He was born in Athens in 1967. He attended the German School of Athens and went on to study Metallurgy and Chemical Engineering. Six of his books for children and teenagers (The Message, The Nine Caesars, Breath on the Window Pane, Full Blast, The Long Journey of the Chinese Duck, Flying Pages) are taught on the postgraduate Public Education training course at the University of the Aegean, while four of them (A Funny Epidemic, Flying Pages, The Long Journey of the Chinese Duck and When Pink Flamingos go on Strike) have been published in Turkey by Kelime Yayinlari. He has won the State Children’s Literature Prize on two occasions (2008, 2010) for Breath on the Window Pane and Full Blast respectively, being nominated for this award for five more times. He has won a further nineteen literary prizes and distinctions for his work –including four White Ravens from the International Youth Library- from the Greek Children’s Book Circle, the Women’s Literary Association and the Cypriot Board for Young and Young Adult Literature. He gives Creative Writing lessons (University of Western Macedonia, Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, Frederick University, Fairytale Museum of Nicosia) and is also member of the Hellenic Author’s Society and PEN Greece. He promotes constantly reading by visiting schools all over the country to discuss with young people about their problems and participating in congresses and conferences.
Contact with teenagers and young people is a kind of award: Children who had never read a book before but liked one of my books, delinquent teenagers, young people who hesitate to express their opinion in public because they're ashamed or afraid but eventually start a conversation with me, others who have sent me messages that one of my books helped them realize a few things and changed the course in their life for the better, that gives you a joy and a purpose.
Vassilis Papatheodorou is one of the most remarkable young writers in Greek children’s and youth literature. He has already won numerous prizes and distinctions. Having Started with School Play, he now publishes one to two books a year and has established a productive and respectable presence in publishing.
Summarizing some of the features of his prose art, we should mention the persistent narrative exploration of power and forms of governance, a thematic dedication that makes him one of the most prominent political writers of Greek youth literature; the functional use of fictional and allegorical narrative forms; the dense and morphologically rich network of genre relationships evoked by each of his books, as well his penchant for police fiction, mystery, espionage and cinema; the inventiveness in his narrative content and his narrative economy; and, finally, the way his texts “converse” with some of the great narratives of Western culture, as well as with classic literary works.
At first glance, there is something otherworldly about his books. Some are dystopian, some are allegories; from the point of view of our own “real reality” (the one with which we interact), they are proving to be – at an alarming frequency – heralds of bitter developments.
All of Vassilis Papatheodorou’s novels, whether children’s or teen fiction, stand out for their extraordinary plot. This is a writer who knows how to write novels that go far beyond the mere re-enactment of the everyday microcosm of friendships, school, parents, and relationships, with which his youthful public is very familiar.
The fact that Vasilis Papatheodorou’s books are classified as youth/children’s fiction doesn’t mean that some of them cannot be considered cross-over books and be read by adult readers. The characteristics that place them into this category are their subject matter (dystopian novels that touch on science fiction), their writing style, their composition and their development.
One last comment that adds to the distinctiveness of Vasilis Papatheodorou's work: in his novels, the protagonists are of different ages, which means the negation of the well-known literary stereotype that wants readers to identify with the book’s heroes, especially in children’s/youth fiction, since each book has its own arbitrary dynamic in which each reader makes his or her own choices.
Perceptive writers such as Vassilis Papatheodorou harkened to the truth at the right moment and wrote books (for teenagers) such as Full Blast (2009), which realistically describes the recruitment of school kids by the far Right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and their initiation into group violence, racism and racist hatred. The book received a state award. The shocking matter itself, however, was swept under the rug.
He is a wordsmith and I cannot but respect and talk about his work where they still the need to hear about him and read him.
Vassilis Papatheodorou first appeared in 2000. Since then, a total of 24 of his books have been published. Some of them belong to children’s literature, some to youth literature. But it is precisely the boldness that distinguishes the latter that has led this writer to be recognized as an essential representative of Greek youth literature in the early years of the 21st century.
If one were to isolate two of the features that characterize Vasilis Papatheodorou’s entire body of work, I would argue those are, firstly, the originality of his subject matter, combined with a great deal of authorial daring, and, secondly, the narrative vividness that distinguishes his books.
The characters who inhabit Papatheodorou’s fiction are so eloquent and plausible in their action that it doesn’t take much effort on the reader’s part to inscribe them in his or her familiar social environment. They are infused with the fragrance of everyday life, they become – directly and tangibly – the mirror image of the ordinary people that circulate around us, but also of ourselves. It should be made clear, however, that this is not a vividness that tends towards a narrative and therefore reading facileness; quite the opposite. With convincing and well-defined characters, what Papatheodorou’s writing succeeds in doind is to achieve an uninterrupted narrative flow, which will effortlessly and naturally infuse the reader’s consciousness with the author’s concerns and anxieties.
