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Nestoras Matsas

MATSAS, NESTORAS (1932– ), Greek author, painter, and motion picture director. Born in Athens, Matsas was in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Greece. During this time he was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, but his Jewish background and tragic memories of the war were to find expression in several of his books. When he was only 16 some of his stories appeared in the periodical Nea Estia. In 1950 he published three plays: Animenei ("Unmarried"), Fleghomeni batos ("Burning Bush"), and Yiom Kipur ("Yom Kippur"). Animenei, written in collaboration with K. Asinakopoulos, was a considerable stage success. His first novel was Klisti ourani ("Closed Heavens," 1955), a story of life in the slums of Athens. He also published several volumes of short stories. Two of Matsas' most significant earlier works are on Jewish themes. I meghali irini ("The Great Peace," 1957), a collection of three short novels, dealing with an Athens Jewish family, is dedicated to the author's father "who sleeps in the barren earth of Auschwitz." Another novel, O Messias ("The Messiah," 1959), describes the tragic fate of a Greek Jew who survives imprisonment in Dachau but who, on his return to Greece, entertains the delusion that he is the Messiah. Other books by Matsas include two children's novels, the prizewinning Khoris aghapi ("Without Love," 1960) and To koritsi me t'asteria ("The Girl with the Stars," 1968); To paramithi tou Theofilou ("The Fairy Tale of Theophilos," 1963), a fictional biography of a Greek painter that was awarded the National Prize for literature; Plevsate vorios Sporadhon Skyiathos ("Travel North to the Sporades, Scyathos," 1964), verse written in the style of the Psalms and containing "Letters from Joseph to the sleeping Rebecca"; and O mikros stratiotis ("The Little Soldier," 1967), an anti-war novel. Later in his literary career, he returned to chronicling his Holocaust experience in hiding in Athens in his book I Istoria Ton Hamenon Peristerion: Imerogio Enos Paidou Ston Emfilio ("The History of the Lost Pigeon: Diary of a Boy in the Civil War," 1995). He also wrote the popular biography of Alexander the Great titled To Hirografo Tis Babilonas, Megalexandro Apomnimonevmata (1980), which was translated into French as Les Memoires D'Alexandre Le Grand, d'apres Le Manuscrit de Babylone (1983). Matsas wrote the scripts for many documentary films and directed feature films.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.