Dimitris Lyacos

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Dimitris Lyacos
Dimitris Lyacos.jpg
photo: Katerina Fougiatzi
Born (1966-10-19) October 19, 1966 (age 49)
Athens, Greece
Occupation Poet, playwright
Nationality Greek/Italian
Period Contemporary
Genre Cross-genre
Literary movement Postmodern literature

Dimitris Lyacos (Greek: Δημήτρης Λυάκος; born October 19, 1966) is a contemporary Greek poet and playwright.[1] He is the author of the Poena Damni trilogy. Renowned for its genre-defying form and the avant-garde combination of themes from literary tradition with elements from ritual, religion, philosophy and anthropology, Lyacos’s work reexamines grand narratives in the context of some of the enduring motifs of the Western Canon. Poena Damni was written over a period of twenty years,[2] with the individual books revised and republished in different editions during this period and arranged around a cluster of concepts including the scapegoat, the quest, the return of the dead, redemption, physical suffering, mental illness. Lyacos’s characters are always at a distance from society as such,[3] fugitives, like the narrator of Z213: Exit, outcasts in a dystopian hinterland like the characters in With the People from the Bridge, or marooned, like the protagonist of The First Death whose struggle for survival unfolds on a desert-like island.


Lyacos 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.[4] 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.[5]

Poena Damni[edit]


The trilogy would appear to belong to a context of tragic poetry and epic drama, albeit distinctly postmodern at the same time. Homer, Aeschylus[6] and Dante[7] as well as the darker aspects of romantic poetry together with symbolism, expressionism, and an intense religious and philosophical interest permeate the work. The work can thus be related, despite its postmodern traits, more to the High Modernist tradition of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf[8] 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;[9] 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 multiperspectival 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.[10] 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.[11]

The poet Dimitris Lyacos with a beater. Yiannis Melanitis, oil painting on prepared wooden panel, 104 x 39,2 cm. 2012-13


The work is hard to classify since it crosses the usual boundaries of genre.[12] 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,[13] world, has the everyday persona of an L.A.private eye in a 1940s 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.[14] The grave becomes a "fine and private place" for lovers still capable of embracing.[15] 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.[16] 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",[17] the mechanical instincts of the cosmos rumble into action and sling this irreducible substance again into space -prompting, perhaps, a future regeneration.


External links[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.mid.muohio.edu/segue/7/7lyacos.pdf
  2. ^ Bethany W. Pope, With the people from the bridge: Poena Damni, The Ofi Press Magazine, Issue 44, October 2015, Mexico City, Mexico. http://www.ofipress.com/lyacosdimitris.htm
  3. ^ Michael O'Sullivan. The Precarious Destitute: A Possible Commentary on the Lives of Unwanted Immigrants http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/2105/505/
  4. ^ http://www.shoestring-press.com/2014/10/with-the-people-from-the-bridge/
  5. ^ "Dimitris Lyacos | International Writing Program". Iwp.uiowa.edu. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  6. ^ "Verlagshaus J. Frank: Quartheft 08 | Der erste Tod | Dimitris Lyacos". Belletristik-berlin.de. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  7. ^ "Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos". Theadirondackreview.com. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  8. ^ Joseph Labernik. From the Ruins of Europe: Lyacos's Debt-Riddled Greece. http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/from-the-ruins-of-europe-lyacoss-debt-riddled-greece
  9. ^ "A Review of "Poena Damni, Z213: EXIT" by Dimitris Lyacos, Translated by Shorsha Sullivan «". Decompmagazine.com. 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  10. ^ "Lyacos, Nyctivoe Libretto 5". Ctl-presse.de. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  11. ^ "Project MUSE - Robert Zaller. Recent Translations from Shoestring Press". Muse.jhu.edu. doi:10.1353/mgs.2001.0026. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  12. ^ "mediterranean poetry » Dimitris Lyacos". Mediterranean.nu. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  13. ^ "Cha: An Asian Literary Journal - A Philosophy of Exits and Entrances: Dimitris Lyacos's Poena Damni, Z213: Exit". Asiancha.com. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  14. ^ http://www.shoestring-press.com/2014/10/with-the-people-from-the-bridge/
  15. ^ Chris Duncan, http://raysroadreview.com/book-review-with-the-people-from-the-bridge/
  16. ^ "NonFiction". The Writing Disorder. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  17. ^ The First Death, Poena Damni, Translated by Shorsha Sullivan, Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2000, page 32.
  18. ^ Lyacos, Nyctivoe Libretto 5