Z213: Exit

Z213: Exit is the first installment of the Poena Damni trilogy by Greek author Dimitris Lyacos.[1] Despite being first in narrative order, the book was the third to be published of the three.[2] The work develops as a sequence of fragmented diary entries[3] recording the solitary experiences of an unnamed, Ulysses-like persona[4] in the course of a train voyage gradually transformed into an inner exploration of the boundaries between self and reality. The voyage is also akin to the experience of a religious quest with a variety of biblical references, mostly from the Old Testament,[5] being embedded into the text which is often fractured and foregoing punctuation.[6][4] Most critics place Z213: Exit in a postmodern context exploring correlations with such writers as Samuel Beckett[7] and Cormac McCarthy[7][8][9] while others underline its modernist affinities[10] and the work's firm foundation on classical and religious texts.[11]

Z213: EXIT
9781910323625 αντίγραφο.jpg
Z213: EXIT, Front Cover of Second Edition
AuthorDimitris Lyacos
Original titleΖ213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ
TranslatorShorsha Sullivan
Cover artistDominik Ziller
SeriesPoena Damni
GenreWorld Literature, Postmodernism
PublisherShoestring Press
Publication date
2009 (First Edition, Greek)
Published in English
2010 (First Edition)
Pages101 (First Edition)/152 (Second Edition)
Followed byWith the People from the Bridge 

Z213: Exit obliterates genre boundaries and is simultaneously a novella, a poem and a journal. In contradistinction to “factual report” works such as If this is a man by Primo Levi, the work adopts a mode of oneiric realism whereby horror is forced beneath the surface of consciousness only to emerge again in new and increasingly nightmarish forms. Oblique references to tragedies of recent human history are apparent,[12] although, ample Biblical and mythical motives suggest a far broader project. The book can be read as the first volume of a postmodern epic.[13] It is considered as one of the most important anti-utopian works of the 21st century.[14]


The work recounts, in what reads like a personal journal, in verse form as well as in postmodern poetic prose,[15] the wanderings of a man who escapes from a guarded building, in a nightmarish version of a post-Armageddon ambient. In the opening sections of the book, the narrator/protagonist flees from what seems like an imprisonment in a building consisting of wards and personnel and from where people are being inexplicably taken away to be thrown into pits.[16] The fugitive leaves the "camp" to get to the nearby train station and starts a journey he records in a "found" bible-like booklet which he turns into his diary.[6] As the journey continues a growing sense of paranoia ensues[17] and the idea of being pursued becomes an increasingly central preoccupation. There are no pursuers to be identified, however, in the course of the journey and the supposed hunt remains a mystery until the end.[15] The environment seems to allude to a decadent futuristic state of a totalitarian kind. The journey is mapped in an indeterminate way, though oblique references creating a feeling of a time/space vacuum. The narrator seems to be moving ahead while at the same time being engulfed in his own nightmarish fantasies.[18][19] Z213: Exit ends with a description of a sacrifice where the protagonist and a "hungry band feasting" roast a lamb on a spit, cutting and skinning its still bleating body and removing its entrails as if observing a sacred rite.[20][21] The mood is enhanced by the overriding waste-land setting, which could be (it is never explicit) the result of a war that has left the landscape in ruins. The general impression is reminiscent of a spiritual quest or an eschatological experience.[22][15]


The title of the book seems to present a case of overdetermination, and a variety of proposals by scholars and reviewers alike have been made, pointing at different directions within the text. There is a general impression that, given the book's content as an escapee's fictional diary, Z213 could indicate inmate unique number, ward or section in a supposed detention center.[13] A number of other interpretations have been suggested as follows:

  • 1) The time of the initial departure of the protagonist from the train station is 21.13. The same passage refers to Ulysses and Moses, two archetypal wanderers.[23]
  • 2) In Matthew 2:13 an angel prompts Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt in order to avoid Herod's massacre.[23]
  • 3) 1313 – namely 13 repeated twice is the year of the Red(reed) sea crossing as well as the year of the revelation on the Mount Sinai.[24]
  • 4) In 213 BCE major book burnings take place in China after decision by Emperor Qin Shi Huang.[23]
  • 5) 213 AD is the year of the implementation by Constitutio Antoniniana by which all freemen were given the right to Roman citizenship with the exception of the Dediticii. The book makes specific reference to them and to a state of statelessness.[23]
  • 6) The book makes oblique reference to an unnamed substance which seems to provoke states of hallucination: According to the book's character, the letter Z is the second letter of name of the substance followed by “some numbers”.[25]
  • 7) The letter Z is related to the root of the word Azazel (לַעֲזָאזֵל la-aza'zeyl), designating the scapegoat cast in the wilderness in Leviticus 16. Explicit reference to the Leviticus excerpt is made in the book.[26]


