The Great Chimera


Translated by Patricia Felisa Barbeito

Eager to flee the parochialism of her French upbringing, and a painful family past, the young and beautiful Marina falls in love with a seductive Greek sea-captain she meets at the port of Rouen. She follows him to the Aegean island of Syros to begin a new life as a married woman in the home of her formidable mother-in-law. Enchanted by the beauty of her surroundings, and fascinated by her husband’s erudite younger brother, she aspires to learn all she can about contemporary Greek culture and live up to the ideals of her classical education. But when disaster upends her husband’s shipping business and the comfortable stability of their life together, Marina’s world slides into a vicious circle of love, passion, and death.

Set in the early decades of the twentieth century, The Great Chimera is an exquisite account of the inner life of the heroine, and the collisions of different cultures and ways of being. In prose that ranges from the lyrical to the tersely realist, Karagatsis weaves a classic tale that is wide-ranging in its literary references, and devastating in its psychological nuance. This modern Greek tragedy has been made into a TV series and a highly acclaimed stage play, enjoying three sold-out seasons in Athens, and an international tour.


M. Karagatsis photo
Weight 0.450 kg
Dimensions 13 × 20.5 cm

M. Karagatsis






M. Karagatsis (the pen name of Dimitris Rodopoulos) was born in Athens in 1908 and studied law in Grenoble and Athens. He is considered one of the finest Greek prose writers of the twentieth century and a central figure in the Generation of the ‘30s, a group of writers, poets, artists, and scholars that introduced fresh modernist currents to Greek literature and art. He was a prolific writer, with over ten published novels, as well as many novellas and plays. Besides the bold sensuality of his writing, he is known for his focus on the complexities and dark, instinctive underside of human psychology. He died in Athens in 1960.

Patricia Felisa Barbeito is Professor of American Literatures at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is a translator of Greek fiction and poetry, and has published and lectured extensively on Modern Greek literature. Her translation of Elias Maglinis’s The Interrogation (Birmingham Modern Greek Translations, 2013) was awarded the 2013 Modern Greek Studies Association’s Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize.

About the book

Ever since I read Karagatsis’s ingenious take on The Scarlet Letter I have thought it had to be translated into English! The Great Chimera, a story of a woman finding her pleasure in adverse conditions, told without judgment, even with a certain vindication, wraps the reader up in its windy nights on the isle of Syros. We are the woman as she walks down the hill to the port, seeking solace from a sea captain who is not her husband. Barbeito’s translation makes everything real for us. A stunning achievement!

Karen Van Dyck
Kimon A. Doukas Professor
of Hellenic Studies
Columbia University

Among the novelists of Greece’s gen­eration of the Thirties, it is Karagatsis whose works still have the greatest appeal to the common reader. Patricia Barbeito’s dextrous translation of Chimera—the first in English—gives a good sense of why this is the case. A new audience will now discover Karagatsis’ vivid narrative gifts.

David Ricks
Professor of Modern Greek
& Comparative Literature
King’s College London