Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vassilis Alexakis

Vassilis Alexakis is a Greek and French author and self-translator.
He was born in 1934 in Greece. Today he lives in France and Greece and writes his books in French as well as in Greek. He was awarded many literary prizes like the Prix Médicis for his novel La langue maternelle or the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie française for his novel Ap. J-C. in 2007. He made his literary debut in French in 1974 with his novel Sandwich.
Every time he starts writing a book, he decides whether to write in French or Greek and then translates the book in the other language afterwards. Self-translation gives him the opportunity to ameliorate the original which he also does. Because of this revision Alexakis prefers the self-translated version of his texts as he explains in his book Les mots étrangers: "En me relisant à travers une autre langue, je vois mieux mes faiblesses, je les corrige, ce qui explique que je préfère être lu en traduction plutôt que dans la version originale."
Alexakis often discusses the issue of being a bilingual writer in his books. I learned about the work of Alexakis during my research for my diploma thesis and I really love his work. I highly recommend his novel Paris-Athènes. You can find an extract of the book translated in English by Andriana Mastor on Words without Borders, an online magazine for international literature.
Yesterday I got in touch with a student from Canada, also interested in self-translation, Eleftheria Tassiopoulos, who will present a paper on his self-translations at the conference in Taragona, I posted some days ago. I am really looking forward to read this paper.

Interesting research on Vassilis Alexakis as a self-translator for further reading:

Marianne Halloran (2008): Vassilis Alexakis: exorciser l’exil. Déplacements autofictionnels, linguistiques et spatiaux. Available online.

Efstratia Oktapoda-Lu (2001): Vassilis Alexakis ou la quête d'identité," in: Jean-Pierre Castellani. La Langue de l'Autre ou La Double identité de l'écriture, Tours, Publication de l'Université François Rabelais, pp. 281-295.

Interesting interviews with Vassilis Alexakis for further reading:

Christophe Kantcheff (1995): Vassilis Alexakis. Croquis d'un Grec. In: Le Matricule des Anges, issue 14. Available online.

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