Z213: Exit re-contextualizes elements from the greater Greek canon— including the escaped hero and the devout wanderer.[27] It revolves around a variety of interconnected themes, with the quest[7] and the scapegoat,[28][21] in both its social and its religious dimension, being predominant preoccupations. Through the escape and gradual alienation of the book's main character fleeing from a structure that is presented as a sort of confinement, an individual is shown to be the putative victim of a persecuting order. This is complicated further by the underlying trauma of a real – or imagined – social collapse whose details unfold in the course of the narrator's voyage.[17] Exposure outside the limits of a familiar world is also detrimental to the composure of both self and reality which the narrator/author must reestablish. Banishment brings with it the strife to reconstruct a familiar universe, through formation of new and assimilation of, at times, incomprehensible, nightmarish or hallucinatory experiences.[29] Reinventing a "personal reality", relating to others and seeking a metaphysically firm foundation are major concerns leading to existential angst and a growing sense of paranoia.[12] Simultaneously, there is an effort to reach an absent God who seems to constantly recede away from the protagonist's reach, evoking experiences described by mystics of negative theology, Dante's Inferno and The Book of Job.[29]


But no one. You are far away, no one knows you, no one wants to find you, no one is looking for you. And tomorrow you will be somewhere else still farther away, still more difficult yet, even if they would send someone. But they don’t know the way and before they find out you have decamped somewhere else. They know how to search but they don’t know what way. And even if they set off from somewhere they will still be quite far. And they will not be many. Perhaps just one. One is like all of them together. Same eyes that search, same mind that calculates the next move. Same legs that run same arms that spread wide. Ears straining to listen, nostrils over their prey. Always acted like that. Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two arms, two legs. The symmetry of the machine that pursues you.

From "Z213: EXIT";
Poena Damni

Z213: Exit uses the device of the palimpsest to convey the various layers of its mythical, historical and fictional content.[27] Beginning in medias res,[29][30] it builds a sort of unsolvable lore around its narrator/protagonist, alternating poetry and prose in order to represent his inner thoughts and experiences.[29] Poetic tropes combine interchangeably with an almost telegraphic style omitting articles and conjunctions,[31] while using the rhetorics of diary form; mainly colloquial, with violations and distortions of grammar. Free-floating sentences[32] and lacunae form occasionally a broken unstructured syntax,[6] seemingly tight but leaving enough loopholes through which subconscious fears are expressed. At the same time, there is rhythmic use of language creating a musicality in the midst of despair.[33]

It has been noted that Z213: Exit exhibits the deep structure of tragedy[9] - instead of its formal characteristics - and has thus been called a post-tragic work.[34] Religious and visionary images as well as a biblical style of language,[35] predominate with the Old Testament (mostly Torah), and various ancient Greek texts being recurrent reference points. Sometimes external sources are amended and seamlessly integrated into the text becoming part of the protagonist's narrative. On the linguistic level the text itself creates a liminal[30] and fragmented landscape thus depicting the fracture of temporal and spatial relations within the universe unraveled in the course of the journey. Ultimately, the text seems to obtain its own independent status, to consider, arrange and re-arrange itself.[36]

Publication history and receptionEdit

The original Greek version (Greek title: Z213: ΕΞΟΔΟΣ) was first published in 2009. The English translation by Shorsha Sullivan appeared in 2010 by Shoestring Press, followed by a second revised edition in 2016. The book, in its two editions, is the most widely reviewed work of contemporary Greek literature in translation.[37][38] Critic Michael O' Sullivan[39] hailed the book as "a wonderfully dark yet enticing description of what might be described as a philosophy of exits and entrances" and as "sitting comfortably among such works as Kafka's "Before the Law" and Beckett's short poem "My way is in the sand flowing".[35] Literature critic and Robinson Jeffers scholar Robert Zaller considered the book as "one of the most important and challenging literary works to come from Greece in the past generation".[40] The work is regarded as a characteristic exponent of the fragmentation technique in contemporary literature[41][3] while at the same time perceived as an inheritor of epic poetry, molding the ancient storytelling tradition to a post-modern idiom.[42] Z213: EXIT belongs to the canon of postmodern texts published in the new millennium and Lyacos' s Poena Damni trilogy is, arguably, the most significant Greek work in the course of postmodern literature and drama history.[43] The trilogy, as a whole, is also categorized as an example of the postmodern sublime,[44] as well as one of the most important anti-utopian works of the 21st century.[14] Commercially, the book has been one of the best-selling titles of contemporary European poetry in English translation.[45][46][47] A new, revised version of Z213: Exit(ISBN 9781910323625) appeared in October 2016 while the full trilogy was published in a Box Set English Edition in 2018.[48]

