“It feels strangely like I’ve been a ghost at my own wake,” Christos Tsiolkas tells me after the book launch of the first biography written about him.
For the extremely modest author, the fuss and fanfare was a little overwhelming. Dressed in his usual sneakers and jeans, Tsiolkas was inundated by fans and was a little red faced as the author of the book, John Vasilakakos, didn’t seem to get the same attention.
Christos Tsiolkas, The Untold Story is a unique undertaking by Greek Australian academic John Vasilakakos.
As a fan of Tsiolkas’ writing, Mr Vasilakakos soon realised there was very little information about the author and sought to rectify it.
“I wanted to understand Tsiolkas the writer and Tsiolkas the man,” Mr Vasilakakos told Neos Kosmos.
He made the conscious decision to move away from his academic prose, just for a little bit, and has told the acclaimed author’s story in more of a conversational style for a wider audience.
The book itself has two parts. Part A looks at Tsiolkas’ life up till now and Part B is an analysis by Vasilakakos of Tsiolkas’ four books – Loaded, The Jesus Man, Dead Europe and The Slap.
“The reason I chose this type of ‘autobiographical confession’ in interview mode (in Part A) is because the fullness of time has not yet come that would justify the writing of a classical biography of Tsiolkas,” Vasilakakos says.
It took one year for the book to be completed, as it was a full time commitment for Vasilakakos. Tsiolkas said he didn’t want to influence Vasilakakos too much, and preferred the interview style. He was able to relay his memories while reflecting on their significance in a cathartic way.
“In a way I wanted to keep it separate for me, it will be what it will be,” he told Neos Kosmos about the book’s interview process.
Published by Connor Court Publishing and in association with the Antipodes Festival, the book was introduced by Greek academic Anna Chatzinikolaou, a long time friend and colleague of Mr Vasilakakos.
Despite having just a day to prepare after filling in for Jeana Vithoulkas who couldn’t make it, Ms Chatzinikolaou did a superb job at relaying the character of both author and subject.
She characterized Vasilakakos as a man who had a “restless mind” but controlled it by forming very interesting and well thought out questions to really dig deep into Tsiolkas’ memory, while Tsiolkas was again described as a man of “simple and unassuming modesty”, whose source of happiness was escaping into his writing.
She finished by saying “this book is nothing more or nothing less than an introduction to Tsiolkas’ phenomenon”.
The audience itself was an eclectic array of literary types, academics and high profile members of the Greek community, showing just how universal Tsiolkas’ appeal really is.
President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis revealed his connection to the book is one that has “charted a journey” for him, linking his old Greek school teacher, Mr Vasilakakos, with a new friend, Tsiolkas.
Already, Tsiolkas is almost finished his fifth book and is in the final stages of proofing and editing.
At this rate, Tsiolkas might have to be re-interviewed for another biography soon.
Christos Tsiolkas, The Untold Story is available at Readings Bookstore, 309 Lygon St, Carlton.