CULTURE

Anglo-Greek literary world in a nutshell

It would be hard to imagine a more condensed (30 pages) and lucid coverage of Greek letters than The Anglo-Hellenic Review’s 27th issue (spring 2003). And if it were actually made available in more public spots in Athens, it might find a considerable and appreciative audience here. It vividly maintains the Greek-British cultural dialogue through a combination of brief essays and profiles, excerpts from public talks, news about the Anglo-Hellenic League (its publisher), and book reviews. This issue opens with a Roderick Beaton essay, «The Gift of Seferis» – actually a talk on what will become a published biography of the poet-diplomat in the fall – looking at the thematic development of his poetry. Part II, on his life, will be in the next issue. Up next is a retrospective of director Jules Dassin’s life and film oeuvre, the drama of his exile from America (and later, temporarily, from Greece) which served as a backdrop to his most prominent work, situated between the two heist films («Rififi» and «Topkapi»). The piece is based on an October 2002 public interview in London. Politics dominates the middle section, with the second of a two-part talk (it’s better to be a subscriber) by David Brewer, author of «The Flame of Freedom,» on Britain’s role during the Greek War of Independence. It looks at the dicey issue of the combatants’ actions in the conflict (the often overlooked jus in bello, or «justice in war» principle), with neither side emerging as lily-white but Turkish behavior particularly repugnant. The war theme continues, a century on, with «Fragments from a Propaganda War,» by Geoffrey Chandler, full of period detail and confident enough to admit it is far from complete. It even shows leaflets aimed to prevent reprisals against the Cretans after the capture of German General Kreipe (masterminded partly by Patrick Leigh Fermor). The 21 book reviews range across the centuries. They are generally supportive (although one reviewer gently but firmly dismantles a book on the late Ottoman Empire), and the criticism perceptive. Along with several classical texts, such works as «Byron, Life and Legend» by Fiona MacCarthy and «Greece, the Modern Sequel » by John Koliopoulos and Thanos Veremis (both reviewed by Michael Llewelyn-Smith). C.M. Woodhouse’s «The Struggle for Greece 1941-1949» (out in new paperback), books on Orthodoxy, and «The Spartans,» a book/TV series by Paul Cartledge are also covered. There is some fiction too, including Christopher Harris’s «Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch» and Panos Karnezis’s «Little Infamies.» Modern Greece appears briefly, with a gripping piece on the Mediterranean Garden Society and «Athenaios,» a witty column on current happenings. If scholarship on Greece is alive and well, this is less true of an unusual generation of philhellenes, some of whom populate the obituaries column. Another figure, Austin Kark, died last year in one of Britain’s recent train crashes. His humorous book «Attic in Greece» is also reviewed, illustrating a happy period in a sadly shortened life.