Interview with Modern Greek Novelist Constantine Abazis



Constantine Abazis was born in Athens in 1972. He studied Philosphy and International Relations (B.A. & M.A.) at New York University, traveled extensively and wrote about the Rwandan genocide. Upon his return to Athens, he took up politics and business. His novels are popular both in Greece and overseas.  They have been highly praised by well-known modern Greek literary figures.

Abazis has the following comments in an exclusive interview with our reporter Lorraine Eyre:

Constantine, when did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

I was around ten. My parents let me vacation under the supervision of an uncle. Unfortunately, he was very busy running a camping business and I was very much left to my own devices. As a result, I daydreamed all the time at the beach and when I got tired of it, I wrote a spy novel filled with cliches which I called “Operation Zorbas”. At the time, I thought it was my masterpiece.

Is this when you began writing?

Yes, and the important thing is the moment you find your first reader. She was the mother of one of my playmates and I was smitten with her daughter at the time. It was very important for me to impress her and I was thrilled when she read all my “Zorbas” chapters with a passion. I wrote them during the summer as a series, Ian Fleming- style. Now, I’m at an age when I understand that all that matters, is there must be love as a motive.

What is it about writing that appealed to you?

The solitude, the stillness becoming something concrete. I understood early on that writing never changes the world. It does something far more important; it molds it.

Do you have a specific style?

Oh, yes! Like any other writer. My writing style is as follows: I tell the story, get emotional about it and then, forget about emotions and go back to the text to tell the story.

Do you travel to get ideas for your books?

I’ve traveled enough to know that it’s not traveling that makes one a writer, but observation. You can observe so much, even if you are confined to a cell.

Where and when do you usually write?

Always in the morning, sitting at my desk, banking hours, haha. A previous sober night and a good night’s sleep are necessities.

Have you ever started a book and not been able to finish it because you ran out of ideas?

I often run out of the truth of ideas, yes. It takes thirty pages or so. Then, I start again with something else.

Who was your favorite author as a child?

You mean, after Jules Verne, Herman Wouk. I remember spending a summer after my first literary endeavor with “Winds of War” and “War and Rememberence”. In retrospect, I think I was trying to get to grips as a child with the Second World War. My father fought in EI Alamein and I heard him discuss it quite a lot. The Wouk novels were my gateway to understanding the incomprehensible: Why do people fight? How can they destroy each other like that? Tolstoy came much later.

If you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for a book, where would you go?

Straight into my daughter’s arms. Next choice? Deserts are nice places, empty, but they need life.

I know your books have been pretty successful in Greece, were you surprised by this?

Success is always relative, especially in today’s fragmented publishing industry – and more so, for languages such as Greek. True success is when people come up to you at moments you don’t expect and give you a look that tells you, “I felt that you had something to say”. Then, of course, I reply, “It wasn’t me, I’m just the messenger”.

Are there messages in your books that you want readers to grasp?

Messages, ideas about politics or society you might mean, serve only when they alter the course of the character’s thinking. That’s why a reader should not grasp them in the sense you’re describing. What would be a good play on behalf of the author is to understand how the character changed when confronted with a new idea or message. Especially if the latter is not described at all in the novel.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished the English version of a campus novel with a few twists.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

We’re in the business of truth. Literature might struggle to survive. The truth will not. Find its words. The literature that comes out of it will be unassailable.

Constantine Abazis is currently working on “The Prophet at the Bridge” (superbly translated into English). Readers can find his published works at: https://sites.google.com/site/constantineabazis/the-published-works-1.


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