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Greek Books: Literature-Greek Writers

These are modern Greek writers and a few ancient Greek writers.
For books by foreigners living in Greece
See Foreign Authors

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

Zorba the GreekMatt's Pick!  Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis is probably my all-time favorite book by Greece's greatest modern writer. If the world were not full of good books I would probably be happy reading this one over and over. It tells the story of a man whose love of life has kept the flame of passion burning within him. More than just a novel it is almost a spiritual guidebook on how to live. The narrator of the story who has inherited an old lignite mine in Crete and is a spiritually obsessed bookworm, meets Zorba and takes him on as the foreman of his mine and in so doing learns a lot more about life then he does about mining. Zorba is one of the greatest novels ever written. Read it!

Freedom or Death by KazantzakisMatt's Pick!  Freedom or Death by Nikos Kazantzakis is a novel on the heroic or epic scale about the rebellion of the Greek Christians against the Turks on the island of Crete, where Kazantzakis was from. The story follows the exploits of a Greek: Captain Michalis and his blood brother, Nurey Bey, a Turk, through war, love , friendship, hatred and a backdrop of the island of Crete with all its beauty, drama, joy and sadness. This book was unanimously praised by critics worldwide as the work of a master with characters that come to life and destined to live forever.

The Greek Passion by Nikos KazantzakisThe Greek Passion by Nikos Kazantzakis tells the story of a Greek village under Turkish rule and how the lives of the villagers are changed, some tragically, some to self-fulfillment by the roles they play in the annual drama of the Passion of Christ. The book is a work of high artistic order and like all of Kazantzakis novels contain important spiritual messages, as well as being plain old enjoyable and entertaining reading.

The Last Temptation by KazantzakisThe Last Temptation was Nikos Kazantzakis fiery masterpiece that nearly got him excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church. This magnificent novel tells the story of Christ, who as a man has all the weaknesses (and more) of ordinary men, tormented by a God who has big plans for him. We all know the tale, but in Kazantzakis book Jesus is offered one last temptation that will allow him to live a normal life, ...wife, children, house.... the full catastrophe (sorry). A Great book! Don't be afraid to read it no matter how you feel about Jesus. It may help you to know him better.

The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel by Nikos KazantzakisThe Odyssey: A Modern Sequel was perhaps Kazantzakis greatest work, an epic poem that took him twelve years to write, nearly 1000 pages long, that follows the exploits of Odysseus after he tires of his island Ithaki, following his return from Troy in the first Odyssey. This is one of the towering achievements in modern literature, an exploration of the meaning of freedom and the search of modern man for his soul and God.

The FratricidesThe Fratricides by Nikos Kazantzakis is the story of a Christ-like monk caught in the fratricidal struggle of the Greek Civil War. As in all of his books these characters come to life as they grapple with the same issues that face us all, mortality, faith, love, hate and duty among others. Enjoyable reading and very helpful in understanding the issues that faced ordinary people during a tragically extraordinary time.

Report to GrecoMatt's Pick!  Report To Greco is more than an autobiography of Nikos Kazantzakis. It is in a way an autobiography of ideas, work experiences, travels and friendships and above all the search for meaning in life, through religion, travel, philosophy, psychology and the process of artistic development that gave birth to a whole series of inspired masterpieces. Kazantzakis, it is said, asked God to grant him ten additional years to finish this book. He lived a full and interesting life and this is a brilliant book, as are the others.

Nikos Kazantzakis BiographyNikos Kazantzakis: A Biography Based on His Letters by Helen Kazantzakis is a profoundly moving book, the intimate record of the life, work, thoughts and loves of a major figure of modern literature. Who knew Kazantzakis better than his wife Helen, who weaves into her text hundreds of his letters from schooldays to his deathbed. A very personal look at a very brilliant and spiritual man.

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

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The Black Sea is the third collection of poems from Greek-American poet and Civitella Ranieri Fellowship awardee Stephanos Papadopoulos. His previous collections include Hôtel-Dieu and Lost Days.

The Black Sea explores the historic "great catastrophe" of the Pontic Greeks of Asia Minor in the 1920s through a series of "sonnet-monologues" or voices from the past. Priests, prostitutes, soldiers, and a bizarre cast of characters move through this poetic reimagining of a tragic chapter in Greece’s history.

