Apostolos Doxiadis

Michel Grodent – Le Soir (Brussels)

From all points of view, Macabetas is a pleasant surprise. In Greece, only the worst memories of the time of the ‘colonels’ survive: censorship, torture, deportation, and disaster in Cyprus. Today it seems possible to laugh at it — at long last, a good sign. And it seems that farce can, as much as political analysis, bring to light the essence of a military regime consistently dedicated to a war of everyone against everyone else.

The text is supposed to emanate from a non-commissioned officer or a humble soldier, seized, as the author pleasantly adds, ‘by the primitive shiver a human being feels in the face of history unfolding.’ As regards history, we are given a sort of short comic/heroic treatise, where we witness, in short chapters of hilarious precision, the struggles between factions at the heart of the Greek army.

In order to control an explosive situation (to seize the Seventh Armoured Brigade, a focus of dissident activity) the President (i.e. the arch-dictator) suspecting all manner of things, allows his wife to convince him to call upon the services of an exceptional fighter. He chooses Achilles Macabetas, an avenger with an irreproachable physique, whose only care in the world, outside the army, is his invalid sister. Unfortunately for that priceless pearl, the plot is foiled by the intervention of a secret society, the Zealots, gifted at manipulating anyone likely to further their ascent. In this instance, the manipulation consists of hurling a film actress – Zeza Fili – into the embrace of the invincible hero.

Doxiadis plunges us into the vicious circle of fear and vengeance. Beneath the apparent military order, chaos reigns. The interchangeable protagonists, who jerk around like puppets, are not so terribly far from certain characters Herge paints in ‘The Broken Ear’ or ‘Tintin and the Picaros’. In that epic cartoon, the shadow of General Alcazar predominates on all levels of the revolutionary hierarchy!

In philosophical terms, the story seems to be an illustration of the scapegoat theory… In a society where each member considers itself the equal of the others, the ‘mimetic desire’, the desire to imitate one’s neighbour, to possess what they possesses, naturally reaches its peak. In other words, everyone wants to become the supreme leader. A pinnacle of violence results from this, which can only be resolved if the whole group finds an expiatory victim. It is thanks to this sacrifice, this ‘foundational murder’, that society regains its cohesion.

We will leave you the pleasure of discovering for yourself the ending of this story, with as many twists as a Grand Guignol. …Side-splitting laughter for readers who enjoy burlesque parodies… Yet, for readers who find that, all things considered, bureaucracies around them function like this Greek army, gripped by the demon of envy (the pleasure the book gives) is tempered with bitterness, since as someone once said, patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.”

June 30, 1999: Michel Grodent – Le Soir

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