Crime Fiction in Greece

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Giannis Maris,  Crime In Kolonaki,  Pechlivanidis, 1955

 

By Nikos Filippaios (PhD candidate, University of Ioannina, Greece)

Crime fiction in Greece is characterized, on the one hand, by the strong influence of American and European classics and standards, and on the other by a constant search for a more localized expression. This initial reception of a new literary genre and its final assimilation is an idiosyncratic characteristic of Modern Greek culture, which was shaped by accepting both eastern and western influences. Thus, when crime fiction was introduced as a new genre to Greece, during the first decades of the 20th century, readers were already familiar with its main elements, because one of its precursors, the “roman feuilleton” (or serial) was very popular in Greece during the 19th century, as in other European countries.

As a result, by the 1950s  almost all the classic literary characters of crime fiction were famous in Greece : Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter, Allen Pinkerton, Hercule Poirot, Jules Maigret and so on.  This applied also to thriller and  “spy fiction” heroes, from Simon Templar to James Bond. Moreover, during the 1950s and the 1960s, more than thirty crime fiction series were active, although only the most successful five or six were the truly  influential. Also, an indication of the popularity of this literary genre in Greece is that crime fiction novels were included in popular newspapers and magazines and in series that were not exclusively devoted to crime fiction.   In the 1970s,  many of the new series that appeared put  greater emphasis on the more violent and sexual “hard-boiled” crime fiction. However, during the 1980s some Greek intellectuals promoted an alternative approach, with more elaborated and artistic publications; Meanwhile, since the early 20th century, Greek crime fiction had begun developing and gradually adjusting to Modern Greek society, psychology and mentality. Eventually, by the 1980s and furthermore in the 1990s a new generation of writers, such as Petros Markaris, correlated crime fiction with the current social and political problematic and moreover they connected this initially “closed” literary genre with others, like political, historical, even campus novel.

Although crime fiction in Greece is rich and diverse, it remains a largely “unknown land”:  both qualitative and quantitative data are scarce and sometimes contradictory, while the information about the writers, the publishers and the translators are dispersed in interviews, internet sources; there are very few synthetic studies. Thus, the task of uncovering the forgotten history of Greek crime fiction (as part of the AHRC  project Visualising European Crime Fiction) remains a difficult, but interesting, even fascinating, academic challenge.

 

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 Cover of a Greek publication of the Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe. It was released in 1920 as an annex to the newspaper Dimosios Kirix (Public Herald).  This publication forms  probably part of a series dedicated to the works of Poe, entitled The Detecting Stories of Edgar Poe.

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Cover of a novel of one of the most successful series of translated crime fiction in Greece during the 1950s, Pechlivanidis Crime Fiction Pocket Books. The original novel  is apparently The Dark Interlude by Peter Cheyney. This publication was released in the late 1950s.

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 Covers of two different editions of the novel Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The first one  was released in 1962 by Evropi (Europe) publications and it is maybe the first Greek translation of this classic work. The second edition forms part of one of the most representative crime fiction series in Greece, The Library of Detective Literature by Lychnari (Lamb) publications. This edition of Christie’s novel was also released during the 1960s.

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 Cover of the Greek translation of the novel Berlin: Check-point Charlie by Gérard De Villiers. This publication was released in 1975 and it is indicative of the new trend of the 1970s towards “spy” or “hard-boiled” crime fiction, with more violent and sexual elements. This publication is included in the VIPER Series of crime fiction novel, one of the iconic crime fiction series in Greece.

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Cover of the Greek translation of Arsène Lupin contre Herlock Sholmes by Maurice Leblanc, which was released by Agra publications in 1984. During the 1980s, Agra publications gathered some of the Greek intellectuals who showed a renewed interest for crime fiction.

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 Cover of the famous Greek crime fiction novel Crime in Kolonaki. It was written by Giannis Maris (Giannis Tsirimokos, 1916-1979), considered the “father” of Greek crime fiction. Crime In Kolonaki was firstly published in 1955 by Pechlivanidis publications. Giannis Marakis (1904-1973) was another successful writer from that time, and so was Nikos Routsos (1904-1984) who created crime fiction series suitable for children and teenagers.

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