Best bookshelf speaks: 10+1 Greek books I love and why, by Pavlina Marvin

I met Pavlina on Facebook. We have some quite interesting mutual friends and interests and she thought we might have more things in common. And she was right. We both love reading and writing, but Pavlina has taken it a step further, dedicating a substantial amount of time and energy to dwell into the secrets of poetry, a literary species that I both love and am intimidated by. Pavlina was kind enough to make a list of her favorite (mainly poetry) books, written by Greeks but translated into English, French, German and even Dutch.

But let me first introduce you to Pavlina.

Pavlina Marvin

Pavlina Marvin


Pavlina Marvin was born in Athens in 1987, but grew up in Syros island. She studied history, and continues. She studied poetry at the biennial workshop of the Takis Sinopoulos Foundation, and since then has never stopped. She co-published Teflon magazine. Her writings are published in print and online magazines.

And here is what Pavlina had to say about her list:

It was really hard to create a list. Many of my favorite Greek books are not translated in English or are not translated at all. Especially concerning contemporary Greek writers, there are only some tales or poems published in literary magazines. And, of course, it is hard to find a really good translation from Greek to English ―Robert Frost said that «poetry is what gets lost in translation». But, finally, translation is also «a love affair»…

So let’s have a look at what she chose to share with us:


Aslanoglou, Nikos-Alexis. Odes au prince.

Tranlated by Michel Volkovitch.

Pubished by Desmos / Cahiers grecs, Paris 2002.

(and, some Aslanoglou’s poems translated in english: )

Deeply existential, punctilious, as subjective as it gets and a literary trend on his own, Aslanoglou was not appreciated and honored neither in his country (Greece) nor his city (Thessaloniki) the way he deserves: as one of the best Greek poets of the 20th century.


Cavafy, C.P. Complete Poems.

Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn.

Published by Knopf; Tra edition, 2012.

Ultramodern and universal. Beloved and widely read. Cosmopolitan like no other Greek poet. Between East and West, he creates and narrates with imagination and word («εν φαντασία και λόγω»). He finds a place in the world for things and creatures ignored by the official discourse.


Eggonopoulos, Nikos.

Ωραίος σαν Έλληνας: ποιήματα / Hōraios san Hellēnas: anthologia poiēmaton / The Beauty of a Greek: Poems.

Translated by David Connolly.

Published by Ypsilon, Athens 2007.

Master of word and image, a pioneer of surrealism in Greece, deeply ironic, rare and unique storyteller and style master.


Karapanou, Margarita. Kassandra and the wolf.

Translated by N.C. Germanacos.

Published by Clockroot Books, In- terlink Publishing. Northampton MA 2009.

A different story of childhood, strong, very harsh and yet very tender.


Kavadias, Nikos. The Collected poems of Nikos Kavadias.

Translated by Gail Holst-Wathaft.

Published by Attica Editions, Bilingual edition, The Modern Greek Literature Library, 2006.

His lyrics, pure music. Sailor himself, he achieved a personal dialect that we will never fully analyze, no matter how hard we study it. Stories of the Sea, written with feeling that is hard to forget.


Karyotakis, Kostas. Battered Guitars. Poems and Prose.

Translated by William W. Reader.

Published by University of Birmingham, 2006.

In Greece, one of the most popular poets among all ages. For he knows how to show us (our) melancholy, talk to us about (our) disease, mock us rhythmically, be trained in (poetic) order-and brake it like no other.


Matessis, Pavlos. L’enfant de chienne*.

Translated by Jacques Bouchard.

Published by Gallimard, Paris 1993.

(*and, in Dutch: De moeder van de hond, translated by Hero Hokwerda. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bakker / Prometheus, 1997.)

Matessis, award-winning novelist and primarily playwriter, brought to life one of the most sympathetic and emotional personalities of modern Greek prose: Raraou, the daughter of “the dog’s mother”, is not asking vindication through a family that rebelled, but through a family that deserts. A sublime story about the meaning of collaborationism, writen in a particular language, including one of the most shocking scenes of public shaming in the history of literature.


Papadiamantis, Alexandros. The murderess*.

Translated by Peter Levi.

Published by New York Review, 2010.

(*and, also: The murderess: a social tale. []: Liadain Sherrard · Editor Lampros Kamperidis · Editor Denise Harvey. Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2011.)

Rightly one of the most famous works of modern Greek literature. Thriller without amenities, psychogram of a great breadth, tragedy in the Aristotelian sense of the term, from a writer with huge, figuratively and literally, work.


Varveris, Yannis. Mr Fogg.

Translated by Philip Ramp.

Published by Nottingham: Shoestring Press, 2001.

Some of us met Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s novel, when he was trying to complete the round the world in 80 days to win a bet. John Varveris, modern Greek poet who is like no other, brings Fogg much closer to us: his version of Fogg does not move at all, he travels only by spinning his chair, and is full humor and despair as few others.


Vizyenos, Georgios. My Mother’s Sin and Other Stories.

Translated by William F. Wyatt.

Published by University Press of New England, 1988.

By far my favorite Greek novelist . He writes as a child and as an adult at the same time and most importantly he writes short stories as a poet . He knows how to play serious with words, in an almost existential way. The title of his doctoral thesis (1881)” The children’s play compared with the psychology and pedagogy” is no coincidence. His unrivaled imagination, as is usually the case with good literature , managed to “talk ” about what historiography had not yet managed to articulate, starting from the Ottoman rule until the Greek state in the 19th century.

Plus One

Zateli, Zyranna. La fiancée de l’an passé*.

Translated by Michel Volkovitch.

Published by le Passeur-Cecofop , Nantes 2003.

(*and, in Deutsch: Die Traumtänzerin [] Gabi Wurster. Wannweil, Dialogos, 1988.)

The undeniably lovable debut of Zyranna Zateli must be appreciated -I think- by short story lovers everywhere. Magical and peculiar daily stories, from a writer that is not afraid to reveal neither darkness nor light.

2 responses to “Best bookshelf speaks: 10+1 Greek books I love and why, by Pavlina Marvin

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