I’ve been buying a lot more books by Greek authors lately than foreign ones. So, I decided that it would be a nice idea to talk about all the books by Greek authors on my TBR shelves and give you an idea of what contemporary Greek Literature is like.
I have put the books in order starting with the one I am least excited about and finishing with the one I am most interested in reading.
1. Αγελάδα με Φτερά (Cow with Wings) by Giorgos Maniotis
I found this book in a book bazaar bookstore that had opened, which I found out later that it wasn’t so much of a bazaar. But at the time there were some pretty good deals. So this was about 4€ and it did sound interesting so I got it. But it’s been a long time since then and I have kinda lost my interest in reading it anymore. I’ve been thinking of giving it away but I’m not sure if I will. Also, this book is out of print, so I am a bit hesitant to give it away cause if I want to read it later, I won’t be able to find a copy of it easily.
In what state is a man and how is he going to react, when he:
a) Has fought twice for his country?
b) Has started three or four times in his life to build his future?
c) Has believed in the vision of the new, wondrous, postwar world?
d) Has turned night into day, working for 50 years, trying to meet his obligations and deal with the needs of this new world?
How will this man react when he finally realizes:
a) That he is suddenly unemployed?
b) That all of the sacrifices he’s made were for nothing?
c) That the future of his children is mortgaged?
d) That all these years he has been used in the worst way?
How will this desperate man, who has nothing to fear or hope for in his life, react?
This is one of the many things the brave reader of this book will find out…
2. Το Χαμένο Νησί (The Lost Island) by M Karagatsis
I found this book in my closet-the place where all the unwanted and misplaced books are found in my house. At the time I had just finished ‘How Literature Can Change Your Life’ and the author (Dimitris Stefanakis) had repeatedly recommended Karagatsis’ works, so I wanted to find out if he was right. Unfortunately, there is no summary in the book, so I know nothing about it.
3. Το Κόκκινο Σπίτι (The Red House) by Alkyoni Papadaki
Alkyoni Papadaki is another Greek author about whom I have heard the best of reviews. So, I’ve wanted to get my hands on her books for a while, which is how this book ended up travelling from my closet to my library.
The news reached the village on the slope. It came like a vulture. And covered tightly with its wings the hill. And strangled it.
Early in the morning the main entrance of the red house was banged shut making a screeching noise. The bronze hand jumped in the air and knocked on the door twice. Tak tak.
Come in! said fate to disaster. And she politely came in and sat comfortably on the sofa, next to Nikolas’ mandolin and on Katina’s lacey pillows.
That day everybody gathered to the house of the woman from Smyrna. Five men would depart from there.
“We’ll be back”, they said. Because they wanted to look brave for the women. And they laughed. But their laughter was half-hearted and was soon gone…
4. Γεύση πικραμύγδαλου (Bitter Almond Flavor) by Manos Kontoleon
This one was lent to me by my aunt before she left for Austria. She said it is a great book and I hope I will find the time to read it this summer. Here in Greece Kontoleon is very well-known and everyone says that he is a great author.
Phaedra and Odysseus are two eighteen-year-olds. She is studying Theatrology, he is studying Mathematics and Music. Phaedra and Odysseus will fall in love with each other. But their love will not be a cloudless period of their lives, but the tragic moment of two young people who are faced with the inexorable presence of AIDS.
5. Η Πάππισα Ιωάννα (Pope Joan) by Emmanuel Royidis
This is one of the books that are considered part of the classic Modern Greek Literature and it is a very controversial read, especially if you consider how religious Greek people are and especially especially considering the time the book was written.
The summary is from a translated edition of the book from Goodreads:
In this brilliant adaptation of a novel by the 19th century Greek author Emmanuel Royidis, Lawrence Durrell traces the remarkable history of a young woman who travelled across Europe in the ninth century disguised as a monk, acquired great learning, and ruled over Christendom for two years as Pope John VIII before her sudden and surprising death. When Papissa Joanna was first published in Athens in 1886 it created a sensation. The book was banned and its author excommunicated. It nevertheless brought him immediate fame and the work established itself securely in the history of modern Greek literature. Subsequently Durrell, one of the most important British writers of the 20th century, created a masterpiece in its own right—a dazzling concoction presented with the deftest touch.
6. Η Επιστροφή (The Return) by Filomila Lapata
Filomila Lapata is consider a very good contemporary Greek author. I have not personally read any of her books yet, but I am planning to read this one as soon as I find the time. I have a signed copy of it and I have met the author during the book’s presentation that took place in my town. This is more of a historical fiction novel and it is set in 1836, a period when Greece is still a very newly formed country and it is only 15 years after the official start of the Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, with all of the consequences that had for the entire Europe.
A woman, daughter of a family of prominent warriors of the Rebellion of 1821, returns to Athens in 1836, after 20 years of forced removal from Greece. A beautiful Greek woman, who hasn’t been loved as much as she deserved in her country, in whose eyes one can see the pain of a woman who’s adolescence was stolen from her, and who now returns to reclaim herself and get revenge against the people that stole her identity from her.
