Victoria Hislop, the acclaimed author of “The Island” (To Nisi) and most recently “The Figurine” (To Eidolio), both set in Greece like much of Hislop’s literary works, will deliver this year’s Kimon Friar Lecture at The American College of Greece on Wednesday. The title of Hislop’s lecture is “Excavating the Recent Past.”

Just days before her arrival in Athens, Hislop, who received an honorary Greek citizenship in 2020 for promoting greater understanding of modern Greece and its society, said her lecture will focus on her exploration of hidden aspects of contemporary Greek history, which she discusses in her books through the histories of fictional characters:

For the first time since I began writing fiction, my most recent novel focused on the world of archaeology – and in particular the issue of stolen antiquities. In order to research “The Figurine” (To Eidolio), I went on excavations and spent time with academics, learning about all the different and very painstaking stages of their work from the dig itself to the scientific examination of fragments and eventual cataloguing and writing up of their findings.

Before that time, I had never had very much interest in the processes of archaeology, nor indeed the findings or what they teach us about ourselves, as a human race and as human beings. Of course, the closer I got to the subject the more fascinated by it I became and I now berate myself for having been so late in life to take this interest. Or was I so late?

When I looked at my past twenty years of writing, it seemed to me that I had done plenty of excavation: not of the ancient world, but of the modern world, and in particular of modern Greece. The processes involved in investigating any historical period need many of the same techniques as archaeology, and for sure the same curiosity and need to discover truths by piecing together the clues.

When the American College of Greece honoured me with their invitation to give this year’s Kimon Friar Lecture, I decided that I would focus on the extraordinary modern history of Greece, so much of which is hidden from the day-to-day observer or tourist. Much of it lies behind a very deliberately woven veil because, in order to move on, a country does sometimes have to forget its past rather than dwell on it. The reasons for this are mixed and varied and, yet, I believe that there is a “right” time to do some digging and then to lay the findings on the ground. In my case this is done in the form of creating fictional narratives and setting them against a backdrop of real events.

In my lecture on Wednesday 10th April entitled Excavating the Recent Past, I will share how and why 20th century Greece has been and continues to be such a powerful inspiration for my writing – and why I think Greece plays such a significant role not just in the ancient world but in the modern world too.

The annual Kimon Friar Lecture Series at The American College of Greece was started in 1992 in honor of Kimon Friar, the poet, anthologist and pioneer translator of modern Greek poetry who made modern Greek literature known in the English-speaking world and opened up new prospects for its study outside Greece.

Friar bequeathed part of his personal library and manuscripts to Deree – The American College of Greece. It is housed in the college’s John S. Bailey Library.

What: Victoria Hislop on “Excavating the Recent Past”

When: Wednesday, April 10 at 19:00

Where: John S. Bailey Library at Deree – The American College of Greece Registration Required