"These are simply poems about people and suffering, an homage to a generation of exiles, all victims of the futility of war," says Papadopoulos.

Based on the author's own family history, as well a fictitious retelling of scenes from the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the poems in this book jump from the tragic to the humorously absurd, and focus on the very human folly of war, suffering and exile. Intrigued by the idea of an "inherited memory of war" and a series of old family photographs, the author set off on a motorcycle trip of the southern Black Sea, exploring the old Greek villages and monasteries of the Pontic Greeks and travelling across the same landscapes still inhabited by the ghosts of Strabo, Xenophon and Alexander the Great.

"Unobtrusively but decisively, Stephanos Papadopoulos' work is informed by various cultures: American, Greek, ancient and modern, French and English. He follows other poets, but mostly he follows his heart. In his poetry the melancholy of the modern finds its beauty in loss itself..."  Stanley Moss.

Dandelions for Dinner: Greece at War and a Family's Dreams of America by Sam P. Stamatis and Peter S. Stamatis

What happens to a family already on the brink of disaster when the world around them crumbles? Dandelions for Dinner presents a memoir set in the sleepy town of Gargaliani, Greece, spanning the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the Greek Civil War of the 1940s. Told through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy, it is an epic tale of youth, family, poverty, war, and unjust loss. It is also an uplifting story of how in the midst of calamity, survival is possible by using your head, taking your hits, and maintaining an undying faith. Though it is the tale of a family that is by all standards poor, Dandelions for Dinner demonstrates just how rich the poor can be when they have hope, faith, and love for one another—when they maintain the lessons of their parents and forefathers, nurture a love of education, and never let up on their hope for freedom. This memoir is, above all, a story about the importance of America—not only for those who live there, but also for all those who reside in the dark corners of faraway lands and dream of a better life. Over the course of their life together, any family will most assuredly experience both want and plenty, suffering and joy. Dandelions for Dinner is the surprising story of what remains when everything else is lost.
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Greece In Print is a literary journal published monthly, in English, by the Hellenic Literature Society, a non-profit organization in the state of New Jersey, USA administered entirely by volunteers.  The journal announces new publications of books of Greek literature, of books having Greek subject matter and of books by authors of Greek heritage publshed in Greece, the United Kingdom and in the United States. Each issue of "Greece in Print" includes twenty four book briefs of the latest publications, book reviews, litrary and cultural articles, travel literature about the sites of Greece, and literature about the foods and wines of Greece.
 
The journal is distributed free of charge to all public schools, universities, civic organizations, institutions and foundations. Subscriptions and advertisement revenue is used to finance Greek literary events in North America; to finance translations of Greek literary works; to endow libraries with books of Greek literature and culture; to assist authors of Greek heritage publish their manuscripts; to promote the publication and distribution of Greek literary works around the world; and to finance the publication of the journal.

There are two subscription types. An Electronic Subscription, where each issue can be downloaded from their server for US$8.00 per year, and a Hard Copy subscription where they send each issue via the post office for US$24.00 per year (within the USA) and US$42.00 per year to any other country. For more info contact Greece In Print

Life in the Tombs by Stratis MyrivilisMatt's Pick! Life in the Tombs by Stratis Myrivilis is a modern Greek literature masterpiece that has been translated into a dozen different languages, only recently into English. This is a realistic account of trench warfare on the Macedonian Front during the First World War written in journal form by a young intellectual who in the spirit of patriotism and idealism volunteers to serve on the side of Venizelos and the allies. This book was banned by the Metaxas regime and during the Nazi occupation.

Mermaid MadonnaMatt's Pick!  The Mermaid Madonna by Stratis Myrvilis is a modern Greek classic which portrays life in the small fishing village of Skala Sikaminias on the island of Lesvos, just across from Turkey during the period when the Greeks had to flee Asia Minor. The book gives an extraordinary picture of Greek island life, its beauty and tragedy. This is a great book that can be read more than once. Also recommended by Myrivilis is The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes and Vasilis Arvanitis which also take place on Lesvos.

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

A Crowded Heart by Nikos PapandreouMatt's Pick!  A Crowded Heart by Nikos Papandreou is the story of a Greek-American family uprooted from their home in the US to live in Greece in pursuit of a father's political ambition. Anyone who is paying attention will realize that the father is none other than Andreas Papandreou, Greece's former Prime Minister. I have put Nikos' first book on this page with some pretty respectable writers, but I really like it. It is informative in a very readable, illuminating and poetic way.

