John Vasilikakos was
Greece in 1951 and came to Australia in 1965. A graduate of Melbourne
University, he has received a doctorate and published widely in
Australia, Greece and America.
of the World
The Shipwreck of the SOS
According to St John
and A Psychological
Portrait of a Greek Migrant
while his plays in Greek include The
Fragile! His criticism includes Studies in Modern
Greek Literature and
Modern Greek Literature
Diaspora: Australia in Greek, and The Poet S.S. Charkionakis: A
Approach to his Work (co-authored with G. Kehagioglou and
Kapsetakis). His work is also included in various anthologies and has
been translated into other languages. He has taught Modern Greek and
Interpreting and Translating at Deakin University. He is married with
two children and divides his time between Melbourne and Athens.
His Greek fiction includes
of the World, The
of the SOS, According
John and A
Portrait of a Greek Migrant,
while his plays in
Greek include The
and Attention: Fragile!
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Greek writer bears our
13 January 1996
Zelda Cawthorne on Australia’s Greek promoter
There was Maria Callas, the megastar. And there was Maria Callas, the
homely misfit desperate for love and security. ‘Deep down,
she was a
split personality; a sad, tortured woman who died in misery despite all
the glory, riches and fame,’ says John Vasilakakos.
(Callas’s lover) was extremely cruel to her. She badly wanted
but he forced her to have an abortion. That’s what really
Just like Medea.’
The great soprano whose life unfolded like a Greek tragedy would make a
compelling subject for the stage. John Vasilakakos, writer and
academic, needs no convincing.
Though Vasilakakos - Dr Vasilakakos to his Modern Greek students at
Deakin University - migrated to Australia at the age 14, he has won an
international following. His novels, essays and plays have enjoyed
commercial success and wide distribution through their translations,
including Chinese. And the Australia Council’s Literature
funded him to do English versions of his acclaimed plays The Identity
and Attention Fragile!
Now Vasilakakos has been given his sixth grant - this one worth $8000 -
to translate Australian writer Beverley Farmer’s 1983 book Milk
‘There have been many works by migrant writers about life in
but this time it’s the other side of the coin: a book by an
about life in Greece. Beverley Farmer is an extremely gifted writer;
one of those rare stylists who can condense a thousand images into a
The true story of the Melbourne-born author who married a Greek
migrant, then went with him to northern Greece where she lived in his
family home and reared their son. should prove an eye-opener.
The Greek edition of Milk
will also be part of an important strategy: the promotion of Australian
literature abroad which, it is hoped, will increase not only sales, but
also an understanding of Australia.
Sitting in the book-filled study of the comfortable Prahran home he
shares with his wife Mary - also a literary translator -and their two
small daughters, is a man deeply wary of labels.
‘I believe ‘ethnic’ is basically
racist,’ says Vasilakakos, who also
disapproves of ‘multicultural’ in its Australian
when uttered by vote-conscious politicians.
‘Some may call Australia multicultural, but in spite of the
it remains an English-speaking country dominated by Anglo-Saxons.
‘It is not like a Cairo or an Alexandria, where Egyptians,
Italians truly intermingled. Here, there are many cultures, but no real
mixing. The stronger, dominant culture will always resist
Yet it is also a culture Vasilakakos sees as basically tolerant.
America, where Greeks have become so much more assimilated, I would be
forced to write in a language I’m not comfortable with. Here,
grants to write in my own.’
Last year, recognition also came from Melbourne University when it
awarded Vasilakakos a doctorate for his research on Greek-Canadian
writer Nikos Kachtitsis. Soon to be published will be the English
translation of his novel The Set-Up
. And then
‘I think I may take it to America,’ says the
multiculturalist. No slight intended to Australia or Greece. After all,
the diva was born in New York.
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