The death of distinguished Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos on 30 November 2023 filled the country with grief. Vassilis Vassilikos was a prolific Greek writer and diplomat and diplomat. He was born in Kavala to parents native to the island of Thasos. His father was an MP with the Liberal Party. He grew up in Thessaloniki, graduated from law school there, and moved to Athens to work as a journalist. Because of his political activities, he was forced into exile for seven years, following the coup of 1967.

Throughout his career, Vassilikos held various roles, including assistant director in foreign productions, documentary director, screenwriter, script editor, draftsman at Arte (1990-1993), journalist, and writer. He collaborated with Greek director Nikos Koundouros on the script of the film ‘Mikres Afrodites’. Vassilikos served as the ambassador of Greece to UNESCO from 1996 to 2004. In the 2019 Greek legislative election, he was elected MP with Syriza.

As an author, Vassilikos has been highly prolific and widely-translated. He has published more than 100 books, including novels, plays and poetry. His best-known work is the political novel Z (1967), which was published in Greece in 1966 and was banned there one year later.

Z is a fictionanlized account of the events surrounding the political assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963 in Thessaloniki. It is the story of a crime, a time, a place, and people transformed by events. A progressive parliamentary deputy is scheduled to appear at a political rally. Meanwhile, local political bosses plot his assassination. Thugs are recruited to disrupt the rally. Rumors begin to spread. But the forces already set in motion are irresistible. But Lambrakis’s killers could not have anticipated the public response. His funeral became a political event; by the time the cortege reached Athens, 400,000 people were following the coffin in silence. In the nation’s capital, the letter Z suddenly appeared on walls, sidewalks, posters–everywhere. Z stands for the Greek verb zei, “he lives.”

Z was based on the more than 5,000 pages of testimonies from the trial against the murderers, and written by Vassilis Vassilikos while the trial was still ongoing. With a mixture of journalistic accuracy and literary storytelling, Vassilikos records the crucial events from the arrival of Lambrakis in Thessaloniki through to the judicial inquiry into his killing and its first findings. Adopting a variety of narrative techniques, the writer highlights both the human and the political dimension of the events, focusing on individuals and situations that have played a defining role in the creation of present-day Greece.  Although associated with a specific and extremely important period in modern Greek history, Vassilikos’s novel captures the timeless political and social contradictions of his country. 

In the words of Marguerite Duras, Z is “an admirable book and a rich one that achieves its aim: to throw light on a historical moment of great significance”. The novel has been translated into thirty-two languages and was the basis of the award-winning film ‘Z’directed by Costa-Gavras (1969) (with music by Mikis Theodorakis). With its dark view of Greek politics and its downbeat ending, the film captures the director’s outrage about the junta that then ruled Greece. The film won the Academy Award for best foreign film and Costa-Gavras earned an Oscar nomination for best director.