Manolis Glezos on “Exodus”

On the translation of “Exodus”
15 January 2017

George Chatzistergiou surprises us once again with an English translation of his original book Exodus. This is a story about living at the limit, in a world that crumbles with the speed and momentum of an avalanche. It begins as a account of fall and collapse, with the main character finding himself going overnight from enjoying a normal, comfortable life to the brink of a dump for human refuse.

The author presents the attributes of horror, personal as well as social, so that we know where we are, but does not condone it. On the contrary, he puts forth the profound need for an authentic and rich life. As the hero stands at a threshold, he realises that what he has been deprived of and it hurts so much is the ‘third leg’; something like the training wheels used to help a child learn how to ride a bicycle without the danger of falling. It is one of those special moments when one finally dares (or is forced, having no other choice) to start trying to stand up on one’s own two feet.

From then on Exodus becomes a story of resistance which evolves from the strictly personal to the collective: as the individual strives for preservation (what Plato calls sozesthai — to live), to avert a fall of the self, it becomes evident that this cannot be achieved by one person against a powerful destructive machine. So at that borderline where forms of life defy the conventional measures to live and stubbornly survive, he finds his allies, the people who are also determined to pursue their right to a life of dignity.

The way the characters in Exodus choose to fight authority is “to swim upstream”, to use its own tools against it. This is also the way the author handles his story, subverting the rules of conventional fiction and not just in terms of structure: attempting a violent detachment from existing meanings, he seeks to ascribe new ones. And if some readers should find this “weird” they’d be right, because this is the essence of the book. Everything that resists is weird. And Exodus is precisely a story about resisting.