By Vassilis Vassilikos
Seven Stories Press. 261 pp. $18.95

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Read the First Chapter of "... and dreams are dreams"

... and dreams are dreams

By Hart Williams
Sunday, July 14, 1996

It would seem a pity, in this case, not to know Greek, for Vassilis Vassilikos (best-known as the author of Z), seems to be a congenial punster. But even in English, there is much to delight in.

This is not a novel per se but seven short stories, which, even were they not delicately interwoven and interlaced (they are), would be called magic realism. Two characters, Dona Rosa and Don Pacifico, glide through the tales, transmogrifying and recombining like the two witches of an old folk song. Dreams conquer politics. Tigers turn into women and back into tigers again. Taxi drivers express their indignation at Greek life and politics. White bears roam the streets of Athens.

At first the writing is cold, almost clinical. But there is a strong passion for Greece -- the nation, the history -- running through the tales, covering everything from Byzantium to recent coups d'etat. And then the tales take a deeply human turn, as the author plumbs the soul's depths: "She is a tree with deep roots in the soil of the centuries. With him, it's as if his roots are in the sky. He comes downward. This is how they were paired, by intertwining their branches, they both believe."

This is a textbook example of what is called a "mature work" of art. Vassilis Vassilikos is a master, and some of the writing here will take your breath away.

Hart Williams is a writer in Eugene, Oregon

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