Deep wounds and open accounts caused by a sacrifice which resulted in a forbidden love that marked the life of a noble family during the years before the Rebellion in Athens. Mysteries and riddles of the human existence rule in a social environment where the presence of man becomes suffocating. Revenge, forgiveness and redemption generate strong emotions in the heroes of this novel. As a product of historical research, the novel gives a very detailed description of everyday Athenian life, with character analysis and individual stories that blend with the main story and enrich the plot. Love, war, politics, Greek and Turkish relations, and Ottoman power are key components of the narrative.
Filonila Lapata portrays Athens of the 1800s, with integrated characters that unfold in a realistic and exciting plot, and talks about human relations and existential search. She reconstructs, in her own way, the atmosphere of an era of the Greek history. She talks about life, fate, our choices, relationships, memory as a curse, hate, anger, overcoming limits and redemption.
7. Χορός Μεταμφιεσμένων (Masked Ball) by Maro Vamvounaki
I can honestly say that I have no idea what this book is about. I have already read the synopsis twice and I honestly do not think I could translate it in any way that would make sense to you. Thank God that I wasn’t the one to pay money for it. If I find it that impossible to read, then I will return it to its previous shelf and that’s it. But I am still very interested in reading it for some weird and inexplicable reason.
8. Άρωμα Λεμόνι (Lemon Scent) by Antigone Pommer
I think I talked about this one in my Autumn Book Haul, where I explain more what the book is about. I have yet to read it, but I am planning to do so this summer. It does look like a summer read and it is about yachts and stuff, so I think that it would be best read during summer and preferably at the beach.
9. Βαθύ Γαλάζιο (Deep Sky Blue) by Rena Rossi-Zairi
Some years ago I had read Το Κόκκινο Κοράλλι (Red Coral) by the same author and I remember loving it. Even now, years after I first read it, it is still one of my favorite books. That one was a mystery/crime/Robin-Hood-but-not-exactly kind of book. But the thing that it does have in common with this one is the fact that the author has taken the lives of four different people and has combined them together to form one story. In Red Coral this was done soooo well and I am hoping that it’s going to be the same for this one. Unfortunately, the summary at the back is written in a way that is impossible for me to do justice in translation, so I will just give you a quick overview of the key points.
Aliki betrays the man she loves and gives all of her love to a child.
Giannis is disappointed by this rejection and turns his hate into revenge.
Christina feels vulnerable when it comes to love and has to pay its steep price.
Alexandros travels his dreams on the hard paths of truth. (If you get what that’s supposed to mean, then please inform me.)
The book follows each of the four heroes through the struggles in their lives on their search for catharsis.
The rest of the synopsis is poetic nonsense that you cold only ever understand after you’ve read the book. But hey, my copy is signed to me. This has to count for something right? After all, her other book was pretty spectacular. Fingers crossed!
10. Το Διαμαντένιο Άλφα (Diamond Alpha) by Nora Pylorof-Prokopiou
I have this habit of finding books in bookstores or e-shops, read their summaries, and buy them because it looked like such a good book to read. But then I get them home and put them on my bookshelves and never read them, because I have too many other books to read and no time to do it. That is how this very interesting book ended up forgotten on my reading pile. So, allow me to give you a quick summary of what it is about…
Eight women (including the narrator) who all have in common the letter A, which is the first letter of all of their names, and a diamond ring that has been passed down to each of them for many generations.
The book is set in Thessaloniki of the 20th century and talks about, each of these woman’s struggle to become autonomous, and to oppose the male presence in their lives.
By the way, I really hate it when I’m trying to translate a summary from Greek to English, but even though it is written sooo beautifully it is impossible for me to translate it because there is just too much metaphorical use of the language.
11. Φως Στις Σκιές (Light in the Shadows) by Peny Papadaki
I bought this book because of the title. I didn’t really remember what it was about until I wrote this post, but that title just drew me in.
Eleni, who is married to Ares, has been living for 15 years in a virtual reality. Locked in the gold cage of her marriage, she is constantly fed with lies, fraud, and treachery. When everything gets revealed, she will find the strength to leave and claim a better life.
On her way, she will meet Orestis, a man who is carrying a heavy cross on his shoulders, fighting to save his only daughter from the dark world of drugs. The tests they will be forced to go through will be many, but their determination to dispel the shadows of the past and emerge victorious into the light will be greater.
On the other hand, Ares will be called to pay the steep price of his illegal activities. The victims of these activities are many, but for him they are nothing but…collateral damage. His deadly sins are his greed and arrogance. But when the time comes to face the consequences of his actions, he will have to pay with interest.
Because when everything comes out into the light, it either shines or burns.
I remember now why I bought it.
12. Το Κυνήγι Της Αλεπούς (The Fox Hunt) by Fani Pantazi
I’m going to be honest with you. This was a title and cover buy. I loved the cover, thought that along with the title made for a very interesting book, found a great deal for it and bought it. But now, that I have read the summary, I am very interested in reading the book.
