Samarakis, Antonis 1919-2003

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SAMARAKIS, Antonis 1919-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born August 16, 1919, in Athens, Greece; died August 8, 2003, in Pilos, Greece. Author. Samarakis was a well-known Greek novelist and short-story writer, as well as an international goodwill ambassador who campaigned for children's rights. Always concerned with international events and the welfare of children and ordinary people, his career began in 1935 in Greece's Ministry of Labor, where he was chief of emigration in the refugees and technical assistant departments. In 1941 he earned a law degree from the University of Athens, but he resigned from his job when Greece was overtaken by a military dictator. When World War II began and his country was occupied by the Axis, he was condemned to death for his political views but managed to escape execution. When the occupation was over he returned to his ministry job, where he remained until 1963. As a writer, Samarakis began by penning poetry for children, and this later evolved into short-story writing and novels for adults, including the collections Zitatai Elpis (1954; translated in 1986 as Wanted—Hope) and Arnoumai (1961; title means "I Refuse"), which won Greece's National Book Award, and the novels Sima Kindynous (1959; title means "Danger Signal") and To Lathos (1965; translated in 1969 as The Flaw), the last which won Greece's prestigious prize of the Twelve and France's Grand Prix de la Litterature Policiére. His stories often feature well-meaning characters who cannot comprehend the heartless government systems that oppress them. The Flaw, which was adapted as a film in 1974, accurately predicted that Greece would once again be overtaken by a dictatorship, which happened from 1967 to 1974. By the time a more democratic government had been restored, Samarakis had become involved in the international organizations UNICEF and UNESCO, and he traveled around the world campaigning for children's rights, adult education, and other humanitarian causes. For his work with children, he was named UNICEF's goodwill ambassador from Greece for the children of the world in 1989. His last two publications were the short story collections I Zoungla (1966; fourth edition, 1971; title means "The Jungle") and To Diavatirio (1973; translated as The Passport and Other Stories).



Independent (London, England), September 1, 2003, p. 16.

Washington Post, August 11, 2003, p. B5.