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Dead Europe - Christos Tsiolkas

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An unsettling, brilliant novel about the truths and lies of mythology and history from the acclaimed author of THE SLAP.

'Dead Europe sets sharp realism against folk tale and fable, a world of hauntings and curses against a fiercely political portrait of a society. The energy in the writing, the pure fire in the narrative voice and the fearlessness of the tone make the novel immensely readable, as well as fascinating and original, and establish Christos Tsiolkas in the first rank of contemporary novelists.' Colm Toibin

Isaac is a photographer in his mid-thirties, travelling through Europe. It is the post-Cold War Europe of a united currency, illegal immigration and of a globalised homogenous culture. In his mother's mountain village he encounters a Balkan vampire. Subsequently, as his journey continues across Italy, Eastern Europe and Britain he discovers that ghosts keep appearing in the photographs he takes, providing clues to a family secret and tragedy.

Parallel to Isaac's story we are in the Greece of World War II. A peasant family is asked to provide protection to a Jewish boy fleeing the Germans. It is this boy who will become the vampire. From the mountains of Greece to the inner-city streets of 1960s Melbourne, we trace the journey of this malevolent force as it feeds on generation after generation of Isaac's family, seeking revenge and justice.


'In attempting to trace back through the mythologies, lies and truths of history, I want to examine how the legacies of the past still actively disturb our sleep in the present. Isaac's story is written in a contemporary idiom, in the first person, as he reflects on his alienation from Europe, on what it means to be an artist, to be a man in love, to be an ethical human in a supposedly post-ideological age...I am also attempting to understand the longest standing of all European racial legacies: anti-Semitism. The vampire is not only the restless spirit of a dead boy. It is also the golem, the Christ Killer, the killer of children. It is this legacy that Isaac must face.…

Reading Group Book Questions

  1. The title Dead Europeis particularly arresting and provocative. Tsiolkas’s main character, Isaac, encounters a Europe that has been cursed and blighted by its history – that can never recover from it. What were the author’s intentions in choosing this title?
  2. Europe is littered with monuments and relics, but has it remembered its history? Is it condemned to repeat it, as Santaya famously asserted? Is that what Dead Europe suggests?
  3. Australian novelists have been accused by critics of not addressing issues important to the real world. Yet Dead Europe takes up that mission with a vengeance. Why do you think Tsiolkas used fiction to examine these issues? Does the imaginative freedom of fiction better enable such important topics to be examined? Are they made more immediate for the reader?
  4. . Isaac himself grows up with his mother’s ‘peasant’ prejudices against the Jews and is taught by his father how wrong those ancient superstitions are. He is shocked by the casual and sometimes vehement anti-Semitic views of other characters in the novel. What is Dead Europe saying about anti-Semitism – from both contemporary and historical perspectives?
About The Author

Christos Tsiolkas was born in Melbourne in 1965. LOADED, his first novel, was published in 1995 and later made into the award-winning film HEAD ON. In 1996 he collaborated with Sasha Soldatow on the dialogue JUMP CUTS. His novel THE JESUS MAN was published in 1999. His critically acclaimed novel DEAD EUROPE was published in 2005 and in 2008 he reached bestselling status with the bold THE SLAP which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

Deeply disturbing


*** CAUTION ....SPOILERS*** The reason for the 3 stars is that I actually give it 5 stars in places, and an exasperated 1 star in others. I wrestled back and forwards throughout - masterpiece, or revolting, pretentious, unfocussed twaddle? Parts of it were distasteful. Sexual relations were brutal, and usually exploitative. But at least in the beginning there was a point. (I am not being prudish here) There were some sublimely well-written passages. The "older story" set in just-post WW@ Greece, was coherent, grounded - even with its 'magical realism', of which I am no great fan. Racism, suspicion, ignorance, stupid faith, anti-Semitism were exceptionally well portrayed. It is like an antidote to Captain Correlli's madnolin - nothing romantic in it. The modern story of post 9/11 Europe (and Australia and flashbacks to mid 1990s Europe) were ok, but when two-thirds of the way through the protagonist/narrator becomes the vampire he is, I plumped for "twaddle" and stayed with that view to the end. I think there's a really good book hiding in there, but in the last 150 ages there's so much disgusting and vile stuff it's buried in male fluids, blood and excrement, in my view. And repetitive...repetitive...repetitive. It does have some good things t say about post-Soviet Europe. My favourite passage is rather a brief one in Prague and neatly encapsulates the contrast between the hope - and charm - of 1995 and the depravity, corruption and despair of 2005. I am glad I read this after Barracuda, which I think is terrific, and after The Slap, which explores moral dimensions exceptionally well. I just wish he'd kept the vampire stuff out. I know it's metaphorical, but found it ham-fisted. I think he's saying that we find the old superstitions ludicrous, but we're no better....or something! His lack of judgement on anti-semitism is both brave and repugnant, as he wants it to be - the racism fostered over endless time, lies within us all.

Sydney, Australia


Dead Europe

3.0 1


ISBN: 9781740511940
ISBN-10: 1740511948
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 1st June 2005
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.9  x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.35
Edition Number: 1

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