Dimitris Lyacos (Δημήτρης Λυάκος) (born on October 19, 1966) is a contemporary Greek poet and playwright. He was born and raised in Athens where he studied Law. From 1988-1991 he lived in Venice, then moved to London, studied philosophy at University College London and stayed there for thirteen years. He is currently based in Berlin.
In 1992 Lyacos set about writing a trilogy under the collective name "Poena Damni", referring to the hardest trial the condemned souls in Hell have to endure, i.e. the loss of the vision of God. The trilogy has been written back to front. The third part appeared first (O protos thanatos) in Greek and was later translated in English, Spanish and Italian. The second part was published in 2001 in Greek and German; it came out in English in 2005. Various artists have brought Lyacos' work in different artistic media. Austrian artist Sylvie Proidl, presented a series of paintings in 2002 in Vienna. In 2004 a sound and sculpture installation by sculptor Fritz Unegg and director Piers Burton-Page as well as a video stemming from Nyctivoe, by Gudrun Bielz were produced. The Myia dance company has been performing a contemporary dance version of Nyctivoe in Greece since spring 2006.
The trilogy would appear to belong to a context of tragic poetry and epic drama, albeit distinctly postmodern at the same time. Homer, Aeschylus and Dante as well as the darker aspects of romantic poetry together with symbolism, expressionism, and an intense religious and philosophical interest permeate the work. The first of the three pieces, Z213: Exit (Z213:ΕΞΟΔΟΣ), accounts a man's escape from a guarded city and his journey through dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish, lands; in the second book, Nyctivoe (Νυκτιβόη), a man possessed by demons attempts to resurrect the body of a lover but ends in his joining her in the grave. The third book, The First Death (Ο Πρώτος Θάνατος) opens with a marooned man on a rocky island and details his struggle for survival as well as the disintegration of his body and the unrolling of its memory banks.
The work is hard to classify since it crosses the usual boundaries of genre. It often takes narrative form, mixing poetry and prose, but moves into dramatic representation of character and situation in Nyctivoe, as well as a hard lyrical kind of poetry used to depict the break-up and eventual apotheosis of the body in the First Death. The possibilities of difference between the perceived and the objective outside world are exploited; we are watching the irregular flow of an internal monologue, an event in the external world, or even an event reflected onto the thinking and feeling surfaces of the protagonist's mind. Nevertheless the characters' bodies and the physical context of their lives are presented with impressive solidity. The man escaping from his city into a closely detailed, yet somehow Kafkaesque, world, has the everyday persona of an L.A.private eye in a 40's detective novel along with the intimation of being on the verge of an extraordinary adventure. Nyctivoe starts with the man from St. Mark's gospel living in a cemetery, tormented by demons, and cutting himself with stones. He searches in the soil for the grave of Nyctivoe, and in the urgency of his desire projects life into the body he has scraped up from the tomb, whose passage back to life is described with horrifying materiality. The grave becomes a "fine and private place" for lovers still capable of embracing. In the opening of The First Death a place is denied to the mutilated body which grinds against the rocks and suffers continuing degradation, physical and mental, as even the mechanisms of memory are dislocated. Yet the bond between person and body that ensures life still persists, and, "at that point without substance/ where the world collides and takes off" , the mechanical instincts of the cosmos rumble into action and sling this irreducible substance again into space -prompting, perhaps, a future regeneration.
Poena Damni O Protos Thanatos. Odos Panos. Athens. 1996. ISBN 960-7165-98-5
Poena Damni The First Death. English edition. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press. 2000. ISBN 1-899549-42-0
Poena Damni Nyctivoe. Greek - German edition. Translated by Nina-Maria Jaklitsch. CTL Presse. Hamburg. 2001.
Poena Damni Nyctivoe. English edition. Translated by Shorsha Sullivan. Shoestring Press. 2005. ISBN 1-904886-11-6
^ Lyacos, Nyctivoe Libretto 5
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