Pondering the Greeks’ way of life

A taste of life in Athens, as seen from a different perspective, is the subject of «Eurydice Street,» a book by Sofka Zinovieff, to be published in English by Granta books in the spring, and which is based on the author’s experiences in Greece (the book will be translated into Greek by Dioptra, to be ready for circulation in the fall). An Englishwoman, who lived in Greece for a few years as a student in the 1980s, goes back years later, with her Greek husband and their two daughters. The book describes the first year of her life in the new city, which is madly preparing for the Olympic Games and her attempts to become part of a culture that has always fascinated her. The book touches on all the idiosyncrasies of Greek life that may strike someone new to the country: from the different pace of life (where everything happens later, from meal times to evening entertainment) to the endless bureaucracy of the civil service and the little tricks of socializing in Greece: The writer is slightly baffled by the Greeks’ insistence on paying for their friends when dining out at a restaurant, for instance, or by the fact that people always turn up late for invitations and that showing up on time might sometimes be perceived as odd. Zinovieff also gives her impressions of Athens: She is taken by a city that combines old and new, is in constant flux and consists of areas so different from one another. In her quest to become Greek, she encounters and is fascinated by the way Greeks themselves perceive their identity, in an effort to combine past and present which, for her, explains many of the Greeks’ traits. Zinovieff’s book provides humorous insights into the Greek way of life, though from a Greek point of view, some of the customs she describes, such as the giving of presents on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas, are not that rigid, especially among young people. It is an exciting overview of life in Athens during the hectic period leading up to the Olympic Games, with all the pre-event frenzy.

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