The author Vassilis Alexakis is searching for the “First Word”

Alexakis

What was the first word you learned in Greek? Which word did you first pronounce as a baby? In his book Vassilis Alexakis searches for “the First Word” humans ever spoke.


About the author V. Alexakis

The author Vassilis Alexakis was born in Athens in 1943. He worked as a journalist, book critic and columnist. He got involved with humoristic sketch, cinema and theater. He has been living in France for more than 40 years. His life is divided between France and Greece. He has won literary awards for his writings in French and in Greek.

Vassilis Alexakis has a passion for language, which plays a leading part in two other books of him: The “Mother Tongue” (Exandas, 1995, Médicis Award) is about the letter “E” of the Greek alphabet hung on the entrance of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. In the “Foreign words” (Exandas, 2003, State Prize of Literature in 2004), the Central African language Sango is introduced through the journey of a modern Odysseus.

The novel “The First Word” by V. Alexakis

The central character of the book is Miltiadis, a Greek professor of literature at a French university. His life dream was to find out which was the very first word humans ever spoke. After his death his sister promises to solve this riddle. Talking with various scientists she learns about the human brain, baby language, chimpanzees and Homo sapiens, Darwin, Freud, sign language and more. Discovering a lot about the mystery of human communication she is confronted with historical, anthropological, philosophical and linguistic questions: “Where is language based? Can apes say no? How does a language die? Who invented the word nostalgia?” Will she manage to find the answer her brother desired?

“It’s impossible to close this book before you read the last word.”
– Gerard Guegan, Sud Ouest

Vassilis Alexakis’ novel “The First Word” was released by Exandas in 2011, eight months after its French version. It was nominated for the Goncourt and Renaudot literary awards.