Greece’s best-selling novelist Petros Márkaris is this year’s top drawing card at the Semana Negra crime-writing festival in Spain. As well as his literary achievements, his bold political views also draw huge crowds and readers everywhere he goes.
The Semana Negra is an annual fiesta, located in Spain’s northern coast of Gijon and it celebrates crime-fiction writing. Every year over a million people attend this popular event, which takes place over ten days.
“When I think about each country’s reality, politics is always there. When they say I am a politically committed writer, it is not that I have committed myself politically, but that politics has committed me,” Márkaris recently told a full-house public library in Oviedo, in northern Spain.
His most recent novels have revolved around Greece’s crisis, which began in 2010 and the harsh austerity measures, which have been an ongoing issue since then.
Márkaris was born in Istanbul in 1937, son of an Armenian entrepreneur and Greek mother. After living through the Second World War, his family eventually left Turkey in 1954 and he settled in Athens in 1964.
“You know, I come from a generation in which politics weighed very heavily, we were very much involved. It didn’t matter whether we were academics, artists or writers, politics was always there,” says Márkaris.
Left-wingers, particularly in Spain, have drawn encouragement from his biting criticism of the impact of austerity policies on ordinary Greeks in his novels, yet conservatives are quick to criticise his views of Greece’s current Syriza government.
“I have been very critical of the party which is now in government, but it is not that I have been critical ever since it obtained a majority, but since it was in opposition. The left faces a crisis throughout Europe,” he added.
“This doesn’t mean there aren’t left-wingers in Europe, but that left-wingers don’t have a convincing party.”
Márkaris said he was utterly “exhausted” after a planned trilogy of austerity-based novels turned into a quartet- due to the duration of Greece’s crisis. His current books will be a breath of fresh air for his creative mind and he is looking forward to putting his “crime writer” hat on.
“There’s a lot of money in Greece. So far in my novels there has been almost no money, but now there is, a lot. The novel is not about bodies, but following the money. The title is ‘Offshore.’