Author Topic: Books about Greece  (Read 21284 times)

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Online Maik

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Books about Greece
« on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:07:46 »
A popular topic so I've resurrected the posts from previous GGi message boards. Links liable to have been amended to help the GGi preservation fund. Originally titled 'Books about Greek Life and Language' it wandered off track, as things do in Greece, to include any books relating to Greece. Here's the posts:


#1 TonyKath. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 01:12

We don't seem to have a thread about books about Greece and Greek so I thought I'd start one. I read finished one and read another book while in Katelios last week and though they might be of interest to GGi members. They are both set in northern Epirus not far from the Albanian border but 50 miles and 50 years apart but light years in terms of experience and tone. Both are available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Eleni by Nicholas Gage is an utterly harrowing and deeply personal account, vividly and graphically told, of the author's retelling of his mother's life and his discovery of the truth about her execution by the Greek communist army in 1948 during the civil war and his own reaction to meeting some of the participants nearly 40 years later. The progress of the war is briefly sketched out as the book develops to explain the destructive forces which eventually centre on the village. It is set in a very remote village high in the northern mountains of Greece a couple of miles from the Albanian border and gives a detailed and stark picture of the highly primitive conditions especially for women. Nicholas's mother Eleni shoulders the responsibility for the family after her husband

leaves to work in America bringing upon her the jealousy of the other villagers because of the money he sends back and the suspicions of the partisans for her political sympathies. The role and conduct of the communists in the civil war has been a highly contentious issue in Greek politics ever since (as has that of the Royalist/right wing side) and Gage's book, although fictionalised to a small degree serves as evidence in the debate. About £6.99 but a lot of book for your money and one of the most remarkable reads you will ever have.

To counter that I also read The Papas and the Englishman: From Corfu to Zagoria by Roy Hounsell which I had seen in Corfu airport in July. Hounsell's book is a totally feelgood "no going back" account of his move to Zagori (as it should be known) with his wife in 1991 when hardly anyone outside Greece had heard of it and Greeks were only just waking up to it's rugged beauty. For a change this is not the usual story of miserable and insular foreigners and slow and inept builders but one of community and belonging in a tough physical environment. Hounsell befriends the local priest (the "papas") and the other 14 villagers who constitute the rest of the winter inhabitants of the village and comes to share their lives and becomes totally accepted. A book that deserves to be better known.

Tony


Edit: typo
« Last Edit: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 04:09:01 by Maik »

Online Maik

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #1 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:08:49 »
#2 Aristarches. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 10:37

Setting up a thread about books about Greek life etc is a very good idea. I have read a great many books, fictional or otherwise, some good some pretty awful, but I am always looking for more. This thread would be an excellent way of finding something "new". For example, Tony's sugestions:

I have read Eleni but not The Papas and the Englishman etc". I will have to search through my collection and see if I can think of anything to recommend.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #2 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:10:35 »
#3 Maik. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 11:07

Probably you've already seen this, and probably read any you fancy (I found The Consolation Prize very readable but largely unheard of): GGi Bookshop

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #3 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:30:27 »
#4 Bryan-in-Kilkis. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 14:17

What a thoroughly superb idea, Tony!!! I have a few suggestions:

1) Dinner with Persephone, by Patricia Storage. This is described (at least in the blurb!) as having been "hailed throughout the English-speaking world as a classic, one of the finest books ever written about Greece. Storace explores the dreams and sensuous realities of a country caught between East and West, its glorious past and its difficult Balkan present." I have only read half of it, despite having had it several years, but it is an enjoyable account of an American woman setting up home (or flat!) somewhere in Athens (what a nightmare that must be!) and her encounters with local people. To my mind, though, having lived here for 27 years, it is a tad too sentimentalist and rose-coloured spectacles...

2) (Three books by the same author) Crying Blue Murder / The Last Red Death / The Golden Silence, all by Paul Johnston. Paul Johnston struck on the ingenious idea of inventing the character of Alex Mavros, an Athens-based private investigator who is half Scots and half Greek, and these books are detective stories, a genre almost totally unknown in Greek literature itself. Such great authors as Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver and Val McDermid have given these books glowing reviews. I have to admit that what I read in them as regards life in Greece was thoroughly convincing. I usually pencil in a note in the front of books I read after I have finished them saying when I read them and my impressions of the book, and for each of these I have put the one word "Excellent".

