This second novel by M.B. Hatzopoulos tells the story of Dimitri’s youth, when, exiled from Cyprus and brutally separated from his teenage love, he lives in France at the time of the war in Algeria, of General de Gaulle’s accession to power, of the Colonels’ coup in Greece and of the students’ rebellion in May 1968.
Author: Miltiades B. Hatzopoulos
Translator: Irene Noel-Baker
While many of the heroes of Greek literature of the pre and post-war era are caught up in the guiding national narrative and its myths, Dimitri is a person with more than one home. His story is a story of the Greek diaspora, one of curiosity, awakening, humorous observation, and the broadening of horizons.
The second volume in Miltiades Hatzopoulos’ trilogy has Dimitri arriving in Paris in 1956, a stranger in a foreign land, bewildered and bemused, but soon swept up in the reality of a country he has so far learned about only through his reading of French medieval literature. A sophisticated French family welcome him into their confusingly shabby upper-class home, where he lodges together with a colourful cast of characters on the sixth floor.
Now permanently exiled from Cyprus, Dimitri is committed to his adoptive country. Grateful for the opportunities that the French Republic has so generously bestowed upon him, he becomes a French citizen and volunteers for military service just as the political unrest of the 60s hits the streets of Paris. In counterpoint to his own inner turmoil, the French colonial war in Algeria, the Arab-Israeli War and the military coup in Greece all take place while he is in France, and meanwhile the tragedy of Cyprus continues to unfold.
Dimitri’s humorous observation of life in the army is one of the many glories of this book, along with the fine descriptions of character, Paris and the provinces, the niceties of French society, the complexity of personal relations, and a vivid introduction to the politics of the time from a first-hand perspective. Historically enlightening and vivid, the book takes us along Dimitri’s own personal journey, which is defined and dictated by the events going on around him, as he grapples with a world that sweeps him along, amused, confused and enchanted.