta by Thanassis Valtinos
First published in Greece in 1994. The Yale University Press English language edition translated by Jane Assimakopoulos and Stavros Deligiorgis was published on the 28th June 2016

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

'First published in 1994 to a storm of controversy, Thanassis Valtinos's probing novel Orthokost√° defied standard interpretations of the Greek Civil War. Through the documentary-style testimonies of multiple narrators, among them the previously unheard voices of right-wing collaborationists, Valtinos provides a powerful, nuanced interpretation of events during the later years of Nazi occupation and the early stages of the nation's Civil War. His fictionalized chronicle gives participants, victims, and innocent bystanders equal opportunity to bear witness to such events as the burning of Valtinos's home village, the detention and execution of combatants and civilians in the monastery of Orthokost√°, and the revenge killings that ensued.'

The first tenth of this Orthokosta edition is a very scholarly but nonetheless interesting essay by Stathis N Kalyvas which introduces the experimental writing style Valtinos used for many of his books, the historical period in which Orthokosta is set, and the book's reception in Greece on its initial publication in 1994. I was quite relieved to successfully get through this essay and settled in to read the book itself.

Orthokosta is written as a series of first person speeches where various men and women who lived through the Second World War and Greek Civil War in the Peloponnesian region of Greece tell their versions of the events surrounding the burning of a village and the power struggles there between various Resistance factions. Unfortunately the unnamed characters all speak in pretty much the same voice - consisting of short sentences and frequent references to a huge cast of other characters spread between dozens of villages - and there is no obvious differentiation between speakers in the text so I found it incredibly difficult to follow. I don't read Greek and haven't seen a Greek edition of Orthokosta so I don't know if this is a result of the translation. I struggled through the first third of Orthokosta before giving up altogether. I found the dense text very slow going and was baffled by the relationships between characters. Perhaps a good knowledge of this part of Greece would help my understanding, but this book really wasn't suitable for me.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Thanassis Valtinos / War books / Books from Greece

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