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George Vizyenos: Short stories

Between Piraeus and Naples: And other stories

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Α collection of seven short stories for adults and five short stories for children by George Vizyenos, a largely forgotten 19th-century intellectual often credited as being the progenitor of the Greek short story as well as the writer who established literary realism in Greek fiction.

Author: George Vizyenos more info

Translators: Jenny & Andreas Lazarou  more info

This is a collection of seven short stories for adults and five short stories for children by George Vizyenos, a largely forgotten 19th-century intellectual often credited as being the progenitor of the Greek short story as well as the writer who established literary realism in Greek fiction.

In all his stories, Vizyenos introduces an element of mystery, they are tales of the unexpected and at the end of each one, both the narrator and the reader find they are in possession of some knowledge which causes them to review their first impressions. All of the stories are partly autobiographical and combine many of Vizeynos, own experiences both as a child and as an adult and they also draw on his studies of psychology and the effect of traumatic experiences and events. His protagonists, who in many cases are trying to shed the burden of a trauma in their lives by narrating their story often find that this only multiplies the ambiguities in their lives that this catharsis is trying to expel.

Between 1830-1870 narrative fiction was dominated by romantic historical fiction and it was not until 1880 that literary realism came to the fore and the writing of short stories were more popular than novels. Vizyenos is probably the best known of these writers of the new genre. He was also the first to write about Turks (the archenemies of the Greeks) in a new light and is probably the only writer of Greek fiction to portray Turks with any sort of compassion. His uniqueness of style of storytelling, drawing on his own experiences combined with those of psychology make his stories totally absorbing and as mysteries they stand well to be read today.

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7 Short stories

My Mother’s Sin

A young man learns of a terrible secret of his mother’s past, which has influenced the life of the whole family for years, resulting in conflict within the family. Her confession makes a great impression on him and he is also able to understand her feelings towards himself and he finally resolves to have her sin absolved by the Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul).

Between Piraeus and Naples

Set on a ship traveling from Piraeus and Naples, the narrator meets a young girl whom he knew a few years earlier, when she was a child, in Constantinople. The girl’s father makes a very generous invitation to the young man, but this turns out to be not all it seemed at first. The descriptions of the storm at sea and the arrival of the ship at Naples at dusk are breathtaking.

Who was my Brother’s Killer?

This tells of the narrator’s search for the killer of his brother, which took place three years before the story begins. It is worthy to be read as a modern detective story, and the answer to the question which is the title of the story, is discovered as the killer confesses to another crime. The story explores the compassion between Greek and Turk (the archenemy of the Greeks) which was unusual at the time of writing.

The Consequences of the Old Story

Set in Germany, the two main characters are Greeks living abroad, where the narrator is studying psychology in Göttingen. This is a dark story, both in its setting, vividly described during wet days in the Haag mountains and in the subjects of insanity and delusion and German mythology also plays a part in the storytelling. It is a wide-ranging story covering psychology, friendship, homesickness, madness, and love.

The Only Journey of his Life

A story of the narrator’s grandfather and the influence and confusion he instilled on his young grandson, who was sent to Constantinople at an early age as a tailor’s apprentice, an impressionable young lad, unable to distinguish between his grandfather’s narrations and real life. As well as vivid descriptions of the harem and the village in Thrace, it is a story filled with fairy tales from Europe and well known Greek mythology.

May Day

The narrator spends a strange and eventful evening in Thrace on the eve of May Day. A delightful romp and the most light-hearted of Vizyenos’ stories, though there is an interlude when the narrator looks back on his past. The story is filled with witches and magic and Vizyenos has created the character of Old Móskos to be truly enduring and believable.

Moscóv Selím

The relationship between Móscov Sélim and the narrator is different in this story as unlike Vizyenos’ other stories, the characters have never met before, but a sympathy and a bond grows between the two men and through this, Vizyenos is able to show that there is a possibility to have an understanding between Greek and Turk, Christian and Muslim. The protagonist is a Russian loving Turk, who tells of his various exploits during wars which took place between 1854 and 1876, though at the end of the story, blood being thicker than water, he realises where his allegiance must lie.


5 Short stories for children

The Arab and his Camel

Tromáras

The Scarecrow in the Field

The Thief 

In the Amphitheatre