Meetings with Remarkable MenMeetings With Remarkable Men by GI Gurdjieff is the second book by the extraordinary mystic philosopher and teacher. The book describes Gurdjieff's journey in some of the most remote areas of the world looking for the answers to the fundamental questions of life like who are we and why are we here? The book consists of a series of stories about the men who were Gurdjieff's teachers in his most formative years. George Gurdjieff's father was a Greek and his mother Armenian. Meetings with Remarkable Men is considered a classic of spiritual literature.

Books about Greece Odyssey MagazineOdyssey Magazine is a wonderful source of info with interesting articles, photos, news, art, culture and more. I love this magazine and get very excited when it comes in the mail. If you are a Greek American it will be like your lifeline home and if you are a traveler you will learn more about Greece than you thought possible. Many articles on history, the diaspora, well known or up and coming Greek artists, musicians, writers, politicians, and their summer issue is as full of practical information as any of the guidebooks. Great color pictures and excellent graphics. Classy magazine.

You can order it at a special discounted rate at: www.greektravel.com/odysseyform

remember us by Jason MavrovitisRemember Us by Jason C. Mavrovitis begins in the late nineteenth century Balkans - a time of exploding nationalism. The Ottoman Empire is in its death throes, and in Macedonia, Greek and Bulgarian irregulars pursue guerrilla warfare and ethnic cleansing to achieve their territorial ambitions. The Balkan and First World Wars loom in the future. Eleni, born in Sozopolis, a small Greek city on the coast of the Black Sea, clutches her baby girl and sees her husband killed in a pogrom instigated by Bulgarian nationalists. In the mountains of Macedonia, Dimitraki, a boy whose life will intersect Eleni and her daughter's, fails in his attempt to assassinate a reviled Turkish governor. He eludes the hangman, but suffers the bastinado. Independently, they escape the Balkans' caldron of chaos, and cross the Atlantic to forge new lives, leaving homes and loved ones behind. But in America, separately and together, they face new trials, and must rely on their culture, heritage, and enduring family ties to overcome poverty, scandal, and tragedy.

Vikos Cavadias, Collected PoemsThe Collected Poems of Nikos Kavadias, Bilingual Edition
Modern Greeks dominate the world's merchant marine; ancient Greeks like Homer's Odysseus sailed the Mediterranean and beyond. But what do we know about shipboard life? Not much. Reading Kavadias fills this emptiness. He spent his adult life sailing world-wide and writing poems about monsoons, cats dying on shipboard, masts snapping in two, dream-girls or disgusting whores on shore, and fleas jumping off one's pubic hair. "In this fo'c'sle," he laments, "I ruined my calm self / and killed my tender childhood soul. / But I never gave up my obstinate dream, / and the sea, when it roars, tells me a lot." Scrupulously translated, these accessible poems will tell landlubbers a lot about life on the winedark sea.
-Peter Bien, Translator of Nikos Kazantzakis and Stratis Myrivilis

The Longest Night: Chronicles of a Dead City consists of 9 short stories by Petros Haris which take place in Athens during the German occupation of the Second World War. The book opens with the arrival of the German soldiers and ends with their departure. This book shows the ugliness and the folly of war from the viewpoint of the people oppressed by it. There are some very moving stories of the struggle of the people of Athens to regain their freedom.

MauthausenMatt's Pick!  Mauthausen by Iakovos Kambanellis is both a love story and the story of surviving the notorious Nazi death camp and the effort to make sense of this experience. The book is based on the notes Kambanellis took after he was liberated by the Americans in 1945. Like Primo Levi's writing about Auschwitz, Mauthausen is a literary masterpiece and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the aftermath of unimaginable horror. One of the best books in the Kedros: Modern Greek Writers series.

Reaching for the SkyReaching for the Sky by Matina Psychogeos is the story of a young Greek girl growing up during two terrible periods, the German occupation and the Greek Civil War and her life up to 9/11. It is the story of the strength the author gained from her experience and the courage it took for her family to immigrate to the USA. A book about the loss of innocence with a rich cast of characters and a deeper message that many will find inspiring.

