When first published in Greek in 2002, The Lame Angel by Alexis Panselinos received critical acclaim,characterized as “the most ambitious, probably the greatest novel of the year”. An English translation of the book by Caroline Harbouri was recently published by Recital Publishing, offering English-speaking readers the chance to get acquainted with one to the great works of modern Greek literature.

The plot

Angel Sotiriou, a young private detective, is forced to flee New York to escape the Mafia. He returns to Greece, the land of his forebears, hoping to establish himself professionally in Athens. During the first years of the Second World War he finds himself trapped in a city under occupation, with little knowledge of the country beyond its language. In order to survive he must navigate his way between an authoritarian state, opportunists willing to exploit him at every turn, and a citizenry made desperate by the Great Famine. When a mysterious and seemingly omnipotent old gentleman appears in his office to engage his services, and endows him with a startling gift, his life is forever changed. This is the story of a man with blighted hopes, who discovers love and friendship and ultimately his own worth and humanity, amidst the miseries, starvation and dogged courage of wartime Athens.

Although set in wartime Athens, the book has a contemporary significance. As Angel, savagely maimed at the hands of the New York mafia, says, “It was as if some cruel nursery governess had taken over the running of our lives and was making new rules and new plans”. “Truly heartrending pictures of occupied Athens and yet imbued with a discreet, crisp sense of humor”, writes Vangelis Hadjivasiliou. The novel tinges the bleak with the whimsical, a unique mix of gritty history and magical realism.


The author

Alexis Panselinos (b. 1943, Athens) is an award-winning novelist and translator. He read Law at the University of Athens and worked as a practicing lawyer. His first book, a collection of stories, appeared in 1982 to great acclaim. In 1985 his novel The Great Procession won the State Prize. His novel Zaida or A Camel in the Snow was nominated for the 1997 European Literary Award. The Dark Inscriptions received the Novel Prize from Diavazo literary magazine in 2012. His latest novel Light Greek Songs won the 2018 Prize of the Athens Academy. His novels have been widely translated in French, German, Italian, Polish and Romanian. He has received the Great Award for Life Achievement from the eminent literary magazine O Anagnostis.

Also read: Reading Greece | Alexis Panselinos: “A writer must stand courageously in front of the mirror that is his art”