“Only Those Who Look Back, Move Forward”: Four Literary Responses to Genocidal Trauma in Greek and Transnational Prose
In my contribution, I introduce four authors of different generations and languages, but all of Greek origin: Elias Venezis, Dido Sotiriou, Jeffrey Eugenides and Aris Fioretos. Both the works of expelled authors from Asia Minor and of their transnational, postmodern descendants are remarkably free of revanchist clichés or the stereotypical ‘othering’ of Turks or Muslims. While Venezis points to the irritating ‘genocidal corruption’ and dehumanization within the victim group, Sotiriou puts the political responsibility for the ‘Catastrophe’ on Germany and the Entente, depicting Asia Minor as the homeland of Greeks and Turks. Eu genides chooses intersexuality as a metaphor of modernity and hybridity of (Greek and other) immigrant communities, whereas Fioretos is interested in flowing, flexible identities and the intersection of past and present that expresses itself in a non-linear narrative, where everybody and everything is related to others.
In my native German language, fiction is called ‘Dichtung’, a noun that means ‘closely compacted in substance’. In historically based prose, fiction can be defined as condensed reality. The literary ways of condensing reality depend on many factors, but mainly on the talent and intent of the author, on the time of publication and, of course, on the object depicted as well as on the intended functions of a literary work. If genocide as the ultimate crime becomes a literary object, the intentions are multiple, oscillating between documentation, accusation, interpretation and reflection. Literature on genocide may even substitute public discourse. When genocide survivors write about their experiences, literature serves as a ‘means of survival’ (‘Überlebensmittel’), as the German Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Edgar Hilsenrath accurately named this particular type of prose. For survivors, it seems easier to write about genocide as the unspeakable than to discuss it.
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