Uncle Petros and Goldbachs ConjectureMatt's Pick!  Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis is probably the most fun, readable and exciting book you will ever read about mathematics. It is the story of Uncle Petro who though he seems like a failure is discovered to be a once celebrated mathematician who gives the boy a problem to solve, a problem that had been unsolved for three centuries. This reads like a detective novel. You can't put it down.

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

Antonis SamarakisThe Passport and Other Selected Short Stories : Antonis Samarakis (1919-2003) was modern Greece's most widely translated writer after Nikos Kazantzakis. He published four collections of short stories and two novels beginning in 1954. His novel, To Lathos (The Flaw) has been translated into over twenty languages. Graham Greene called this novel, “A real masterpiece. A story of the psychological struggle between two secret police agents and their suspect told with wit, imagination and quite outstanding technical skill.” Arthur Miller wrote that, “The Flaw is a powerful work. I only wish some people who profess democracy would read The Flaw and see what it is they actually support. We are living in a time when words and their substance are very unrelated-to the point of meaninglessness. And this is not only in the question of Greece.”

Samarakis's short stories were equally well received at home and abroad, and this collection brings together eight of his finest stories including “The Last Participation”, “Mama”, “The Knife”, and “The Passport” which he wrote during the period of the Dictatorship of 1967-75 when he was denied a passport to travel abroad.

Beyond the Broken StatuesBeyond the Broken Statues: Modern Greek Short Stories
The primary aim of this anthology is to present in English translation and chronologically arranged representative authors who illustrate the development of this genre in Greece from the beginning of the mid-1800s to 1950. Since literature is also the product of an individual country with its own political and cultural history, it is only natural that the short story in Greece possessed its own distinct characteristics. The stories chosen for this volume, therefore, bring to the reader a greater understanding both of the Greek temperament and of its special contribution to consciousness and literature.

Angelic & Black: Contemporary Greek Short StoriesAngelic & Black: Contemporary Greek Short Stories : The authors presented in this anthology are representative of contemporary Greek literature in some of its most fundamental and characteristic trends. Coming from all generations and age-groups and covering a wide range of stylistic experimentation and thematic concerns, they reveal the way in which Greek authors in the 21st century are seeking to find their path, while orienting and also adapting to the requirements of an age which more and more appears to regard the local as being inseparable from the universal and the national as being inevitably linked with the intercultural.

It goes without saying that the literary reality is far more expansive and far more varied than the anthology – as is the case with any literary reality in relation to any anthology. Nevertheless, no one would deny that the work of any anthropologist is precisely to locate and underline from a multiform, multifaceted and multi-level reality whatever best most clearly represents it. And this is certainly the case in the pages of this book.

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

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ZZ by Vasslis Vassilikos is based on the political assassination of celebrated Greek patriot, member of parliament and pacifist Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963 and the investigation by a courageous attorney who follows the trail to the highest level of the Greek police and government. This is a fascinating novel that was banned in Greece during the Junta. It was later made into a movie by Costa-Gavras that is still considered one of the best political thrillers ever made. The murder of Lambrakis was one of the most important events in the history of modern Greece.

Drifting Cities by Stratis Tsirkas is actually a trilogy of a poet named Manos and his life in three cities- Jerusalem, Cairo and Alexandria which are drifting towards chaos in the Second World War. Reminiscent of the Alexandria Quartet this 700 page novel won the French Critics Prize in 1971 for Best Foreign Novel which established Tsirkas as a novelist of international importance. Also recommended from the same Kedros series are Farewell Anatolia and The Courtyard.

Tales from a Greek Island by Alexandros Tales from a Greek Island by Alexandros Papadiamantis is set on the author's native island of Skiathos. These twelve stories capture the feeling of the island with observations of daily activities, loving descriptions of land and sea. Papadiamantis portrays the beauty and harshness of Greek island life with graphic realism.

The MurderessThe Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis is a classic of modern Greek literature. Set in an impoverished community in which many of the men have immigrated, it is the story of an old woman who comes to the realization that she and women like her have done nothing with their lives and sets out to deliver from servitude the little girls of the village. This is a powerful and disturbing novel by one of Greece's finest writers.

154 Poems by C.P. Cavafy154 Poems by C.P. Cavafy translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou is for me, the best translation of Cavafy's poems. Not that I would know a good translation from a bad one but in this book the English is side by side with the Greek. For those who don't know Cavafy he was perhaps the greatest of the modern Greek poets. He spent most of his life in Alexandria, Egypt and wrote about ancient Greek and Roman history, love, beauty, life, aging and death. If you have never read him this is a good way to begin.

