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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 20.1 (2002) 157-160

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Book Review

Cultural Representation in Historical Resistance:
Complexity and Construction in Greek Guerrilla Theater

Three Classic Plays

Linda Myrsiades and Kostas Myrsiades, Cultural Representation in Historical Resistance: Complexity and Construction in Greek Guerrilla Theater. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. 1999. Pp. 344. Illustrated.
Karagiozis: Three Classic Plays. Translated and Introduced by Kostas Myrsiades and Linda Myrsiades. New York: Pella. 1999. Pp. 218. Illustrated.

According to Linda and Kostas Myrsiades, the primacy assigned to the participation of the Communist party in the Greek resistance movement against the Nazi occupation (1941-44) and the tendency to treat the movement as a continuum with the subsequent civil war (1946-49) have dominated Modern Greek studies scholarship until the last two or three decades. Besides questioning the validity of this view, the authors argue that accounts of the period have mainly focused on the historical, political, military, and economic aspects of Greek resistance, while the centrality of "conceptual and linguistic questions" (10), questions of self-representation, and the relations of textuality and lived experience have, until recently, been largely ignored.

Cultural Representation in Historical Resistance is the first study of Greek resistance theater, one of the most prominent art forms organized by and in the [End Page 157] service of the EAM/ELAS resistance movement. The Myrsiades's approach, in the context of the new perspective—represented by such scholars as Mazower and Close—goes beyond ideological views of resistance, in an attempt to "contribute a narrative-constructivist, literary-cultural understanding of the period and the movement" (10). The focal point of this study is culture, which is seen by the authors as a "semi-autonomous construction that itself constructs the ways [its participants] understand and give meaning to historical, empirical, or symbolic phenomena" (8). They claim that this point of departure ensures a deeper understanding of the complexities and the ambiguities of the resistance movement itself, something that the traditional approaches failed to achieve.

It is in terms of this view of culture that the authors' attempt to analyze and evaluate the Resistance Theater. The book covers the period from 1943, the date when touring groups started gathering on the mountains of what was called "Free Greece" until 1945, the date of the Varkiza Agreement that put an end to the armed resistance. The discussion is divided into two parts, including a comprehensive introduction. The latter offers a brief account of the events of the resistance, informing the reader of recent Greek history while drawing attention to the conditions to which resistance texts responded and, most importantly, to the complex and heterogeneous reality of the movement itself. The first two chapters of Part 1 are devoted to the initial anti-Nazi theater activity in the cities and the countryside. The bulk of the book concentrates on the Laïkí Skiní (Folk Stage), one of the three main performing troupes in the mountain villages and the guerilla camps of Northern Greece. Laïkí Skiní mainly performed in Epirus and was sponsored by ELAS, the military wing of the National Liberation Front (EAM).

Part 2 offers extended translations and detailed critical analyses of resistance texts written for the Laïkí Skiní by Yiorgos Kotzioulas (1909-56), a poet and member of the Communist Party involved in the resistance movement, and the most prolific writer of resistance theater texts. The book also includes, in addition to photographs, the full text of a typical guerilla performance, informative footnotes, a glossary of abbreviations and Greek terms, a transliteration table, extensive bibliography, and index. The bibliography is an especially useful tool for those wishing to study the Greek resistance movement.

The authors have tried to make clear how resistance theater was generated and how it functioned within the resistance movement, mirroring it and providing the means for a better understanding of the movement itself. The new understanding that emerges from their analysis puts the emphasis on the primacy of the local origins of the movement, its self-organization...


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