3) Το Πλατύ Ποτάμι, by Γιάννης Μπεράτης. OK, this one is in Greek and I first read it at university some thirty years ago, but it has stuck in my mind as a stunning account of the life in 1941 of a Greek soldier fighting the Italian fascist army in the areas now in north-western Greece and Albania.

4) Anything by Antonis Samarakis, especially Το Λάθος (translated into English as The Flaw), which is a brilliant literary strike against totalitarianism. A man is arrested for an undisclosed crime against the state and has to be transferred to another city by the arresting "officer". Το Λάθος is about how the human relationship between the two men develops and works against the totalitarian system behind the arrest. Samarakis wrote many short stories, but Το Λάθος is his best-known work and is a novella - a 90-minute read.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #4 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:31:46 »
#5 Bryan-in-Kilkis. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 14:23

Maik, do you reckon it's a good idea to make Tony's posting here into a pinned topic? I think there could be a lot of very interesting suggestions here...

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #5 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:32:32 »
#6 Maik. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 14:36

Sure, pin it if you (or Tony, or Rog, or Phil) want to. Think there's a previous post or two that could be merged into the same thread.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #6 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:33:39 »
#7 Jolly Roger. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 17:29

Excellent idea Tony to include this topic and yes, it should be pinned so that it can be added to easily from time to time.

Eleni, I can thoroughly recommend, although be warned that it will change your outlook on Life! There is also a film version of the book, which is better than most films that have followed on from books.

Here are a couple of books by local authors.

The Promised Journey (Pontus to Kefalonia) by Sophia Kappatos. Sophia from Tara Beach in Skala has written an account of the story of her father during and since the troubled times of the exile of Greeks from Turkey.

Nagis - Growing up in Kefalonia 1940-1950 by Panagis Spiliotis. A local lad from Ratzakli describes his early life growing up during WW2 and the Civil War that followed. This book is available from Aeolis Hotel, Skala.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #7 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:38:33 »
#8 TonyKath. Posted 12-09-2012 @ 21:05

Wow guys! I did not expect such a rich crop of replies. I'll take a day or two to digest them and the books should fill some retirement days over the winter. I also thought of Maik's excellent recommendation about village life after the civil war, which I read a couple of years ago.

Quote
Maik, on 06-11-2010 @ 02:50, said:
Quote
As a boy in 1940s Greece, my friend Costas, now a retired banker, had a pistol shoved in his face by a communist guerrilla screaming that he wanted to requisition the family mule. Knowing that the animal meant his family's survival in desperate times, Costas refused. He might have been shot then and there if the guerrilla had not been restrained by more compassionate comrades. Many years later, attending his nephew's wedding in Athens, Costas was stunned to recognize the best man. It was the very fellow who had nearly killed him over a mule.

Such stories are common in Greece, where a merciless occupation by Germans and Italians during World War II, violence between left and right, and foreign meddling during the civil war (roughly 1945-49) and the Junta years (1967-74) left Greeks living cheek by jowl with people they could never forgive.

Kevin Andrews experienced the dangers of the countryside during the civil war. "The Flight of Ikaros," the book he produced from his travels, remains not only one of the greatest we have about postwar Greece—memorializing a village culture that has almost vanished—but also one of the most moving accounts I have ever read of people caught up in political turmoil. (It is richer than George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" because Andrews spent more time getting to know the people he wrote about.) "Flight" was first published in 1959 and last reprinted by Penguin in 1984. For too many years, this rare account has languished out of print.
online.wsj.com

Tony


The Flight of Ikaros: Travels in Greece During the Civil War
« Last Edit: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:40:06 by Maik »

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #8 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:46:25 »
#9 colleywobble. Posted 13-09-2012 @ 14:55

North of Ithaca by Eleni Gage is a follow up to Eleni by Nicholas Gage and tells the story of Elenis return to her family's old house and how she starts to make it habitable again and a home for herself. Also Louis de Bernieres book Birds Without Wings tells the story of the migration of the Greeks and Turks after the collapse of the Otterman Empire,the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks. Two books by Victoria Hislop The Thread about Thesaloniki and again the time of the migration, and The Island, about the island of Spinalonga and its lepper colony. Both i can recommend. A great thread and look forward to everyones recommendations for the long winter months.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #9 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:48:05 »
#10 Paul Dillon. Posted 13-09-2012 @ 23:39

Hi,

Maik suggested I mention my Kefalonia novel, The Magic In The Receiver. It's been out for a couple of months and starting to get some traction in the Amazon bestseller list for "Books about Greece." There's a review in The Greek Star Summer Book Review 2012.