George Seferis: The Collected PoemsMatt's Pick!  George Seferis: The Collected Poems, translated, edited and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard is probably the best bilingual collection of the great poet. Seferis was awarded the Nobel price for Literature in 1963 and is recognized worldwide as the leading contemporary Greek poet. His contribution to poetry is his ability to create universal metaphors that illuminate the deeper meaning of our times and a stylistic purity that allows no unnecessary embellishments. In other words he is the easiest of the Greek poets to read because he is down to earth. Having the Greek and English side by side is a good way to improve your vocabulary too.

On The Greek Style by George SeferisOn The Greek Style: Selected Essays In Poetry and Hellenism by George Seferis is the first collection of Seferis' essays to be published in English. Drawing upon his work of the last thirty years by translator Rex Warner the book is concerned with the spirit of Hellenism as it manifests itself in Greek painting, poetry, history, landscape and religion. Seferis said "If we want to understand the ancient Greeks it is always into the soul of our own people we should look."

The Iliad by HomerThe Iliad by Homer is considered the greatest literary achievement of the ancient Greeks, unrivaled in any language. From a single episode in the Tale of Troy the book begins with Achilles refusal to fight after being humiliated by Agemenon and then his return to kill the Trojan Hero Hector. There are a number of translations of this great book so you need to find the one that seems to suit you. While you are at it get Homer's follow-up best-seller too: The Odyssey the story of Odysseus and his journey home from Troy.

Lost Days Matt's Pick! Lost Days by Stephanos Papadopoulos. "This first collection is a breath of meltemi, (wind) blowing away the stuffiness of so much current poetry…It is easy to see him following in Seferis's footsteps but in the landscape of our own time…There is sometimes a nicely melancholy tone to Papadopoulos's work which puts him in the great tradition of poetic sorrows. But the elegance and flair in these poems makes the reader look forward to his next volume. Leviathan is wise to publish him."- Anne Born, Tears in the Fence

Odysseus ElytisWhat I Love: The Selected Poems of Odysseas Elytis. This is a bilingual collection translated by Olga Broumas of the second of Greece's Nobel Prize-winning poets. Elytis' poetry is immersed in Greek history and Mythology. He is among the most musical of the modern Greek poets, with many of his poems set to music by Greece's most famous composers. His poems are an inspiring collection of bright Aegean images and belief in the triumph of the human spirit.

Angelos Sikelianos: Selected PoemsAngelos Sikelianos: Selected Poems. Sikelianos is regarded as the most important of the modern Greek poets, somewhere between Cavafy and Seferis. This collection translated and introduced by the team of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard are the works from the full range of his career. For Sikelianos everything in the natural and visible world when rightly perceived is an expression of an invisible and supernatural order of reality.

Osysseus ElytisSelected Poems of Odysseus Elytis is a collection chosen, translated and introduced by the team of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard who have done more for exposing the world to modern Greek literature than the modern Greeks themselves. Selected poems traces Elytis's work from the early surrealism through his spiritual autobiography and meditation on modern Greece to his most recent work.

Rubaiyat Rubaiyat by Melissinos. The poet-sandalmaker of Athens most well known work is an ode to life and death, wine, women and song. Deriving his inspiration from the philosophy of Omar Khayyam, Melissinos has created a memorable work which is translated from Greek  into English, French, German, Italian and Spanish all within this one volume.

The grape's sweet blood is life-giving
When it's inside you, you become forgiving
I have the greatest time in the wine's embrace
Because then I adore the whole human race

You can order it by e-mail at pantmel@otenet.gr

The Republic of PlatoThe Republic of Plato is a supreme philosophical masterpiece in dialogue form by the most famous of Socrates' students. Composed during the 4th Century BC, this book has had an incalculable influence on every generation of writers and philosophers in the western world. It has been said that all philosophy is just a footnote to Plato. The book which has been translated into just about every language known to man is a recounting of the wisdom of Socrates by Plato. If you have an interest in philosophy this is a good place to begin. It is also a good place to end.

 See Foreign Authors

You can find most of these books by using the Amazon.com search box on the left, which I have placed conveniently all over the site. Just copy and paste the title into the search window and Amazon will find it for you.

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