Country Focus: Greece
Deadline in Athens
By Petros Markaris
Translated by David Connolly
Originally published in Athens as Nychterino Deltio by Gavrielides Editions, 1995.
My edition: Grove Press, 2004
Time period: 1993
Notes: Markaris, a Greek citizen since 1974, lives in Athens. Deadline in Athens is the first of seven Inspector Costas Haritos mysteries, two others of which have been translated into English.
World Lit Up Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)
Maybe it’s the fault of the translator, but I thought that the main character was an ass and that the writing was full of clichés. A disappointing read.
At first, I’d taken him for a plucky but misguided lunatic who would break sooner or later. But while it lasted, I began making bets with myself to pass the time, given that I was obliged to sit in silence and witness the whole spectacle. It was as if I had placed a bet that Zissis wouldn’t break. Perhaps that bet was how we came to know each other. They had him in strict isolation and wouldn’t even let him go to pee. During the night shift, when I was alone in the cells, I’d let him out of his cell to get a bit of air and stretch his legs. I’d give him a cigarette, and if Kostaras had had him in the barrel, I’d let him lean against the radiator to let it soak up a little of the dampness. Whenever I heard footsteps, I’d lock him back into his cell. I told myself I was doing it so that he’d keep up his strength and I’d win my bet. When I took him to empty the slop pail and he spilled it because he didn’t have the strength to lift it , or when I dragged him back to his cell after an interrogation, I’d give him the odd backhander in front of the others so they wouldn’t think I was being soft on a commie. That way I’d get in trouble. I never explained to him why I did it, nor did he ever thank me. Afterward, they took him on a stretcher to the Averof prison and I lost touch with him.
Ancient Greeks left us a treasure trove of literature, but contemporary Greek writers need to be translated!