Patricia Felisa Barbeito

Patricia Felisa Barbeito

Patricia Felisa Barbeito’s translation of The Interrogation, a novel by Greek novelist Elias Maglinis, has been published by Birmingham Modern Greek Translations: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/iaa/departments/bomgs/research/modern-greek-translations.aspx

Hailed as groundbreaking in Greece when first published in 2008, Elias Maglinis’s The Interrogation boldly focuses on the fractious intersection of the personal and political, the combined legacies of historical and familial traumas in present-day Athens.  Kostis, a retired journalist-translator, refuses to talk about his past: a former dissident during the junta era in Greece, he was arrested and severely tortured by the military police (the notorious ESA). These experiences continue to shape his most intimate relationships, from the horrifying nightmares that jolt him awake almost every night to his inability to talk to his wife and daughter. His artist daughter, Marina — an acolyte of the “grandmother” of performance art, Marina Abramović –believes in the transformative power of confrontation:  “Let it all out, dad,” she admonishes him. She uses self-mutilation as a form of expression and a means of getting her father to acknowledge and perhaps lay to rest this past.  In these characters’ struggle to find a common ground and a resolution to their family’s pain, the novel charts the decades of violence unleashed by the polarized struggle between the right and left in Greece, as well as related culture wars.

The novel thereby directly engages with a number of important debates in current culture: the legacy of the protest movements and leftist politics of the mid-twentieth century; trauma as both an individual and collective phenomenon; generational and gender perspectives on aesthetics and politics; and the political potentialities of art. Most particularly, the novel focuses on the body as the grounding trope for these debates: a medium of performance and communication that is used to explore the limits of language.  This idea is reinforced by the unique style of the novel:  spare, controlled and fragmentary, it speaks in its silences and omissions, while at the same time unabashedly plumbing the messiest and most taboo depths of characters’ thoughts and relationships through particularly rich and complex imagery, narrative forms, and the very rhythms of its prose.  Like a number of recent novels (including, notably, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) the novel uses the tortured body as a figure for the scarring of the body politic and a disruption of the conventions of narrative and narrative forms.