Z213: Exit

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Z213: EXIT
Z213 EXIT cover.jpg
Z213: EXIT, Front Cover of Second Edition
Author Dimitris Lyacos
Original title Ζ213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ
Translator Shorsha Sullivan
Cover artist Dominic Ziller
Country Greece
Language Greek
Series Poena Damni
Genre World literature, Postmodernism
Publisher Shoestring Press
Publication date
Published in English
Pages 101
ISBN 1907356053
Followed by With the People from the Bridge

Z213: Exit is the first installment of the Poena Damni trilogy by Greek writer Dimitris Lyacos.[1] Despite being first in narrative order, the book was the third to be published of the three.[2] The work develops as a sequence of diary entries recording the solitary experiences of an unnamed, Ulysses-like persona[3] in the course of a train voyage gradually transformed into an inner exploration of the boundaries between self and reality. The voyage is also akin to the experience of a religious quest with a variety of biblical references, mostly from the Old Testament,[4] being embedded into the text which is often fractured and foregoing punctuation.[3] Most critics place Z213: Exit in a postmodern context exploring relationships with such writers as Samuel Beckett[5] and Cormac McCarthy[5][6] while others underline its modernist affinities[7] and the work's firm foundation on classical and religious texts.[8]


The work recounts, in what reads like a personal journal, in verse form as well as in postmodern poetic prose,[9] the wanderings of a man who escapes from a guarded building, in a nightmarish version of a post-Armageddon ambient. In the opening sections of the book, the narrator/protagonist flees from what seems like an imprisonment in a building consisting of wards and personnel and from where people are being inexplicably taken away to be thrown into pits.[10] The fugitive leaves the "camp" to get to the nearby train station and starts a journey he records in a "found" bible-like booklet which he turns into his diary. As the journey continues a growing sense of paranoia ensues and the idea of being pursued becomes an increasingly central preoccupation. There are no pursuers to be identified, however, in the course of the journey and the supposed hunt remains a mystery until the end.[9] The environment seems to allude to a decadent futuristic state of a totalitarian kind. The journey is mapped in an indeterminate way, though oblique references creating a feeling of a time/space vacuum. The narrator seems to be moving ahead while at the same time being engulfed in his own nightmarish fantasies.[11] Z213: Exit ends with a description of a sacrifice where the protagonist and a "hungry band feasting" roast a lamb on a spit, cutting and skinning its still bleating body and removing its entrails as if observing a sacred rite.[12] The mood is enhanced by the overriding waste-land setting, which could be (it is never explicit) the result of a war that has left the landscape in ruins. The general impression is reminiscent of a spiritual quest or an eschatological experience.[9]


Z213: Exit alternates poetry and prose in order to represent the inner thoughts and experiences of its main character. Poetic tropes combine interchangeably with an almost telegraphic style omitting articles and conjunctions,[13] while using the rhetorics of diary form; mainly colloquial, with violations and distortions of grammar. Free-floating sentences and lacunae form occasionally a broken unstructured syntax, seemingly tight but leaving enough loopholes through which subconscious fears are expressed.


Z213: EXIT seems to present a case of overdetermination, and a variety of proposals by scholars and reviewers alike have been made, pointing at different directions within the text. There is a general impression that, given the book’s content as an escapee’s fictional diary, Z213 could indicate inmate unique number, ward or section in a supposed detention center. A number of other interpretations have been suggested as follows:

  • 1) The time of the initial departure of the protagonist from the train station is 21.13, the same passage referring to Ulysses and Moses, two archetypal wanderers.[14]
  • 2) In Matthew 2:13 an angel prompts Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt in order to avoid Herod’s massacre.[15]
  • 3) 1313 – namely 13 repeated twice is the year of the Red(reed) sea crossing as well as the year of the revelation on the Mount Sinai.[16]
  • 4) In 213 BCE major book burnings take place in China after decision by Emperor Qin Shi Huang.[17]
  • 5) 213 AD is the year of the implementation by Constitutio Antoniniana by which all freemen were given the right to Roman citizenship with the exception of the Dediticii. The book makes specific reference to them and to a state of statelessness.[18]
  • 6) The book makes oblique reference to an unnamed substance which seems to provoke states of hallucination: According to the book’s character, the letter Z is the second letter of name of the substance followed by “some numbers”.[19]
  • 7) The letter Z is related to the root of the word Azazel (לַעֲזָאזֵל la-aza'zeyl), designating the scapegoat cast in the wilderness in Leviticus 16. Explicit reference to the Leviticus excerpt is made in the book.[20]

Publication history and reception[edit]