It seems, however, that, unless the intention of overcoming or revising stereotypes is obvious, their fictional management is exhausted by the mere exposition of a script that cannot go beyond itself, much less convince its readers. Perhaps this is why Vassilis Papatheodorou’s writing style is, from the outset, iconoclastic, actually nullifying its own dynamic. The world of his books, though it could not be described as male-dominated, exudes the sensation of a writing style that wants to seem experimental, when in fact it’s essentially transcendent. The failry prophetic Orwellian fiction novel Breath on a Window Pane (2007), for example, which borders on “political fiction”, becomes so complex that it leaves no room for references to biologically separated stereotypes. All the novel’s heroes are struggling to exist, until they discover that what they are seeking is coexistence. Particularly the central character, Alec, offers more than any other character a place to the real reader who wants to “get lost” in fiction, accepting the role reserved for him or her by the author. Similarly, in Full Blast (2009), like another Holden Caulfield who loves hate and seeks love, Thanasis expresses many teenage desires and can touch the soul of readers by offering them ways in to view his/their myths. Papatheodorou, perhaps more than anyone else, challenges his time, while whatever constitutes his microcosm is socially defined as diverging from the stereotype and the standard which he does not negotiate, but transcends together with his readers in his attempt to determine limits and to measure endurance – their own and his society’s.
Desperate people wandering around city neighborhoods, rummaging through the garbage with a hook, looking for scrap metal or something to eat, or the wretches laboriously pushing a supermarket cart loaded with recyclable materials are all sights which, sadly, we have grown accustomed to. It is an image that haunts our days and brings to life our primordial fears of that moment when we will no longer govern our lives, when everything will seem to be collapsing around us and inside us. Vassilis Papatheodorou, together with these modern-day “damned” and his own “lords”, rummages through our daily dystopia with his futuristic, ominously prophetic fiction.
[...] Like another Stephen King, he sets up a garbage-infested thriller and horror story, embroiling his fateful characters in a multi-character narrative.
With the concluding exhortation: “Let’s go again, from the beginning,” Papatheodorou’s fiction invites us to return to the cradle of our childhood and urges us to seek our lost purity and the moral values that will rebuild our world from the beginning.
Nine Caesars: an original, modern, exciting novel that combines adventure and a timely and insightful critique of modern computer technology. It is an original and ingenious application of the killer motif, a killer who follows a certain method in the way he kills his victims, although at times it was not easy for me to follow who belonged to which group or who disliked whom and for what reason. It is, however, a bold and intelligent book.
The economic crisis brings to light what we rashly cultivated, in part because it was fashionable, in part as good Samaritans, and sweeps aside the impermanent results. As a result, as soon as they become free of the influence of the good teacher and find themselves in the open field of conflict, many children are in danger of being attracted to the authoritarian propaganda that promises them power and a strong closed community in contrast to the Others, the different ones; a community which is constantly expanding, threatening democracy itself in our country. Vassilis Papatheodorou’s novel Full Blast paints an excellent example of such a teenage attitude and is well worth reading.
Papatheodorou is known for his intuitive but strikingly pertinent and timely exposition of the darker aspects of teenage reality in our country. Who can forget his highlighting the influence of violent far-right individuals in the schools of the region which belongs to the renowned 2nd Piraeus electoral district, in his award-winning Full Blast in 2009, when no one was yet talking about such issues? The book in question points exactly to where we refuse to look: young ages, private schools in “good” areas, the wealthy well-educated families of extreme consumerism, the uncontrolled use of cell phones and the Internet as a means of practicing bullying…
A thrilling detective novel, extremely contemporary in its subject matter, that touches upon terrorism, the Big Brother state and the controversial protection it offers its citizens. Alec unwittingly films a crime. Who appears in this footage? Is he the one who is terrorizing the city? The authorities know of the video’s existence and are looking for the person who shot it. What will Alec do? Will he act alone, putting himself and his family at risk? A book about what’s happening in the world today.
A novel that will be read in one sitting by children and adults. Not only for its smooth use of language and its continuous plot climaxes, but mainly for its original topic. An actual duck and her ten ducklings find themselves adrift at sea among thousands of rubber duckies. Unbelievable events will take place. The duck will cause war skirmishes, save whales, witness a tsunami, become the object of worship, save people, and all this because she is ultimately the producer of a boundless love. The author cleverly adapts a true story and sets up a fiction where in addition to the positive emotions that emerge from the journey of the duck and its plastic companions across the oceans, taking into account the modern-day environmental impasses, it indirectly criticiques the financial parameters related to sponsorship and advertising.
The characters that the author creates are not perfect or ideal. Even the best of them, the less annoying ones, have flaws, weaknesses, dark sides. Which is what makes them multi-faceted and vivid, heightening the reader’s interest since their reversals, their unexpected revelations, and the way in which they evolve within the flow of events often change the image we have of them.
