International Workshop

A city-planner turns novelist: Constantinos A. Doxiadis' A Simple Tale
as allegory, program and manifesto
Apostolos Doxiadis
In the summer of 1945, Constantinos A. Doxiadis spent a few weeks writing a novel - his first and only one --, which was published in Athens two years later. The book, written in Greek and never-to-date published in another language, was titled Mia Aple Historia, i.e. A Simple Tale. Though Doxiadis's intention was not, if we believe his own statements, to create a work of literature, the book is not devoid of literary qualities. It is located quite clearly in the then-budding Greek literary tradition that critics later called "Generation of the 30's", and also has roots in older Greek literature. Another strong influence, as I believe, was Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, at the time of the Simple Tale's writing a bestseller in the United States. But what is most interesting about the book is its function as a manifesto for the necessity, and a program for the implementation, of the post-war reconstruction of Greece. In August 1945, when he wrote the Simple Tale, Doxiadis had just returned from a trip to the United States, where, as a member of the Greek delegation, he presented to the Charter Session of the United Nations the extent of the damages, human, economic and material, suffered by Greece during World War II. His own, very strong ideas about how the "rebuilding" (anoikodomesis) of Greece should happen, were by then almost completely formed, and it was with these in mind that he had made his plight to the international community, on his country's behalf. His great technical and organizational abilities, as well as his capacity to wade through complex bureaucratic jungles, made him the likeliest candidate for the job of the project's chief-coordinator - and he certainly knew this. Foreign aid would most probably be forthcoming, to a great extent as a result of his own efforts. Yet, there was one crucial element still missing to guarantee his program's success: strong popular support. A Simple Tale's clearly expressed aim is to help foster it. It is a book written "for the simple people", in "their own language", i.e. the popular demotic, as opposed to the official, purist katharevousa, with the declared intention of explaining to them: why the material and technical reconstruction of the country is a necessary prerequisite of political, social and economic progress; what precisely its aims should be; and how these can be implemented. Using the small, imaginary island of Paxos as its setting, Doxiadis sets up an allegorical microcosm, modelling the economic and political situation of Greece in the pre-war years. It is inside this small society that his programmatic narrative moves, illustrating clearly his faith in the centrality of technological progress. The novel's reader is left in no doubt as to the future course its author thinks the country should take. Doxiadis's technical expertise as well as his profound conviction in the correctness and importance of his vision, combine with a natural storyteller's flair to make his arguments extremely convincing even to a sophisticated reader, as can be attested from the extremely positive reception the Greek literary critics gave to A Simple Tale.