Born in Kavala in Northern Greece on 18 November, 1934, Vassilis Vassilikos spent most of his early years in Thessaloniki, where he studied at the American College for Anatolia and later the local university, graduating in Law.
He later moved to the United States, where he studied at the Dramatic Arts School of the University of Yale and the RCA Institutes' TV Studio School.
His debut as a writer was Il racconto di Giasone (Tale of Jason), published in 1953.
During the Regime of the Colonels which followed the military coup of 21 April, 1967, Vassilikos became one of the most active of the intellectuals who opposed the regime. For this reason, he was forced to leave Greece, and he spent many years in exile in Italy, France and the United States.
In 1966, he published his novel “Z ”, which brought him international fame and helped to influence world-wide public opinion concerning the political oppression of the Greek regime. The novel, narrated using a technique that brings to mind the non-fiction novels of Truman Capote, is a thinly-fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of a democratic opposition politician, Grigoris Lambrakis, by right-wing extremists, and provides a lucid and dramatic description of the social and political atmosphere in Greece on the eve of the military coup.
In 1968, Costa–Gavras directed the film of the same name, which won more than forty international prizes, including two Oscars (as best foreign film and best editing), as well as the Jury Prize and the Prize for the best performance, awarded to Jean Louis Trintignant at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1974, following the fall of the military dictatorship, Vassilikos returned to Greece, where he worked as a writer and journalist, later becoming head of programming for the Greek Radio and Television service. He was a multi-faceted talent with numerous interests, and wrote more than ninety works, as well as numerous essays, plays and collections of poetry, all translated into more than twenty languages.
As well as “Z ” (1969, 1970 and 2003), many other of his works were translated into Italian: La foglia, Il pozzo, L’angelicazione (The Plant, the Well, the Angel) (1971); Diario di Z (Le Journal de Z) (1972); Fuori le mura (Outside the Walls) (1973); L’arpione (The Harpoon Gun) (1974); Il greco errante (The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis) (1974); Il monarca (The Monarch) (1977); Sogni diurni (And Dreams Are Dreams) (1991); K. L’orgia del denaro (K. Money Orgy) (1997); Una storia d’amore (A Story of Love) (1999) and La memoria ritorna con i sandali di gomma (The Memory Returns in Rubber Sandals) (2002).
His many international awards include the "Group of Twelve" Prize in 1962. He has been a member of the International Writers' Parliament since 1995.
Vassilikos currently lives between Athens and Paris, where he is Greece's Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.