The original Greek version (Greek title: Z213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ) was first published in 2009. The English translation by Shorsha Sullivan appeared in 2010 by Shoestring Press to a significant number of unanimously positive reviews.[21] Critic Michael O' Sullivan[22] hailed the book as "a wonderfully dark yet enticing description of what might be described as a philosophy of exits and entrances" and as "sitting comfortably among such works as as Kafka's "Before the Law" and Beckett's short poem "My way is in the sand flowing".[23] Literature critic and Robinson Jeffers scholar Robert Zaller considered the book as "one of the most important and challenging literary works to come from Greece in the past generation".[24]The work is regarded as a characteristic exponent of the fragmentation technique in contemporary litarature[25] while at the same time perceived as an inheritor of epic poetry, molding the ancient storytelling tradition to a post-modern idiom.[26] Commercially, the book has been one of the best-selling titles of contemporary Greek poetry in English translation.[27] A new, revised version (ISBN 9781910323625) appeared in October 2016.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica. Greece, The arts
  2. ^ "Poena Damni: Z213: Exit". Shoestring Press. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Poena Damni Trilogy. Review by Justin Goodman. Cleaver Magazine 2015. http://www.cleavermagazine.com/poena-damni-trilogy-by-dimitris-lyacos-reviewed-by-justin-goodman/
  4. ^ Shorsha Sullivan, The art of translating. The Writing Disorder Anthology, vol. 2, page 82.https://books.google.gr/books?id=dGOAAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=dimitris+lyacos+old+testament&source=bl&ots=zd9eq6Swc6&sig=xW-4jisLtrDtwA0-mMNWQxD5lo0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwitjf3fvJXKAhVMiSwKHQ0XDgAQ6AEIKjAD#v=onepage&q=dimitris%20lyacos%20old%20testament&f=false
  5. ^ a b Michael O' Sullivan. A philosophy of exits and entrances. Cha Magazine, October 2011, Hong Kong. http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/778/280/
  6. ^ Poena Damni Trilogy. Review by Justin Goodman. Cleaver Magazine 2015. http://www.cleavermagazine.com/poena-damni-trilogy-by-dimitris-lyacos-reviewed-by-justin-goodman
  7. ^ From the ruins of Europe. Lyacos's debt riddled Greece. Review by Joseph Labernik. Tikes Magazine, 2015.http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/from-the-ruins-of-europe-lyacoss-debt-riddled-greece
  8. ^ With the people from the bridge. Review by Toti O' Brien. Sein und Warden Magazine. http://www.kissthewitch.co.uk/seinundwerden/with_the_people_from_the_bridge.html
  9. ^ a b c Manos Georginis, Verse Wisconsin, Issue 106, 2011
  10. ^ he Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  11. ^ Decomp Magazine. Spencer Dew, Dimitris Lyacos' Z213: Exit. July 2011.
  12. ^ Cha An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 13, February 2011. Michael O' Sullivan. A philosophy of exits and entrances: Dimitris Lyacos' Poena Damni, Z213 Exit
  13. ^ The Writing Disorder. Shorsha Sullivan, The art of translating. A note on translating Dimitris Lyacos's trilogy. 2012
  14. ^ The Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  15. ^ The Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  16. ^ Timeline of Jewish History. http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/679,2107657/Timeline-of-Jewish-History.html
  17. ^ The Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  18. ^ The Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  19. ^ Dimitris Lyacos. Z213: Exit, Shoestring Press 2010, page 87.
  20. ^ Dimitris Lyacos. Z213: Exit, Shoestring Press 2010, page 39.
  21. ^ http://www.lyacos.net/reviews-articles/
  22. ^ http://www.eng.cuhk.edu.hk/?page_id=784
  23. ^ A Philosophy of Exits and Entrances: Dimitris Lyacos's Poena Damni, Z213: Exit by Michael O'Sullivan.http://www.asiancha.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=778&Itemid=280
  24. ^ Eucharist: Dimitris Lyacos’s “With the People from the Bridge”. Robert Zaller http://criticalflame.org/eucharist-dimitris-lyacoss-with-the-people-of-the-bridge/
  25. ^ Paul B. Roth, The Bitter Oleander, Volume 22, No 1, Spring 2016, New York. http://www.bitteroleander.com
  26. ^ Vince Carducci, Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate?http://www.publicseminar.org/2016/10/bob-dylan-nobel-laureate/#.WAXcY2UsxvY
  27. ^ http://www.asymptotejournal.com/poetry/dimitris-lyacos-z213-exit/
  28. ^ The Bitter Oleander, Volume 22, No 1, Spring 2016, New York. http://www.bitteroleander.com