N.G. Pentzikis in 1982, holding a forget-me-not. (photo by Yannis Vanidis)

Nikos Gabriel Pentzikis (1908-1993) was born, lived, and died in Thessalonica. He studied pharmacology in Paris and for many years had his own Pharmacy in Thessalonica, which also became something of a literary centre. "When I was a student in Paris, I was influenced by Norwegian and, more generally, Scandinavian Symbolist literature, and I began to move on a new level. It was then that I read the play of Luigi Pirandello Six Characters in Search of an Author. In Strasbourg, where I continued my studies, I was struck by the French writer Paul Claudel. From 1936 onwards I moved into a quite different sphere with the Byzantine chroniclers and historians. I never took particular inspiration from the classical Greek writers, apart from Pindar and Homer. I suppose I was always concerned to explore the mythical and the fairytale aspect of worldly things. The books which I published tend to set out a series of emotional frustrations. That's what made me become increasingly immersed in the style and tone of the Byzantine writers."
Pentzikis was something of a black sheep in twentieth-century Greek letters. With the passing of time his reputation began to grow and his critical reception gradually developed into unqualified acclaim. His unique work as a writer is reflected also in his work as a painter, which, again, is remarkable for its distinct and highly personal style.
His works include The Dead Man and the Resurrection, Icons (a collection of poems), Pragmatognosia, Architecture of a Dissolute Life, The Novel of Mrs Ersi, Mother Thessalonica, Pros Ekklesiasmon, and Archive.


Few modern Greek writers have met with the critical embarrassment that was reserved for N.G. Pentzikis (1908-1993). His eccentric style developed round a highly personal poetics based on description: listing, cataloguing, classifying,
recording minute details. Architecture of a Dissipated Life (1963) and Archive (1974) center round the logic of discontinuity, a carefully charted wandering among closets, files and cabinets, an ordo neglectus, a systematic anarchy. A continuous yet fragmented text analyses and compounds apparently endless self-commentary and variations. It delves deep into the specific, the apparently trivial and insignificant, exploring the last particle of time and space in its effort to represent all: it is a work in search of its own guiding principles. The Novel of Mrs Ersi (1966) is marked above all by a disjointed, paratactical mode of writing, where the principal theme is constantly marginalised. This novel presents us with a kaleidoscopic text that has done away altogether with a conventional time frame, weaving the threads of the future, the present and past in a single fabric. The overriding style of Mrs Ersi is that of a palimpsest, of the imbrication of narrative, where an old story (by G. Drosinis, 1922) is retold and recast. The tale by Drosinis provides the main characters and general plot, but Pentzikis' reworking, remolding and transformation creates a startlingly phantasmagoric parody of the original the likes of which have not been seen elsewhere in Greek letters.
Pentzikis plays games constantly with his own programme and with the traps that he sets in his own tales. If the protagonists of the OuLiPo were able to read his works they would surely have made him a leading member of their movement.

(Elisabeth Tsirimokou, from the volume Greece-Books and Writers, National Book Centre of Greece, 2001).

Consolation of the City
and Prefecture of Drama

(112 pages, 17.5X12 cm.)
1st State Prize
for the Novel, 1984

The Novel of Mrs Ersi

(392 pages, 21X14 cm.)

The Dead Man
and the Resurrection

(160 pages, 17.5X12 cm.)