“Return from Greece”: Journey and Homecoming in Two Contemporary Greek Novels
Greeks, ancient and contemporary alike, have done their share of traveling-to fight wars, to get acquainted with exotic cultures and customs, to do commerce, to study. They have spoken about their traveling experiences so extensively, and in such multiple ways, that some, like Cavafy and Seferis, consider traveling and relocating integral parts of Greek identity. My subject is journey and homecoming. For the current discussion, I will limit myself to twentieth-century Greece, and more specifically to two contemporary Greek novels that are representative of the nostos genre in the 1990s. In both, we read about the adventures of people who, willingly or unwillingly, go abroad to study. I have chosen these two lengthy narratives because of their similar approach to an aspect of the topic of nostos, and because of their very innovative forms with respect to the novelistic genre. Unlike the narratives of exile that revolve around the impact of the Asia Minor Disaster, which, as Peter Mackridge has rightly observed “do not display the modernistic experimentation with form and content”3 that could be found in other novels written by their contemporaries, these two novels reveal a preoccupation with formal issues of the novel in the choices of both authors. The richness of these novels can inspire all kinds of interpretations, from psychoanalytic to deconstructionist, and from sociological to narratological, depending on the theoretical perspective and the specific interest of the reader. My intention is to suggest an interpretation of each novel, within the parameters set by the authors, and to discuss some of their convergences and divergences with respect to the novel form of the narratives, and to the conditions encountered by the characters. After revealing how Greece is perceived in the novels, I will investigate the possibility or impossibility of return both for the characters and for the authors.