I'd love to get some feedback.

-paul

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #10 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:54:55 »
#11 jayforbes. Posted 14-09-2012 @ 18:26

Well what a storm, hope everyones properties are ok.

I too have read a couple of the mentioned books: the Paul Johnston - Crying Blue Murder is excellent - I read it in a remote part of Crete and cetainly I was looking over my shoulder on those walks to the only taverna in the dark quiet village, I have The Last Red Death ready for a winter read - I don't want it to fall apart in the sun !!! With Crete in mind another excellent read is Caron's Children it was hard to get hold of and my copy is in UK so I'm not sure of author or ISBN. The story is an unusal account of Spinalonga I beleive very factual yet still fictional. The House of Dust and Dreams by Brenda Reid is a good ladies read but not too 'girly'.

A couple of good Greek language reference books if learning Greek are A Basic Grammar of Modern Greek ISBN 960-12-1105-5 M.Tsiotsiou-Moore, well set out and easy to follow, and also same author Compendium of 850 Modern Greek Verbs ISBN 978-960-12-1617-1 really useful if studying the language. I bought mine from Amazon.

Will be looking out for the other book recommended. Good reading to you.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #11 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:55:32 »
#12 TonyKath. Posted 14-09-2012 @ 18:59

Thanks Collywobble - have just downloaded a sample of North of Ithaca to my Kindle. Looks interesting. May need a bit of time to recover from reading Eleni first, though!!

So many suggestions here now it's hard to keep up with them! Good job the thread is pinned - so I can come back and check out some of the titles over the winter.

Thanks everybody - didn't think the thread would be this popular.

Tony
« Last Edit: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:01:29 by Maik »

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #12 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:56:42 »
#13 jeanskala. Posted 24-09-2012 @ 12:09

A couple more for you:-


The Roads of Cefalonia by Helen Cosmetatos

Helen Cosmetatos was curator of the Corgialenios Museum and compiled a fascinating guide to the history of the roads of Kefalonia, the work being dedicated to the memory of Charles James Napier (Resident on Kefalonia 1825).

ISBN 960-90220-0-6: Available in local book shops and at the museum.


Point and Counter Point by Nicholas Enessee

Two stories run in parallel - the history of the island of Kefalonia and that of a remarkable woman, Nicholas's mother, Helen Cosmetatos, who had landed on Cephalonia from England in the middle of the war, armed only with her violin. The narration, which makes liveral use of her witty diaries, follows her as she experienced, and empathized with, the plight of the common people and, through her direct actions, became for many a beacon of hope and a safe haven.

ISBN number - 960-87338-5-5: Available from local bookshops and from the Gentilini Wine Estate shop during the summer months.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #13 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:57:13 »
#14 Alan. Posted 28-10-2012 @ 17:30

Hi Paul, just finished the book. Really enjoyed the earthquake narrative, and the description of present day Kef were enough to whet my appetite for next year! Worth the £2.99 on Kindle for that alone. Keep writing.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #14 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 01:58:08 »
#15 kefman. Posted 29-10-2012 @ 23:23

For anyone who has ever had a house built in Greece or is planning to have a house built then John Humphrys "Blue skies and Black olives" is a must. It is interesting and funny and so very very true.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #15 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:00:32 »
#16 Maik. Posted 30-10-2012 @ 13:32

Thanks, kefman, looks like a good read. Short review and brief extract in the Telegraph, longer extract in the Mail. Available as an ebook or pre-read paperback on Amazon: Blue Skies & Black Olives.


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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #16 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:01:15 »
#17 TonyKath. Posted 30-10-2012 @ 19:37

Thanks Kefman. Just downloaded a sample to my Kindle. Trouble is I have a few Greek books there plus all the others. Even retired now there's not enough time.

