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Thanos Vlekas: A Novel (Literature in Translation) Paperback – July 17, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Scholars often consider this 1855 title Greece's first social novel. Set during the Greek war of independence, it tells the story of brothers Thanos, a farmer, and Tassos, a soldier. While Tassos's fight for his nation's freedom might seem the nobler cause, he uses his political connections for personal gain, while his nearly anonymous brother serves his country in a less visible but more honest way. This edition contains an introduction by translator Doulis. More for the academics.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The protagonist of this novel that was originally published in Greece in 1855 is Thanos Vlekas, a young sharecropper who hopes to improve himself and his land. In following Vlekas' exploits, the author brings to light the problems troubling Greece at that time, including brigandage, corruption, and the endemic inefficiency of the nation. The novel also deals with another failure of the new Greek state: its inability to provide law and security to border provinces and to administer and dispose properly of land to which it had title. The story concludes with the issue of the apportionment of "national lands," the thousands of acres taken from Muslim landowners after liberation. Thanos Vlekas, written more than 145 years ago, is relevant today in a world where conflict and corruption continue to tarnish society. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Literature in Translation
  • Paperback: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (July 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810118173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810118171
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,942,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nikephoros Phokas on August 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
To truly understand and appreciate this work, you have have to know something about the history of Greece. Under Islamic law which was applied under Ottoman rule, Christians are not really suppossed to bear arms. There are exceptions like how the Ottoman military employed as vassal soldiers, Serbian Christians, after Serbia was reduced to vassalage. The Greek klepths existed outside of the law, committing acts of armed banditry, caring little of the law. Another exception to the rule is how to combat Christian klephts the Ottoman state employed armed Christian armatoli. This book metes out scathing criticism to the early Greek state's acceptance of banditry: "I think I follow you. The Ministry ... torments the innocent ... so that no one will think that Justice sleeps."(73) The main protagonist is a farmer named Thanos Vlekas and whose brother Tassos, is a klepht who fought in the Greek Revolution. Thanos and other innocents suffer throughout this work so that men above the law like his brother can prosper.

The comments of the Socialite Iapetos in one area had me in laughter: "Ethiopians and Eskimos love their own," ... "but only because they don't know the Iapetoses of this world."(80) This boasting comment describes the character of Iapetos well. On page 127 there should be a "the" inserted before the word "magistrate's", but other than that this work is error free.

This book was entertaining while still showing an accurate portrayal of life in Greece after Greek independence. The author Pavlos Kalligas when asked for permission to reprint this novel denied ever writing a novel.(xviii) From reading this work, this is doubtfully out of embarrasment.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yaakov Ben Shalom on May 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This novel, written by one of Greece's greatest statesmen, is really about Greece itself in the decades after independence was achieved. Brigands were common, and they moved back and forth between being thieves one season and sheriffs the next. Rule of law was very weak. The courts were a joke, and the gendarmes ineffective. Peasants thought independence would mean the end of exploitation, but it meant new masters. Ethnic Greeks who lived in Ottoman lands were seen ambivalently at best, and often as foreigners. The Orthodox church fought to keep other Christian groups out and to keep scientific Enlightenment down.

The story is told through the life of an honest farmer named Thanos Vlekas, whose brigand/man-on-the-make brother keeps sucking him into trouble. I won't go into the details of the story here, but it is highly melodramatic. There is a sappy love story, complete with lots of heart-wrenching farewells and terrible misunderstandings. 3/4 of the way through the book, the ending becomes predictable.

It's probably a good thing that Pavlos Kalligas stuck to politics and didn't write any more novels. So why four stars? Well, "Thanos Vlekas" should be read as a work of historical fiction or even history, rather a simple novel. The story leaves much to be desired, but the novel is an effective vehicle to illustrate social and economic conditions in mid-19th-century Greece, and the introduction/preface help with that illustration.
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