The Night the Stars Went Out is a novel that unravels stereotypes, upsets certainties, and overturns established perceptions, redefining our overall picture of modern-day Greek reality.
Does the image of these wretches, crossing the neighborhoods of Athens with a hook in their hand, rummaging through garbage in search of scrap iron or pushing a stolen supermarket cart full of recyclable materials, attest to an “Apocalypse” in the making? What better proof does one need that basic structures have collapsed – around us and inside us? One might say that Vassilis Papatheodorou grasps, with his pen, the tip of such a filthy hook, to pull out the narrative thread of a dystopia with the eloquent title Lords of the Garbage...
The caliber of multi-award-winning Papatheodorou, a master of the clipped, cinematic writing style, is affirmed in Lords of the Garbage, a novel for teenagers and young adults.
The arrows of the author’s critique are directed, but without didacticism or moralizing, against the darker aspects of culture: the ruthless exploitation of nature, the impoverishment of people, the tolerance of poverty alongside exaggerated wealth, the deification of money and consumption, the inability of technology to offer a solution where values collapse, the impasse of those who choose violence, and chaotic protests. Fundamental private values such as companionship and familial love, but also public ones, such as freedom and democracy, are revitalized through the ordeals of the global crisis and are placed at the basis of the “restarting” of a world which, literally and metaphorically, is sinking into the sea of its own garbage.
And it is telling that, as a “spell of salvation”, at the end, Papatheodorou chooses to “rock” a phrase which, in an earlier episode of the narrative, was associated with brute force and terror: “Let’s go again, from the beginning,” Hope is born again in the – literal – darkness. Goodness grows out of the seed of evil. Garbage is no longer the only source of wealth and energy.
All readers will feel a tightening in the pit of their stomach. But if the reader is a parent of a school age child, then they will surely get off the couch before they even finish the book and go about observing their child’s behavior much more closely, perhaps going through his or her things or re-examining some of the child’s excuses that were accepted at face value.
Those who read this book – and it shouldn’t be just teenagers – will step forward either to speak out (if they are victims) or to help and offer solutions.
A prophetic novel that is confirmed much sooner than its author might have dreamed of.
A contemporary novel written with a spontaneous narrative mastery and depth that does not embellish or simplify the complex and demanding world of young people and, above all, does not surrender to mythical perceptions of youth, carefully avoiding the slippery slope of moralization and the temptation of preaching.
Papatheodorou delivers a very important text that stands out for the literary traps it avoids, the boldness it shows, as well as the subtle and skillful management of a subject which is both delicate and dangerous.
Teenagers over the age of 14 and adults are the intended reading public of this second gem among this year’s choices: a Greek teenage novella that can easily hοld its own against Nick Hornby or J.D. Salinger. With a song title heading each chapter, Full Blast, written by award-winning Vassilis Papatheodorou, is one of the best and most earnest Greek books of recent years, which deserves to go international. Set in a rough high school in a downscale district of the port city of Piraeus, among the billiard halls, the cafés, the football grounds, the car repair shops and the incurable, known to all yet unspoken misdemeanors perpetrated inside the suffocating walls of family apartments, this fast-paced, witty novel observes the birth of love, xenophobia, violence, the quaint but by no means harmless nationalist gang of the “Free Laconians”, and awareness.
The blend of thoughtful drama and a pithy – rare in its naturalness – use of a timelessly exotic linguistic idiom used by the teenagers is both convincing and irresistible. Mandatory reading for politicians, teachers, police officers and, of course, parents.
Full Blast is a striking contemporary novel that captures the personal impasses of young people in an original way, using realistic, everyday language. The breathless pace, often reminiscent of a movie, and the first-person narration of the teenage rebel which often acts as an inner monologue reveal the inner fluctuations of his mental state, which are expressed candidly, I would even say harshly. The teenager’s point of view contributes to the plausibility of the adolescent, bold way of expression, with humor counterbalancing the dark reality of modern life. The originality, realism, and authenticity of the dialogues, the diverse characters that surround the teenage protagonist, but above all, the author’s boldness to tackle issues that are of great concern to today’s adolescent, make this book a representative and pioneering example of its genre.
In my books, I put a mirror in front of the face of each one of us. Whoever wants to, can take a look at it.
All of my books, even the Christmas books, involve a strong political aspect or position, a political imprint. How can we keep the young people positively involved in a society that is decaying from age? Can we do that by making them face themselves in the mirror, and by not keeping the truth away from them? Because every action has consequences and every person has got rights, duties and obligations. But, above all, I believe that we can do that by persevering in them identifying the existing values with their thoughts and feelings.
What I give as a mark in my books, is the possibility of individual choice, of personal responsibility, of handling. Everyone, realizing the limits and the consequences of their actions, may do so accordingly. And this awareness is, in my opinion, the first form of redemption and hope.
As we grow up we are aware of the frustrations of life. The books act as a kind of 'vaccine' to children against future disappointments because they help them to develop defenses.