Born in Corfu the 1872from a noble family, o Konstantinos Theotokis studied at Graz, Austria and died in 1923, aged 51. Influenced by the Russian novel and socialist ideas, Theotokis turned his prose work in a purely social direction. With narrative compositions such as “Price and money” (1912), “The Convict” (1919), “The Life and Death of Caravella” (1920) and “The slaves in their chains” (1922), the author depicted such phenomena as the fanatical attachment to the value of individual property and the worship of profit and money. With characters who are usually hard and unyielding in their interests, Theotokis is definitely an anatomist of the great class antagonisms and conflicts of his time.

On the occasion of the centenary of the death of Theotokos, let us remember his youth and his short stories, but also his years of maturity, when he tackles perhaps his most important novel, the “Slaves in their chains”. The novel and the short stories were recently released in two separate volumes by the historical Association for the Dissemination of Useful Books (founded in 1899 by Dimitrios Vikelas and operated for a long time under the supervision of Georgios Drosinis). The novel was published in philological editing and introduction Dimitris Kokoris and the short stories in philological editing and introduction Anna Afentoulidou.

The short stories are published or written between 1898 and 1922, from when Theotokis is 36 years old until the end of his life (unless we take 1913 as the limit, the year of the last published short story) and are divided into “Heart Stories” the “Village Tales” and at “Historical or mythological short stories” (the distinction belongs to Theotokos herself). The “Corfiat stories” or “Village short stories” do not randomly emphasize the elements of place and space, referring to the social and historical time of the time of Theotokos and to the daily life not of the aristocrats and the economically powerful of Corfu, but to the practices and in the habits of the rural and working class of the island. We do not yet see here the socialist gaze of the aristocratic author as he destabilizes the once powerful feudalism, as in “Slaves in their Bonds”, but the anatomist of the dominant social conventions and oaths of honor that influence a traditional, almost archaic society.

In such a context, Theotokos creates male characters who do not hesitate to kill for reasons of marital infidelity (“Probably”, “Yet?”) and romantic anti-jealousy (“Village Life”, “The Wedding of Stalachti”)for property issues (like the fratricide in “Cain”)for personal and political or party differences (“Honest World”) or talks about fathers tearing apart the universe because they fall in love with their son’s bride (“Illegal Love”). On the other hand, the author invents situations where evil between two families fighting for their honor is avoided at the last moment (“Suspect”, “The Two Loves”) or where women finally find their vindication (“Did he sin?” and “Pope Iordanis periharos and his parish”). Theotokos never chooses only one path or the other, allowing, whenever she sees fit, people to transcend their unborn social norm.

“Historical or mythological short stories” abandon the present to turn the narrative to lost treasures of a mythical past, to pseudo-historical events, or to real artists of the Hellenistic period who sacrifice human life on the altar of the high demands of art (“Apellis”). THE “Apellis” immediately betrays the association of Theotokos with aestheticism, but, as Anna Afentoulidou rightly warns us in her introduction, in his short stories Nietzscheism, the ethnographic look, combined with an acute social vision, realism and interest in both the social as well as for mythological or pseudo-historical reality and we should evaluate them with a different criterion each time. What prevails is definitely the negative or positive impact from the moral struggle of good and evil.

But let’s look at the novel. The conflict between bourgeois and fallen aristocracy is fatal to “Slaves in their chains” because the entrenched socialist convictions of age maturity are far from leading him to any ideological optimism. Alkis Sozomenos believes fervently in socialism, despite this, he finds it difficult to trust his socialist vision, and many believe that the Ophiomach family, whom he looked up to, will be defeated on a full family scale after his expulsion from their bosom. Theotokis is first a writer and then an ideologue. And as a writer he is interested in showing the entrapment of his heroes and not their ideological justification, as Dimitris Kokoris aptly observes in his introductory study, debunking an ideological literary myth of the early post-colonial period about Theotokos.

Passing from folklore to social ethnography, and having trained on the ground of realism, Theotokis arrives at “Slaves in Their Bonds” as a convinced naturalist. And if to his naturalism we need to add the romance of the dead-end love of Eulalia, the woman whom Alkis will never get because of his class disadvantage, let us not overlook the naturalistically illustrated place of Corfu as a spatial and novel landscape for the confrontation of urbanism and aristocracy, which takes us all the way to “The Cheetah” (1958) by the much less pessimistic Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who leaves more moral and political scope for the emergence of his own bourgeois. However, this is also an example of the writer’s conscience and freedom of Theotokos.