photo: Katerina Fougiatzi
October 19, 1966 |
|Literary movement||Postmodern literature|
Dimitris Lyacos (Greek: Δημήτρης Λυάκος; born October 19, 1966) is a contemporary Greek poet and playwright. He was born and raised in Athens where he studied Law. From 1988-1991 he lived in Venice, then moved to London, studied philosophy at University College London and stayed there for thirteen years. He is currently based in Berlin.
In 1992, Lyacos set about writing a trilogy under the collective name Poena Damni, referring to the hardest trial the condemned souls in Hell have to endure, i.e. the loss of the vision of God. The trilogy has developed gradually as a work in progress in the course of twenty years. The third part (The First Death) appeared first in Greek (Ο πρώτος θάνατος) and was later translated in English, Spanish and German. The second part under the title "Nyctivoe" was initially published in 2001 in Greek and German and came out in English in 2005. This work has been substituted by a new version (With the people from the bridge) that appeared in 2014. Various artists have brought Lyacos' work in different artistic media. Austrian artist Sylvie Proidl, presented a series of paintings in 2002 in Vienna. In 2004, a sound and sculpture installation by sculptor Fritz Unegg and director Piers Burton-Page as well as a video stemming from Nyctivoe, by Gudrun Bielz were produced. The Myia dance company have performed a contemporary dance version of Nyctivoe in Greece from 2006 to 2009. Dimitris Lyacos is Fellow at the International Writing Program, University of Iowa.
The trilogy would appear to belong to a context of tragic poetry and epic drama, albeit distinctly postmodern at the same time. Homer, Aeschylus and Dante as well as the darker aspects of romantic poetry together with symbolism, expressionism, and an intense religious and philosophical interest permeate the work. The first of the three pieces, Z213: Exit (Z213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ), accounts a man's escape from a guarded city and his journey through dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish, lands; in the second book, With the people from the bridge (Με τους ανθρωπους απο τη γεφυρα) the protagonist of Z213: Exit becomes a first-degree Narrator appearing as one spectator in a makeshift play performed under the arches of a derelict train station. The play recounts in a mulitperspectival narrative a story based on the theme of the revenant through the first-person embedded accounts of four characters: a man possessed by demons attempts to resurrect the body of his lover but ends in joining her in the grave. The action is enveloped in a context reminiscent of a festival for the dead as well as that of a vampire epidemic. The third book, The First Death (Ο Πρώτος Θάνατος) opens with a marooned man on a rocky island and details his struggle for survival as well as the disintegration of his body and the unrolling of its memory banks.
The work is hard to classify since it crosses the usual boundaries of genre. It often takes narrative form, mixing poetry and prose, but moves into dramatic representation of character and situation in With the people from the bridge, as well as a hard lyrical kind of poetry used to depict the break-up and eventual apotheosis of the body in The First Death. The possibilities of difference between the perceived and the objective outside world are exploited; we are watching the irregular flow of internal monologues, events in the external world as being reflected onto the thinking and feeling surfaces of the protagonist's mind. Nevertheless the characters' bodies and the physical context of their lives are presented with impressive solidity. The man escaping from his city into a closely detailed, yet somehow Kafkaesque, world, has the everyday persona of an L.A.private eye in a 40's detective novel along with the intimation of being on the verge of an extraordinary adventure. With the people from the bridge hinges on the story of a character resembling the Gerasene demoniac from St. Mark's gospel, living in a cemetery, tormented by demons, and cutting himself with stones. He enters the tomb of his dead lover attempting to open the coffin in which she seems to lie in a state not affected by decomposition and the urgency of his desire projects life into her body whose passage back to life is described. The grave becomes a "fine and private place" for lovers still capable of embracing. In the opening of The First Death a place is denied to the mutilated body which grinds against the rocks and suffers continuing degradation, physical and mental, as even the mechanisms of memory are dislocated. Yet the bond between person and body that ensures life still persists, and, "at that point without substance/ where the world collides and takes off", the mechanical instincts of the cosmos rumble into action and sling this irreducible substance again into space -prompting, perhaps, a future regeneration.
- Poena Damni O Protos Thanatos. Odos Panos. Athens. 1996. ISBN 960-7165-98-5
- Poena Damni The First Death. English edition. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press. 2000. ISBN 1-899549-42-0
- Poena Damni Nyctivoe. Greek - German edition. Translated by Nina-Maria Jaklitsch. CTL Presse. Hamburg. 2001.
- Poena Damni Nyctivoe. English edition. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press. 2005. ISBN 1-904886-11-6
- Poena Damni Z213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ. Greek Edition. Dardanos Publishers, Athens 2009. ISBN 960-402-356-X
- Poena Damni Z213: Exit. English edition. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press 2010. ISBN 978-1-907356-05-6
- Poena Damni Der erste Tod. German edition. Translated by Nina-Maria Wanek. Verlagshaus J. Frank. First edition 2008. Second edition 2014. ISBN 978-3-940249-85-2
- Poena Damni With the people from the bridge. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2014. ISBN 978 1 910323 15 1
- "Dimitris Lyacos | International Writing Program". Iwp.uiowa.edu. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
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- "A Review of "Poena Damni, Z213: EXIT" by Dimitris Lyacos, Translated by Shorsha Sullivan «". Decompmagazine.com. 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
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- "Project MUSE - Recent Translations from Shoestring Press". Muse.jhu.edu. doi:10.1353/mgs.2001.0026. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- "mediterranean poetry » Dimitris Lyacos". Mediterranean.nu. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- "Cha: An Asian Literary Journal - A Philosophy of Exits and Entrances: Dimitris Lyacos's Poena Damni, Z213: Exit". Asiancha.com. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- "NonFiction". The Writing Disorder. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- The First Death, Poena Damni, Translated by Shorsha Sullivan, Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2000, page 32.
- Lyacos, Nyctivoe Libretto 5
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