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Stratis Myrivilis


Stratis Myrivilis (Greek: Στρατής Μυριβήλης, 1890–1969), a major figure in the literary history of 20th Century Greece, is the pseudonym of Efstratios Stamatopoulos. He wrote mostly fiction: novels, novellas, and short stories.


Myrivilis was born in the village of Sykamineas, on the north coast of the coast of the island of Lesbos, in 1890 .

As often on the coasts of Greece, this is a double settlement ;- an upper village halfway up the steep hill, out of the reach of swift pirate raids, and Skala Sykamineas down on the water’s edge for the fishermen . The local geography would feature in much of his writing, and his novel ” The Mermaid Madonna ” describes almost exactly what the literary pilgrim finds in the twin villages and the immediate area even today . [1] He spent his childhood years there until, in 1905, he was sent to the island capital town, Mytilene, to study at the Gymnasium. In 1910 he completed his secondary education and took a post as a village schoolmaster, but gave that up after one year and enrolled at Athens University to study law. However, his university education was cut short when he volunteered to fight in the First Balkan War in 1912.

After the Balkan Wars, he returned home to a Lesbos freed from Turkish rule and united with the motherland Greece. There he made a name for himself as a columnist and as a writer of poetry and fiction. He published his first book in 1915: a set of six short stories collected together under the general title of Red Stories.

In World War I, Myrivilis saw active service in the army of Eleftherios Venizelos‘ breakaway government on the Macedonian front and also in the Asia Minor Campaign which followed. He returned to Lesbos in 1922, after the Campaign’s catastrophic end.

On 28 June 1920 he married Eleni Dimitriou. They had three children: Χαρη, Δροσουλα, and Λαμπης (Hari, Drossoula, and Labis).

From April 1923 to January 1924, Myrivilis published, in serialised form, the first version of his First World War novel Life in the Tomb in the weekly newspaper Kambana. A longer, revised version was published in Athens in 1930, and almost overnight, Myrivilis became famous throughout Greece. Life in the Tomb established him as a master craftsman of Greek prose, and the work itself was seen as a turning point in the development of Greek prose fiction, marking its coming of age.[2]

After the success of Life in the Tomb, Myrivilis settled in Athens where he worked as editor of the newspaper Demokratia. The newspaper ceased publication after one year however, and he made a living writing columns and short stories for various newspapers and periodicals. In 1936, he was made General Programme Director for the Greek National Broadcasting Institute-a post which he held until 1951, excluding the period of German occupation when he resigned after a final broadcast in which he reminded the Greek people of their noble resistance to the Italian invasion of Greece and called on them to continue resisting with dignity and unity.

During the civil war, he was among the strongest opponents of the communist partisans. He was given a post in the Library of Parliament and, in 1946, he founded the National Society of Greek Writers and was elected its first president.

In 1949 his novel ” The Mermaid Madonna ” was published . Perhaps his most accessible book ( for readers of his work translated into English ), the theme is the ordinary villagers of his childhood, centered around the character of Smaragthi, a foundling girl . Set wholly in the real village he grew up in, the story commences immediately after the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922 as small boats loaded with refugees arrive from Turkey, just across the narrow strait of the sea, and it continues through the subsequent years until just before the Second World War . Myrivilis used real people within the story as well as the real physical setting, notably the Taverna Keeper, nicknamed in real life, as well as in the book, as ” Fordis ” . The mulberry tree outside the tavern in which Fordis reclined on hot summer nights still stands, as does the little chapel upon its rock nearby, and one of ” Fordis’ ” real sons, Paraskevas Patzis, was still living nearby in 2005 .

The novel stands comparisons with Nikos Kazantzakis works (mostly set in Crete) as both give unvarnished accounts of some of the unpleasant happenings which could occur among rural Greek communities . Perhaps ” The Mermaid Madonna ” should be seen as a valedictory celebration of Myrivilis’ childhood, with a fair degree of autobiography in the detail .

In 1958, after having been nominated unsuccessfully six times, he was finally made a member of the Academy of Athens—a belated recognition of his important contribution to Greek literature.

He died, after a long illness, in an Athens hospital on 19 July 1969.

Major works


  • Life in the Tomb (1923-4, 1930)
  • The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes (1933)
  • The Mermaid Madonna (1949)


Short story collections

  • Red Stories (1915)
  • Short Stories (1928)
  • The Green Book (1936)
  • The Blue Book (1939)
  • The Red Book (1952)
  • The Cherry Red Book (1959)

Translations into English

  • Life in the Tomb tr. P. Bien (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1977) (repr. 1987 London)
  • The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes translated by Philip Sherrard (London: Hutchinson, 1964)
  • The Mermaid Madonna translated by Abbot Rick (London: Hutchinson, 1959)
  • Vasilis Arvanitis translated by Pavlos Andronikos. (Armidale: University of New England Publishing Unit, 1983)
  • The Step-daughter (short story) translated by Theodore Sampson, in Modern Greek Short Stories vol. 2 (Athens: Kathimerini, 1981, pp. 65–83)
  • The Cat’s Eye (short story) translated by Irvin Ziemann, in Introduction to Modern Greek Literature: An Anthology of Fiction, Drama, and Poetry ed. Mary P. Gianos (New York: Twayne, ©1969, pp. 193–206)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratis_Myrivilis

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