Awards and Distinctions
Alki Zei was born in Athens in 1923 and passed her early childhood in Samos, where her mother was from. On her father’s side she originated from Crete. When she went to school her family first moved at Maroussi and later in Athens.
She studied philosophy at the University of Athens, drama at the Athens Conservatory and Screenwriting at Moscow Cinema Institute.
She started writing very young. At high school she wrote some pieces for the puppet theatre. One of the characters she created later became one of the main heroes of the Athens Puppet Theatre “Barba Mytoussis”. She continued writing by publishing a series of short stories in “Neaniki Foni” (Young Voice), a magazine for young people directed by a team of intellectuals of that time. She kept writing short stories and novelettes during the years of her stay in the Soviet Union that were occasionally published in literary magazines in Greece.
She was married to theatrical playwriter Giorgos Sevastikoglou (died in 1991) and had two children, Irini and Petros. Since the years of the German occupation in Greece during Second World War, she fought actively for freedom, social justice and democracy, being part of the left-wing movement. She suffered a lot for her involvement to that cause. From 1954 to 1964 she lived as a political refugee in the Soviet Union. In 1964 she returned with her family in Greece, but in 1967 they had to leave again, this time to Paris, chased by the dictatorship. She returned after the reconstitution of the parliamentary republic in 1974 and lived ever since in Athens.
The clear-cut way of her writing, the linguistic integrity, the critical attitude towards persons and situations, her humour and the penetrating view to facts, are the dominant characteristics of Alki Zei’s works. Achille’s fiancée, Wildcat under glass and Petros’ war, are included in the classic best sellers of contemporary Greek literature.
Most of her books are aimed at children and adolescents and a few at adults. However, her unpretentious, straightforward and rational way of writing and her fascinating narrative ability make her books a great reading pleasure for young and old alike. Many of her works are inspired by her personal experiences weaving their plot alongside historical events. The issues they address are everyday and universal.
Wildcat under glass, her first novel, has been a milestone for Greek children’s literature. Sixty years after its first publication, it is still considered a classic book of the international literature for children.
Alki Zei’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages around the world. She has also translated books for children from French, Italian and Russian, among which Gianni Rodari’s and Vera Panova’s works.
She passed away on February 27th 2020.