Christos Ikonomou’s powerful short stories...have been published here in superb translations by Karen Emmerich ... Many of his characters have a very clear, tough-minded sense of what has gone wrong with their country, but because these characters are so well drawn and fully realized, their political analysis feels uniquely theirs, not that of the author speaking through them ... Ikonomou gives great dignity and intelligence to his characters, who are capable of quick humor, of complex philosophical inquiry, moral speculation, and metaphysical rumination. They want myths, and like us they want to be told stories ... Throughout, Ikonomou’s style veers between flights of incantatory lyricism and volleys of funny lines and tough street talk ... The rhapsodic lyricism and dry gallows humor, the speed and nimbleness of the tonal shifts, drew me in to these books. The sympathy of Ikonomou’s characterization—the humanity he captures on the page—made me keep reading.
In Ikonomou’s world, the island is a prison and the sea forms the bars. Yet he approaches the grimness and desperation of his characters’ lives with lightness and humor, in an idiomatic Greek seamlessly translated by Karen Emmerich ... [Ikonomou] registers the astonishing beauty of the Aegean landscape next to the mundane details that have regrettably come to represent Greece ... In [Ikonomou's] prose, the lyrical and the rough are always intertwined ... Together, [Ikonomou’s] books make a persuasive case for regarding Ikonomou as Greece’s most original and perceptive chronicler of his country’s fears and yearnings.
... like the surprisingly profound ramblings of a lonely barfly, these stories are tumultuous journeys from despair to hope and back to despair, masterfully rendered by Ikonomou. He has a particular talent for internal dialogue, capturing the smugness and paranoia of a mind that’s trusted no one for so long that it no longer even trusts itself. Page-length sentences of staccato clauses reminiscent of Faulkner bombard the reader but don’t disorient, balanced as they are between exhaustion and mania. Parts of this book are descents into hell, but Ikonomou’s confident voice guides the way back out. Absent are any woodenness or awkwardness, testament to the quality of the translation by Karen Emmerich ... Like someone with a lot to say and no one to talk to, Ikonomou often overstays his welcome, digressing into outright sermonizing and saying too much.