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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Parthenon Bomber

Christos Chrissopoulos

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To purchase The Parthenon Bomber

Title: The Parthenon Bomber
Author: Christos Chrissopoulos
Genre: Novella
Written: 1996, rev. 2010 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 69 pages
Original in: Greek
Availability: The Parthenon Bomber - US
The Parthenon Bomber - UK
The Parthenon Bomber - Canada
La destruction du Parthénon - France
Parthenon - Deutschland
  • Greek title: Ο βομβιστής του Παρθενώνα
  • Translated by John Cullen

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Our Assessment:

B : small but quite effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 10/4/2017 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novellaís multiple voices are too often indistinguishable from one another, but the overall effect is nonetheless haunting. The compiled dossier aims to impose order on the spectacular display of symbolic violence and its chaotic aftermath, an order which the dossierís elliptical, dreamlike contents consistently explode." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Parthenon Bomber is a slim novella, presented essentially as a documentary work, collecting what amounts to evidentiary material (indeed, one one-page chapter is titled 'Evidentiary Material' and consists entirely of a list of several pieces of such material); even the last chapter, titled: 'Moral' is arguably essentially informational, a four-paragraph summing up of the essential events. One chapter -- 'The Photograph' -- consists solely of said photograph, several consist of written records of material in other media: a transcript of a sound-recording which includes descriptions of the ambient noise, hesitations, and pauses; the description of what is apparently a video recording of a monologue or interview (there's an: "interlocutor, who's on the left, off camera and invisible to the viewer").
       The central event in the story is, unsurprisingly: a man blows up the Parthenon in Athens. (The Acropolis is the entire citadel, or hilltop complex; the Parthenon is the familiar dominating temple.) Identified only as Ch.K. the opening chapter is a 'probable monologue' by Ch.K. explaining his actions -- 'probable' because this is only one of several versions of a transcript of his confession; a note at the end of the chapter explains:

Several versions of this text are in circulation. None of them has been confirmed as authentic.
       The explanation for his act of destruction Ch.K. gives here is that he wanted to: "free us from what was regarded as unsurpassable perfection". The dominating centerpiece of the city -- peak Athens, as it were -- and historically so freighted, Ch.K. wanted to wipe the slate and all the attached history and meaning it's been imbued with clean. In fact, the act is only the realization of call already actually made in 1944, in a proclamation by the 'Society of Aesthetic Saboteurs of Antiquities', a call to Blow up the Acropolis ! -- a copy of which was found in Ch.K.'s apartment. (This is a text that was actually published in 1944, reproduced in its (short) entirety here as well.) The author of the proclamation, Yorgos V. Makris, argued that the Parthenon: "is literally suffocating us" -- and Ch.K. seemed similarly convinced that that's why it has to go. The act of terrorism was limited to the structure, carefully planned to avoid harming bystanders -- even as the structure was completely destroyed.
       Chapters include one of brief witness statements from neighbors, and other records and testimony surrounding the event. Still, it is fairly bare-bones -- fragmentary, and anything but an exhaustive record -- which, in turn, leaves room for interpretation(s). Significantly, the focus is not entirely on Ch.K.'s act, but also on his fate: he is taken care of within days of blowing up the Parthenon. The cursory nature of the record presented in The Parthenon Bomber suggests there was only limited interest in getting to the bottom of the act (as does the fact that the known copy of Ch.K.'s justification, which he kept in a safety deposit box, was destroyed without being examined); instead, there is an effort to gloss over this history -- so also with the closing mention that a replacement 'New Parthenon' is in the works, and expected to be finished in just over a year. (In both the original and the English the title also reminds that this a book about 'the Parthenon bomber', rather than the bombing and destruction of the Parthenon -- yet he remains an indeterminate figure, and among the witness statements we even find a revealing one that says: "The man you're asking about doesn't exist".)
       The first version of this novel was published in 1996, before terrorist acts on iconic structures such as those on the World Trade Centers in New York, or the willful destruction of classic structures such as that of the Bamiyan Buddhas or Palmyra. Awareness of these now colors the reading of the text -- and is it presumably also did some of the revisions the author made for the 2010 version, translated here --, though Chrissopoulos avoids any direct reference to such acts elsewhere; his own story is also presented as happening at an indeterminate time -- a vaguely contemporary Athens, but nothing specific. The Parthenon is, of course, a symbolic structure par excellence -- one that was already badly damaged in a (more or less inadvertent) explosion centuries ago, and is also the source of, for example, the so-called Elgin Marbles (a piece of Greek heritage they've been demanding back for quite some time), and dominates its city like few other structures.
       The Parthenon Bomber could be seen as almost teasingly understated; your average thriller writer would have built a much fatter book around such a sensational(istic) premise. But in leaving so much for the reader to fill in or consider, it's quite effective too -- intellectually teasing, in a positive sense.
       An odd little work, but certainly intriguing, and quite nicely done.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 June 2017

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The Parthenon Bomber: Reviews: Christos Chrissopoulos: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Greek literature

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About the Author:

       Greek author Christos Chrissopoulos (Χρήστος Χρυσόπουλος; Christos Chryssopoulos) was born in 1968.

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© 2017-2018 the complete review

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