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Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens Paperback – 1 Nov 2004
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"In 2001, Sofka Zinovieff accompanied her husband on a posting back to Athens. This book is both an account of her enthusiastic, if often balked, attempts to transform herself into a Greek, and a vivid evocation of a city in a chaotic ferment of change. In its lively and often trenchant blend of personal recollection and a depiction of an Athens of rowdy tavernas, resourceful refugees, majestic prostitutes, innumerable theater companies, ferocious demonstrations, and age-old customs affectionately preserved, this is a thoroughly engaging memoir."
About the Author
Sofka Zinovieff trained as an anthropologist and has worked as a journalist. She lives in Athens. This is her first book.
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Sofka Zinovieff's text is part translucent biography, part penetrating travelogue; it weaves an amazingly detailed portrait of a Greece in transition and covers most squares on the human chequerboard from etiquette and folklore to politics and economics. She has a slight advantage having studied anthropology at Cambridge and gains some stereoscopic vision from having done a year's fieldwork in the mid-eighties for her Ph.D in Nafplio, now a modest tourist resort although briefly the capital of Greece after independence in 1834. Her book is effectively a fount of mythological associations and historical facts, yet full of food description and accounts of age-old custom, made all the easier to assimilate for having been sown into such an interesting real-life story.
It does not fall short on humour and generally makes for such a pleasant read that it can be disappointing to reach the end so quickly ! But before you do, you should have learnt amongst other things about "katharevousa" (or purist Greek v. demotic modern Greeek), "filoxenia" (Greek hosptiality to strangers unless "allodapos" - aliens), "filotimo" (sense of honour and pride), "kamakia" (local competition between males to score with female tourists), "fakelaki" & "rousfeti" (envelopes under the table and favours), "rembetika" (Greek Blues music), "Ochi Day" (28th of October , celebrating 'saying No' and the rout of Italians in 1940) and the Greek Revolutionary Organisation '17 November' (founded after the fall of the military junta in 1974).
All of the above is but a small fraction taken at random of the information woven in so cleverly - almost guilelessly! - into her imaginative tapestry based on real experience. It is literally awe-inspiring that such an outwardly modest book contains such a wealth of knowledge.
It is interesting however to see how much has already changed in the 10 years since it was first published and since the still ongoing 'crisis'.
I recommend this book so highly to anyone planning to travel to Greece to understand the Greek culture and mentality.
It is written with style, with humour and with passion and is one of the best books I have read in years.
The story is also very interesting, I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next, being true makes it even better. It helps that Sofka is a naturally brilliant writer, her descriptions of Athens and Greece will make you feel like you are there with her. I can't wait to read some of her fiction, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this little gem of a book :)
If you're interested in Greece/Athens and its everyday culture and people, this is the book for you.
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