Antonis Samarakis was a leading Greek writer and defender of human rights whose work has been translated into many languages.
Celebrating 100 years since his birth, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports designated this year as the year of Antonis Samarakis and organises a series of events in Greece and beyond for the promotion of his literary work and his humanitarian activity.
Samarakis was born in Athens on 1919 and studied law at Athens University. A civil servant in the labour ministry, he resigned in 1936, when General Metaxas imposed a fascist-style dictatorship on Greece, but resumed his post in 1945. During the German occupation, he joined National Solidarity, a precursor of the main leftwing resistance organisation, the National Liberation Front.
In 1944, he was sentenced to death for his resistance activities, but managed to escape and go into hiding. From an early age, he wrote poetry for literary magazines and anthologies.
But in the 1950s, he made the decisive turn to prose fiction, publishing his first collection of short stories, Ziteitai Elpis (Hope Wanted) in 1954.
The masterpiece of the Greek writer Antonis Samarakis, To Lathos (The Flaw, 1965), was eerily prophetic of the military dictatorship that was shortly to be established in his native land. The novel was awarded the coveted prize of the Twelve in Greece in 1966 and the Grand Prix de la Littèrature Policière in France in 1970. It was also turned into a successful film by Peter Fleischmann in 1974.
Samarakis's first novel, Sima Kindunou (Alarm Signal, 1959), and second collection of short stories, Arnoumai (I Refuse, 1961), which won the state literary prize for short stories, developed the same themes and further established his reputation, enabling him to resign from the civil service in 1963 and devote himself to fulltime writing.
Translations of his works into more than 30 languages, as well as the stage and screen adaptations, attest to his ability to address issues of common humanity. Ιn much of Samarakis's work the characters are anonymous, the style fragmented and plain, sparing in description, but racy, with unexpected twists and an often caustic humor. His protagonists' agonised states of mind are depicted with frequent repetitions of words and phrases, often tending to stream of consciousness. Samarakis represented Greece at conferences of Unesco and the International Labour Organisation, whose missions he also took part in. He was a goodwill ambassador for Unicef, organised an annual youth parliament in Greece, and, in 1991, was designated as his country's cultural ambassador for Mèdecins sans Frontières.
Extracts from an obituary by David Holton in The Guardian (August 16, 2003)
Scientific Committee for Samarakis' centenary
-Christos Chomenidis, Author
-Kostas Karavidas, Department of Philology, University of Ioannina
-Sissy Papathanassiou, Director, Directorate of Letters Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports,
substituted by Georgios Perrakis, Head of the Department of Books and Letters, Directorate of Letters
-Vassilios Sabatakakis, President, European Society of Modern Greek Studies
-Maria Vlassopoulou, Benakeios Library, The Library of the Hellenic Parliament
-Sofia Mara, Committee Secretary, Directorate of Letters Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports
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