Who is Stratis Myrivilis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

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.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Stratis Myrivilis' name is actually Efstratios Stamatopoulos. Stratis Myrivilis is a pseudonym. Stratis Myrivilis is actually the name of the character in his book "Life in the Tomb." But since this is one of his major works and the character in this story is very similar to Efstratios Stamatopoulos, he is referred to with this name.

Although Life in the Tomb is really about his life, for some reason the author decided to write it as a fiction. He based the story around the imaginary character Stratis.


I think that at the time it was published, Life in the Tomb was not much appreciated because of Stratis Myrivilis' background. He had served in the military for about a decade but obviously did not like war and military life.

I read Life in the Tomb. It's a great read and it's definitely anti-war literature. Stratis Myrivilis makes it obvious that he thinks the Greek participation in World War I was a mistake. He doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about army and soldiers either.

So at the time, I'm sure that Stratis Myrivilis was seen by many as anti-nationalist and disliked. Of course, things are different now and he is one of the most revered writers of the era.


Unfortunately, I discovered the works of Stratis Myrivilis very late. I think that he is a very inspirational writer and everyone who is a proponent of peace ought to go through his works. I completely agree with the author of this article. It's a shame that many people are oblivious to Myrivilis' thoughts about peace and war, which I think are just as applicable today as they were when he wrote them.

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