Further readingEdit

  • A 6000 words essay by Robert Zaller, analyzing Lyacos's trilogy in the Journal of Poetics Research:



  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Greece, The arts
  2. ^ "Poena Damni: Z213: Exit". Shoestring Press. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Nicholas Alexander Hayes. Review of Z213: Exit. Your Impossilbe Voice, February 2017. http://www.yourimpossiblevoice.com/review-z213-exit-poena-damni-dimitris-lyacos/
  4. ^ a b Poena Damni Trilogy. Review by Justin Goodman. Cleaver Magazine 2015. http://www.cleavermagazine.com/poena-damni-trilogy-by-dimitris-lyacos-reviewed-by-justin-goodman/
  5. ^ Shorsha Sullivan, The art of translating. The Writing Disorder Anthology, vol. 2, page 82.https://books.google.gr/books?id=dGOAAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=dimitris+lyacos+old+testament&source=bl&ots=zd9eq6Swc6&sig=xW-4jisLtrDtwA0-mMNWQxD5lo0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwitjf3fvJXKAhVMiSwKHQ0XDgAQ6AEIKjAD#v=onepage&q=dimitris%20lyacos%20old%20testament&f=false
  6. ^ a b c https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/poena-damni-z213-exit-by-dimitris-lyacos-review/
  7. ^ a b c Michael O' Sullivan. A philosophy of exits and entrances. Cha Magazine, October 2011, Hong Kong. http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/778/280/
  8. ^ Poena Damni Trilogy. Review by Justin Goodman. Cleaver Magazine 2015. http://www.cleavermagazine.com/poena-damni-trilogy-by-dimitris-lyacos-reviewed-by-justin-goodman
  9. ^ a b Philip Elliott. A review of Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos. Compulsive Reader, August 2017. http://www.compulsivereader.com/2017/08/16/a-review-of-z213-exit-poena-damni-by-dimitris-lyacos/
  10. ^ From the ruins of Europe. Lyacos's debt riddled Greece. Review by Joseph Labernik. Tikes Magazine, 2015.http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/from-the-ruins-of-europe-lyacoss-debt-riddled-greece
  11. ^ With the people from the bridge. Review by Toti O' Brien. Sein und Warden Magazine. http://www.kissthewitch.co.uk/seinundwerden/with_the_people_from_the_bridge.html
  12. ^ a b A review of Z213: Exit. Mark King. The Literary Nest, Vol. 3, Issue 1, April 2017.
  13. ^ a b The Missing Slate. Review of Z213: Exit by Jacob Silkstone. March 2017. http://themissingslate.com/2017/03/07/z213-exit/
  14. ^ a b Toby Widdicombe, Andrea Kross. Historical Dictionary of Utopianism, p. xxxi. 2017, Rowman and Littlefield.https://books.google.gr/books?id=LQolDwAAQBAJ&pg=PR31&lpg=PR31&dq=%22Z213:+Exit%22&source=bl&ots=ICwJlpQG4e&sig=ujnqcbehQ_jshx8tQHzcnrhF6HY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-l-vG66jUAhUEbRQKHVFOCAc4MhDoAQgiMAE#v=onepage&q&f=false
  15. ^ a b c Manos Georginis, Verse Wisconsin, Issue 106, 2011
  16. ^ he Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  17. ^ a b Marie Schutt. Dimitris Lyacos's Z213: Exit, a world gone mad. Liminoid Magazine, February 2017. http://www.liminoidmagazine.com/blog/2017/2/23/review-dmitri-lyacos-z213exit-a-world-gone-mad
  18. ^ Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos (Second Edition). Review by Max Goodwin Brown. Writing.ie. October 2017, Ireland. https://www.writing.ie/readers/z213-exit-poena-damni-by-dimitris-lyacos/. Prick of the Spindle Journal, April 2017. Alabama, USA (on hiatus).
  19. ^ Decomp Magazine. Spencer Dew, Dimitris Lyacos' Z213: Exit. July 2011.
  20. ^ Cha An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 13, February 2011. Michael O' Sullivan. A philosophy of exits and entrances: Dimitris Lyacos' Poena Damni, Z213 Exit
  21. ^ a b Poena Damni, A Review Essay by Toti O'Brien. Ragazine Magazine, May 2019, Los Angeles. https://www.ragazine.cc/poena-damni-poetry-review/
