Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



This dissertation explores the writings of contemporary Francophone writer Vassilis Alexakis. I interpret Alexakis’s œuvre as an attempt by the writer to exorcize his own exile. The author left Greece in the 1960s, settled in France, and started to publish novels in French in the mid-1970s. By looking closely at the patterns of cultural dispossession, language loss, estrangement, and identity crisis in his writings, I show that Alexakis constructs an aesthetic of displacement that allows him to free himself cathartically from the angst of exile. A close analysis of Alexakis’s eleven novels, his autobiographical text, and his collection of short stories demonstrates that this aesthetic of displacement is three-fold. First, Alexakis projects his own life story onto his fictional works. The recurrence of characters who are Greek exiles living in Paris and struggling with their identity, is indeed the sign of a displacement from the autobiographical to the fictional. Thanks to the autofictional aspect of his writing, Alexakis manages to evacuate the traumatic events of his life in exile by repeatedly describing them in his fiction. Alexakis also relies on patterns of linguistic displacement. After initially choosing French as his exclusive literary language, the author now alternates between French and Greek. In addition, regardless of the language used, he translates his works from one language to the other. The analysis of Alexakis’s literary bilingualism and self-translation practices, as well as that of language-related themes in his fiction, shows that this linguistic displacement is also inherent to his works. Finally, I illustrate how Alexakis relies on patterns of spatial displacement to exorcize his geographical dislocation. By looking closely at the author’s spatial choices, I show that his characters are spatially hypersensitive and always on the move. The examination of the geographical aspect of Alexakis’s writing demonstrates an evolution in his spatial practices, suggesting a change from French to Greek locales. This dissertation ultimately demonstrates that this exiled bilingual Francophone author has come to terms with his geographic displacement and is currently moving away from French and exile-related themes in order to experience an imaginary return to the homeland through his fiction.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Jack Yeager