Tony

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #17 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:06:02 »
#18 colleywobble. Posted 31-10-2012 @ 20:39

Whilst on holiday begining of October i bought a copy of Nagis from The Muses reception. Writen by Panagis Spiliotis who is the owner of The Muses i found out he is cousin to my Greek family (the Zapanti's) in Skala. This made reading the book doubly interesting as i could imagine the different areas that they still cultivate, portions of land outside the village. I had to keep reminding myself that Skala was up on the hill at the time of the book and i was facinated by all the names that different areas were called, places that we had often walked especially on Mounda head and surrounds ie Aliki, St Nicholas even the area Tara from which Tara beach hotel must be named. I had heard some of the stories from my Greek family about the war time but did not realise that a very large battle had ensued on Mounda Head itself. Makes me feel very sad when i think about it, knowing now that many lost their lives there. Interesting to read about the roof tile making especially now that the workings have been renovated for all to see. I knew that more people had died on Kefalonia as a result of the civil war than in the actual war and also how harrowing this had been especially with regard to the death of one of the locals. When we were told about this several years ago it was glossed over rather and we thought it a bit suspicious at the time now i understand that it is still very sensitive and the locals feel very ashamed that they could have resorted to such atrocities. I loved the book and because it has a special meaning to me i will overlook the price of 16€ which is rather high for a paperback of 280 pages. I hope Mr Spiliotis will carry on writing as i felt a little bit left in thin air, and that Nagis will be brought up to the present as he has certainly had a very interesting life. I did not meet up with him this time but he signed my book with a very special message and i hope to meet up with him on my next visit to hopefully discuss the book.


A further recommendation that i have just loaned from our local library was a book by Bruce Clark called, Twice a Stranger, How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey. A very good book for anyone interested in how modern Greece and Turkey came into being. I thought this book might be more like a students reference book but i found it very interesting especially the real life experiences of a generation of people now almost died out from both sides and how the results of this period of Greek and Turkish history are still being felt.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #18 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:06:44 »
#19 TonyKath. Posted 01-11-2012 @ 14:39

Thanks Colleywobble. It sounds very interesting indeed and would like to know more particularly about the war and the civil war on Kef . I don't suppose Panagis could be persuaded to lower the price a bit. I looked at the website you mentioned previously and they have family in the US and I wondered if they could issue it as an ebook to reduce overheads.

I have Twice a Stranger on my Amazon wish list and would like to read that to. And all the others!

Tony

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #19 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:07:24 »
#20 Paul Dillon. Posted 24-11-2012 @ 21:50

Hi Alan,

Glad you enjoyed it. The Magic in Receiver has consistently been in the top 10 on Amazon in the Greek Travel Category. For those that haven't picked up a copy, I'm doing a promotion for Kindle in the UK at 99p. Also, you might be interested in my guest blog about Kefalonia on the Official Greek Tourism site.

Best,

-paul

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #20 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:08:08 »
#21 Maik. Posted 24-11-2012 @ 22:01

Offer sounds good, managed to pick up a paperpback version but haven't had time to read it all yet, first few pages are pretty impressive though.

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #21 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:09:42 »
#22 Paul Dillon. Posted 24-11-2012 @ 22:20

Thanks Maik.

The tourism people seem to like the book. I'm hoping to get more copies into Kefalonia for next Summer. Right now Happy House Books in Lixouri has a few left. If anyone has questions about the book or wants more info, please feel free to contact me directly paul AT pauldillon DOT net. I really appreciate any and all feedback (even negative  :) )

-paul

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #22 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:11:11 »
#23 Jolly Roger. Posted 24-11-2012 @ 22:31

I have just finished reading Nagis, which I had mentioned at the beginning of this thread. Like Collywobble talked about above, it was fascinating to read about the places that we still know of today around the Skala and Ratzakli area. Also very interesting to read about the unsuccessful battle led by the Italians, that took place at the German fort of Mounda. There is a particularly moving chapter about the planned execution of eleven villagers in the stream bed of Hionata, all saved by a very heroic young man by the name of Mitsos Frangos. Also mentioned in the book is the land at Tara, which must have been somewhat bigger than the land now occupied by Tara Beach Hotel. The land at Tara was owned by the grandfather of Sofia Kappatos, present owner of the hotel. Sofia has also written an account of her father's exile from Turkey and his journey which ended in Skala (see my post near the beginning of this thread).

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #23 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:11:39 »
#24 TonyKath. Posted 25-11-2012 @ 19:54

Hi Paul - 98p on Kindle sold!!

Tony

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Re: Books about Greece
« Reply #24 on: Thursday, 06 February, 2014 @ 02:12:28 »
#25 Maik. Posted 30-11-2012 @ 15:33

Might be of interest to anyone interested in ancient Greece or Greek marine art, a number of free e-books in English available at latsis-foundation.org