  22. ^ Flucht als Heiligenpassion. Review by Peter Oehle. Fixpoetry, July 2020.https://www.fixpoetry.com/feuilleton/kritik/dimitris-lyacos/poena-damni-lyrik-trilogie
  23. ^ a b c d The Adirondack Review. Allison Elliott. A review of Poena Damni Z213: Exit by Dimitris Lyacos.Fall 2010 New York USA.
  24. ^ Timeline of Jewish History. http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/679,2107657/Timeline-of-Jewish-History.html
  25. ^ Dimitris Lyacos. Z213: Exit, Shoestring Press 2010, page 87.
  26. ^ Dimitris Lyacos. Z213: Exit, Shoestring Press 2010, page 39.
  27. ^ a b Review of Z213: Exit. Will Carter, Ezra Journal of Translation, vol. 12, Spring 2017.
  28. ^ Dimitris Lyacos interviewed by Juliana Woodhead. The Writing Disorder. http://writingdisorder.com/dimitris-lyacos/
  29. ^ a b c d Genna Rivieccio, Z213: Exit. The Opiate Magazine, February 2017. https://theopiatemagazine.com/2017/02/12/poena-damni-z213-exit-by-dimitris-lyacos-gets-worthy-translation-from-shorsha-sullivan/
  30. ^ a b Z213: EXIT by Dimitris Lyacos (Second Edition). Review by C.L. Bledsoe. Free State Review, October 2017, Maryland USA.https://freestater.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/z213-exit-by-dimitris-lyacos-translated-by-shorsha-sullivan/
  31. ^ The Writing Disorder. Shorsha Sullivan, The art of translating. A note on translating Dimitris Lyacos's trilogy. 2012
  32. ^ A Review of the Trilogy by Talia Franks. Word for Sense, July 2020, Boston USA. https://word-for-sense.com/2020/07/10/book-review-poena-damni-trilogy-dimitris-lyacos-translation-shorsha-sullivan/
  33. ^ g emil reutter, Z213: Exit, North of Oxford. https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/z213-exit-poena-damni/
  34. ^ Ilias Bistolas, Poena Damni - Z213: Exit. Southern Pacific Review, January 2017.http://southernpacificreview.com/2017/01/26/z213-exit/
  35. ^ a b A Philosophy of Exits and Entrances: Dimitris Lyacos's Poena Damni, Z213: Exit by Michael O'Sullivan.http://www.asiancha.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=778&Itemid=280
  36. ^ Fran Mason, Historical Dictionary of postmodern Literature and Theater, Dimitris Lyacos pp. 276-77. Second Edition, Rowman and Littlefield 2016.
  37. ^ http://tbilisilitfest.ge/EN/index.php?do=full&id=5432
  38. ^ http://www.lyacos.net/reviews-articles/
  39. ^ http://www.eng.cuhk.edu.hk/?page_id=784
  40. ^ Eucharist: Dimitris Lyacos’s “With the People from the Bridge”. Robert Zaller http://criticalflame.org/eucharist-dimitris-lyacoss-with-the-people-of-the-bridge/
  41. ^ Paul B. Roth, The Bitter Oleander, Volume 22, No 1, Spring 2016, New York. http://www.bitteroleander.com
  42. ^ Vince Carducci, Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate?http://www.publicseminar.org/2016/10/bob-dylan-nobel-laureate/#.WAXcY2UsxvY
  43. ^ Fran Mason, Historical Dictionary of postmodern Literature and Theater, Chronology pp. xxx-xxxi. Second Edition, Rowman and Littlefield 2016.
  44. ^ Philip Shaw, The Sublime. Chapter: The Sublime is Now, p. 176. Routledge 2017. https://books.google.gr/books?id=XA-9DgAAQBAJ&pg=PT206&lpg=PT206&dq=dimitris+lyacos+postmodern&source=bl&ots=_tMteVbd0Y&sig=18IjAjY8pYa2bDDutlWCO5cZKvs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7teHY68bTAhWCfhoKHaD1BG8Q6AEIWjAJ#v=onepage&q&f=false
  45. ^ Garrett Phelps, Grab the Nearest Buoy: On Dimitris Lyacos's Poena Damni.Asymptote Journal, 2019. https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/2019/03/27/grab-the-nearest-buoy-on-dimitri-lyacos-poena-damni
  46. ^ http://www.asymptotejournal.com/poetry/dimitris-lyacos-z213-exit/
  47. ^ http://tbilisilitfest.ge/EN/index.php?do=full&id=5427
  48. ^ http://www.shoestring-press.com/2018/10/poena-damni-the-trilogy/
  49. ^ The Bitter Oleander, Volume 22, No 1, Spring 2016, New York. http://www.bitteroleander.com
  50. ^ https://gulfcoastmag.org