Self-perception and Self-presentation: Melina Mercouri's autobiography I Was Born Greek


  • Panayota Nazou University of Sydney


Includes image: 'figure from greek antiquity diptych', 1931.


This article explrores Melina Mercouri’s singular autobiographical work I Was Born Greek (1971). The title of the autobiography is part of the famous answer given by Melina Mercouri, in the morning of July 12,1967, when it was announced that Stylianos Pattakos2- one of the three dictators of the military regime of the 21 April 1967, in Greece, - revoked her Greek citizenship and confiscated her property. The complete ‘legendary’ answer was: “I was born Greek, I shall die a Greek. Mr. Pattakos was born a fascist. He will die a fascist.” (1971:177 & 1983: 348)

The aim of this article is to investigate the tactics and strategies of self­ perception and self-presentation as articulated in Melina Mercouri’s autobi­ ography. Towards this goal, basic concepts, such as “citizenship”, “personal” and “national identity” are discussed, together with what degree these con­ cepts identify an individual as a citizen of a state, or rather as a human be­ ing with existential autonomy.

Also, we discuss the concepts of self-perception and self-presentation and their interconnectedness; whether the first is a basic requirement of the second, or if the two are complementary; whether they are influenced by ‘internal’ (e.g. spiritual, emotional, psychological), or/and external (e.g., political, social, gender, and cultural) factors. Furthermore, we investigate whether autobiography is not only a process of self-perception and selfpresentation, but also a process of self-discovery, and even of self-construction. More specifically, we investigate if, the way in which Mercouri presents herself, is the result of conscious choices with specific purposes, or rather the result of internal, emotional and psychological needs of an author to articulate her subjectivity, or both.

Finally we examine whether Mercouri’s autobiography presents a selfimage that corresponds to the artistic, cultural and political symbol which we identify her name with the name today.