Nike: A Romance

Nicholas Flokos, Author
Nicholas Flokos, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $20 (179p) ISBN 978-0-395-88396-9
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-618-00207-8
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The focus of this charming first novel is the repatriation of the victorious, winged (though headless and armless) statue of Nike of Samothrace, spirited off in the 19th century to the Louvre. In a first-person plural voice that will remind readers of another meticulously composed debut by a Greek American, Jeffrey Eugenides's Virgin Suicides, Flokos assumes the ancient national grief of the Samothracians, rural villagers of a tiny, mountainous island in the Aegean who are deprived of their goddess-mother and mocked by French tourists. A century after the theft, Photi Anthropotis, ""light of humanity,"" a failed poet and three-time loser in love who has a ""thin face so wrung by defeat that from the back he looks to us more like himself,"" rallies his dispirited compatriots to subsidize the statue's retrieval from Paris. Instead, he becomes embroiled with a lovelorn female Louvre guard who spouts Baudelaire. Meanwhile, a PBS camera crew, headed by the queenly emasculating American producer Susanna Regas (aka Mother), lands on the island to re-create the perfidious ""discovery"" of the statue by the Frenchman Champoiseau. Using the smitten Photi as stooge, she hatches a plot to finagle the real statue back to the island so that she can film the jubilation of the natives. The one hitch in this splendid fantasy of Epanapatrismos is, of course, the time-honored Greek chastisement of fate, familiar especially to the flawed, self-tortured Photi. Flokos has polished this story beautifully in terms of tone, pacing, characterization and prose, and each small facet radiates. It is a spectacular debut. (July)
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