He is living in perfect happiness with his wife and child, until he discovers that his beloved is cheating on him. And then, in just one moment, he loses the ground beneath his feet and everything around him is turned into rubble. After this traumatic experience and a painful divorce, he hates all women and his only goal from now on is to find a scapegoat.
In another part of the city, an unsuspecting young woman lives her own feigned happiness, until she discovers the horrible secret her husband has been hiding from her. After the inevitable divorce and the deep wound that it caused, one thing is for certain: She will never trust a man again in her life. The only thing she cares about now is her little daughter.
What will happen when these two people meet? How cruel can he be and how much more can she be hurt?
Two people who will be forced to realize that sometimes life makes our biggest decisions for us.
13. Τα Δάκρυα Του Θεού (The Tears of God) by Chrysiida Dimoulidou
When I read the summary of this book and realized that it was about a prostitute talking about her life, I thought it would be a very interesting book to read. I have always felt like prostitution was such a taboo subject and especially in literature. Authors may talk about prostitutes or even have their main characters encounter one or two of them in their books, but very few authors dare to make them the protagonists in their novels and have them talk about their lives and profession. That is why I thought it would be so interesting to read this book.
They say that God weeps every time he sees us whores. He weeps in shame, since we have none left. But if God weeps, then Death owes us!
It is the 1950s. Over the wounds of a Greece that is still bleeding from the war, in neighborhood in Piraeus, the famous Troumpa, among the smoke of hand-rolled cigarettes and cheap alcohol, love leaves on the bodies of women its frayed dreams and a hope that life is magical and beautiful. Day and night prostitutes stroll the narrow streets selling their bodies for very little money. A few steps farther their supposed protectors lurk like vultures ready to snatch their prey, selling them promises of a better future made of glitter and angels. Each of these women has a different story to tell, that might have begun from a rich house or even a marriage, an engagement, a great love. I was one of these women myself, going by the name of Madame Jeny, I started as a simple prostitute and ended up owning the most famous brothel in Troumpa.
No, life has not been easy for me. There have been no easy paths to follow. One night of my life was your entire life… This night I will tell you. Now, in my eighties, and for many years, I have been Eugenia Frankou, a respectable woman, who is highly regarded by her family and social circle. Nobody has ever learned who I really was. Why am I doing this now? Because to me Death has yet to repay his debt…
P.S. This book has been translated in Portuguese and Czech and is currently available for purchase in Brazil and the Czech Republic.
14. Οι Δαίμονες Δεν Έχουν Όνομα (Demons Don’t Have Names) by Chrysiida Dimoulidou
I won a signed copy of this book through a giveaway hosted by Psichogios Publications. I had been planning to buy this one and The Tears of God, until I remembered that I had entered the giveaway for this one and replaced it in my order with Guess Who’s Leaving Tonight. I just wanted to get a couple of books by Chrysiida Dimoulidou to see if she really is as great a writer as people say she is. So, when I received a copy of Demons Don’t Have Names, I was both happy and terrified. Happy because from the summary I believe it’s going to be a great mystery novel and terrified because this is a tome. It is big enough to be automatically considered as a murder weapon. A warning of advice: if you get angry at someone while holding this book, please don’t throw it at them, because you will end up in jail. And after that macabre thought let’s move on to the even more macabre translated summary of Demons Don’t Have Names. Enjoy! 🙂
Thanasis Vergis loses the earth beneath his feet when, in May 1972, his thirteen-year-old daughter Drosia drowns in the river outside their village. Her body will not be found, only her shoes and jacket. Almost a year later another girl from the neighboring village mysteriously disappears. Rumors say she eloped with someone who was madly in love with her. A few months later, another girl from the first village disappears with no reason or trace on the day of her birthday. One drowning and two disappearances in the same area cause many questions to arise between both the villagers and the Police, who are looking everywhere for the girls and can’t find any answers. The village is now considered cursed and a cloud of fear lies above the residents’ heads.
Twenty years after after Drosia’s death, a fifteen-year-old girl is found drowned in the same river. The curse strikes once again. And along with this case the Police will re-open three forgotten files. That is when the demons awaken. Because this time, someone will talk and they will reveal truths that no one wants to believe. What happened to those girls who disappeared? Where did they go? Where are they now?
Demons have no names. But they are present and they choose who to torture…
Phew! That was a loooong post. And it took me even longer to write all of the translated summaries. However, now you have an idea of some of the books by contemporary Greek authors. Also, I wanted to say that by the time this post has been published I have taken The Lost Island and Masked Ball out of my tbr shelves, because I have too many books to read and I just don’t think that I will be reading these two any time soon.
Lastly, I am currently reading Demons Don’t Have Names. I am halfway through itand I will probably finish either today or tomorrow.
Now, it’s your turn…
Did you like this post? Are you interested in reading more about Greek books? Are you interested in a review of any of the books I mentioned in this post? Would you like me to do a book recommendations post of Greek books that you can actually read? Have you read any books by Greek authors? Do you own any books by Greek authors? And if you are interested in Greek literature, what are you most interested in: the ancient classics, modern Greek literature, or both? Poetry or prose?
Tell me all about it in the comments below…