Dr. Vrettos discusses his book The Agony of Survival.
The Agony of Survival is the first book in a trilogy. What is the title of the trilogy and how would you describe it?
I confess that a general title for the trilogy was on my mind. However, I considered that there shouldn’t be a fourth title. The Agony of Survival, which is also the title of the first book in the trilogy, covers the trilogy as a general title. Because that which exists is the agony of survival as reality. The Incredible Machine [second book in the trilogy] queries the existence of sufficient intelligence that can stop the course of disaster. The general conditions of our planet that could contribute to its rescue by minimizing the agony of survival and creating a universal passage to a hopeful future is The Peacemaker [third book in the trilogy].
Is the film in the book based on Dante’s Divine Comedy?
The film in the book is not based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. I spontaneously considered that the most suitable guide to an earthly “hell” would be Dante. Just as Virgil guided Dante to the metaphysical hell, likewise, Dante guides Virgil to an earthly “hell”, which is shaped step-by-step by multiple reasons, visible and invisible.
Would you call your book philosophical fiction?
It is not precisely a philosophical novel, although the base of the novel is philosophical. There are a lot of elements–obvious and less obvious–of the contributing natural changes, the economy, the elements of realism but also the elements of poetry. My intention is to include them all in a work of art that aspires to launch a new perspective on the novel.
What influenced you to write this book and the trilogy?
The reality, I would say, of the 20th century that continues in the 21st century. But mainly, the original condition that appears in the first presence of humans in the world, and that is, the agony of survival. It is a condition that has been intensified in our time.
Do personal experiences influence your writing?
Certainly they influence it. My books, however, are the product of continuous mental and emotional experiences that move me to what is universally human. It is the experiences and fates of many many particular persons in various times, and in our time, of course.
Who is your book’s audience and what message did you want to communicate to them by writing it?
They are the humans that experience the “agony of survival.” Consequently, no one is excluded from the book. Mainly, the message is that humans ought to develop their intelligence so they contend with all trials and create a future happier than the present.
What are the themes in your book?
They are all the vital meanings and relations in the life of today’s humans. Those that, via the heroes of the book, become recognizable images and situations from our lives: Humans towards the environment, the threatening illnesses, the economy, the art, the love; humans confronted with the human nature. Finally, the human fate diachronically, the possibilities of survival, and the fate of human culture.
What do you write now?
An ecological fable for children and adults, based on all known and unknown history of humanity. It is a simple and enjoyable book. In addition, its aim is to give back to the reader the pleasure of literary narrative.
What are your writing habits?
I usually work in the morning hours and late afternoon. Usually, I write a book spontaneously. But the editing process of the individual elements is extremely painful. The need always arises to create a work of art. In addition, I must consider dozens of pages of notes. I keep notes constantly: in the street, in the car, in the bank…, on my walks in the woods, even in my social gatherings.
What challenges do you face when you write and how do you overcome them?
To find material of very large extent that I process in my projects. Hundreds of notes for different books. I try, as much as I can, to sort out this material to which new data is added continuously.
What are your writing goals for the future?
To complete more than 30 novels, which I have already drafted; a philosophical essay for which I have already assembled the basic material; and also, an extensive research on the sources of poetry.
Have any of your books been made into movies? Any film projects in the future?
I have had some interesting proposals. In the near future, I believe, some will be implemented.
How do you spend your free time?
I walk. Usually, when I am in Lefkada, I walk in the olive grove, in an elevation of roughly 400 meters above the sea level, or through the pine trees. (Lefkada, which is an island of astonishing beauty in the Mediterranean drowned in light, affects my creativity very favorably.) I listen to music, I read selectively, I draft books. When I go to the big cities, I usually visit libraries and bookshops, museums and galleries… Even when I stand among high buildings, the structured environment inspires me positively. But I also try to see a piece of sky or a tree in the street…