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Who is Stratis Myrivilis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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Stratis Myrivilis (1892-1969) is one of the most influential Greek prose writers of the twentieth century. He wrote several compelling novels and worked for a variety of newspapers and other publications, capturing life in Greece during the first two thirds of the twentieth century in his stunning work. He was a well known member of the Greek Generation of 1930, a group of writers generally considered to have brought modernism to Greek literature.

Myrivilis was born on Lesbos in 1892 and spent his childhood in the village of Sykamnia. He went to Mytilene, the largest town on the island, for high school, and then moved to Athens to pursue a university education. He abandoned his studies when war broke out in the Balkans and served in the military for the next ten years. When he returned to Lesbos after the war, it was as a staunch pacifist, and as a result, he contributed a large body of work to Greek anti-war literature.

On Lesbos, Stratis Myrivilis worked as a journalist and a writer, moving back to Athens in 1930 to work in broadcast journalism. He was a member of the Academy of Athens, which nominated him for a Nobel Prize in 1960. After the Second World War, he was elected President of the National Society of Greek Writers. Within Greece, he is hailed as the most important writer of the twentieth century.

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Literary scholars often state that Stratis Myrivilis captured the tumultuous early part of the twentieth century in Greek with brilliance, sensitivity, and grace. His novels are considered to be among the finest prose of the twentieth century and speak with a clear voice against war, particularly civil war. Much of his work, including his most important novel, Life in the Tomb, is highly autobiographical, discussing his personal experiences in the battlefield. Life in the Tomb has been translated into 15 languages, including English, and is regarded by most critics as one of the most powerful anti-war novels of the twentieth century.

Despite his influence on literature, Stratis Myrivilis is not very well known outside of Greece and parts of Europe, eclipsed by authors such as Nikos Kazantzakis and Konstantinos Kavafis. Given the huge impact that he had on Greek culture, this is very frustrating for scholars, who have a hard time finding his work.

Only two of Myrivilis' other books are available in translation: The Mermaid Madonna (1959) and The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes (1964). His other works include The Green Book (1934), the Blue Book (1939), and The Red Book (1952), collections of essays and speeches.

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