Liberáki, Margaríta (1919—)

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Liberáki, Margaríta (1919—)

Greek novelist and dramatist. Name variations: Margarita Limberaki; Margaríta Karapanou. Born in Athens, Greece, on April 22, 1919; daughter of Themistuclis Liberáki and Sapho Fexi Liberáki; attended University of Athens; married Georges Karapanos, in 1941 (divorced); children: one daughter.

Born in Athens, Greece, in 1919, Margaríta Liberáki was raised by her maternal grandfather, a publisher, after her parents separated. She grew up in an environment bustling with intellectual and artistic energy and received an excellent education. Her major interests during these years were drawing (her passion for art would continue throughout her life, with painting remaining a strong avocation) and French. Liberáki enrolled at the University of Athens before World War II and continued to study for a law degree despite the privations she and other Greeks endured during the German occupation of her country, which began in April 1941. Although Liberáki was awarded her law degree in 1943, her interest in literature won out over a legal career. In 1947, after Greece was liberated from foreign rule and had descended into a bloody civil war, she published her first novel, The Trees.

This novel was an innovative work that relied on modern literary techniques being used in France. In her next two novels, The Straw Hats and Three Summers, both of which were published in 1950, the experimental approach of the earlier volume was further developed. After The Straw Hats achieved both critical and commercial success, Liberáki divorced her husband Georges Karapanos, with whom she had a daughter. She moved to Paris, henceforth dividing her time between Paris and Athens. Liberáki continued to write, and her work was broadened by her contacts with many of the leading writers and artists of the French capital. In her 1952 novel The Other Alexander, she used a single set of symbols to probe issues of both individual identity and the collective social and political identity of the ravaged modern Greek nation.

Many critics consider The Mystery (1976) to be Liberáki's most innovative and thoughtful novel. A symbolic political text which represents a synthesis of her novelistic and dramatic impulses, the work is set in Greece during the final phase of the brutal Greek military dictatorship. The title of the book refers to the Eleusinian mysteries of Classical Greek antiquity, with their myth of ritual destruction followed by rebirth. The novel's setting is the occupation of the Athens Polytechnic by students and its bloody repression by elements of the military regime in November 1973. The text's message is that the world needs to be turned on its head so that justice and true order can be restored to human affairs.

From 1952 until she wrote The Mystery, Liberáki wrote no novels, concentrating instead on the production of plays, most of which she wrote in both Greek and French versions. Her plays, which employ many of the same techniques found in her novels, include Kandaules' Wife (1955), The Danaïds (1956), The Other Alexander (1957), Le saint prince (1959), La lune a faim (1961), Sparagmos (1965), Le bain de mer (1967), Erotica (1970), and Zoe (1985). Most of her plays were collected and published in the 1980 volume Mythical Theater, and a number have been performed in France at the Festival d'Avignon and in Greece at the Festival of Athens. Liberáki also crafted several film scripts, including "Magic City" (1953) and "Phaedra" (1961), and dramatizations of her novels The Straw Hats and Three Summers were televised on European television channels in 1995 and 1996. For many decades she was an embodiment of multicultural modernism, as well as a significant literary presence in the intellectual life of both Athens and Paris.


Buckley, Jerome Hamilton. Season of Youth: The 'Bildungsroman' from Dickens to Golding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Calotychos, Vangelis. "Kedros Modern Greek Writers Series," in Journal of Modern Greek Studies. Vol. 17, no. 1. May 1999, pp. 170–176.

Farinou-Malamatari, Georgia. "The Novel of Adolescence Written by a Woman: Margaríta Limberáki," in Roderick Beaton, ed., The Greek Novel AD1–1985. London and NY: Croom Helm, 1988, pp. 103–109.

Liberaki, Marguerite. L'autre Alexander: Roman. Translated by the author and Jacqueline Peltier. Paris: Gallimard, 1953.

——. Trois étés. Translated by Jacqueline Peltier. Paris: Gallimard, 1950.

Patsalidis, Savas. "Greek Women Dramatists: The Road to Emancipation," in Journal of Modern Greek Studies. Vol. 14, no. 1. May 1996, pp. 85–102.

Pynsent, Robert B., and Sonia I. Kanikova, eds. Reader's Encylopedia of Eastern European Literature. NY: HarperCollins, 1993.

Spacks, Patricia Meyer. The Female Imagination. NY: Avon Books, 1976.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia