Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis, 54, was finance minister for Greece’s Syriza party from January to July 2015. He has been professor of economics at the universities of East Anglia, Cambridge, Sydney, Glasgow, Athens and Texas, and has written several books including The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the World Economy.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

I wanted to be a train driver, then a mathematical physicist. Finally I settled for mathematical economics before turning, later, to a political career — a steady decline in ambition.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

A Greek private school, then straight to the Red University — which is how Margaret Thatcher described the University of Essex.

Who was or still is your mentor?

A weird creature combining different features of Marx, Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and John Nash Jr.

How physically fit are you?

Fitter than I deserve, given the past year’s trials and tribulations.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Being born into the privileged classes, which have a knack for imparting ambition of such intensity that true talent fades from view.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Yes. Out of curiosity and despite a deep-seated opposition to the quantification of qualities.

How politically committed are you?

Any more and I shall explode.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I do. The way in which the never-ending post-2008 economic crisis is sidelining the global debate on the planet’s crisis is a source of regret.

Do you have more than one home?

My wife and I rent a flat in Athens and she owns our sanctuary on the island of Aegina.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Nothing. A penchant for ownership and possessive individualism are the greatest enemies of the good life. But I do want many more wholesome experiences — which usually come through sharing.

Island of Aegina
Happiest place: Island of Aegina

What’s your biggest extravagance?

A small, red, open-top sports car that my wife and I bought in Seattle and shipped back to Greece.

In what place are you happiest?

Waking up in Aegina, looking out to the sea and mountains, before proceeding to put the kettle on.

What ambitions do you still have?

Same as always, plus the recent one to speed up my pace in inverse proportion to the time I have left to realise them.

What drives you on?

The conviction that there is room for improvement and the anger at our collective failure to exploit it.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

That I managed to live without unbearable compromises and earned the right to choose my partners at work and in life.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

When, at 13, I realised I was not as talented a pianist as I had imagined.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

“Bloody predictable!”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Exactly what I am doing now.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes. But I worry that, given the decline in support systems for families, its formalisation may put pressure on some to relieve their loved ones from the expenses and chores associated with continued existence.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Only in the sense of leaving behind memories, ideas, books etc. But, hopefully, no debts.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?


Yanis Varoufakis opens the 2015 Kilkenomics Festival in Ireland on November 5; kilkenomics.com. ‘And the Weak Suffer What They Must?’ by Yanis Varoufakis will be published in April 2016 by Nation Books

Photographs: Eyevine; Getty; Dreamstime

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