CULTURE

Tempting reading for Easter

Feast follows fast as leisure follows labor, the latter process all too rare for hard-driven workers. So the Easter break, even in its most truncated form, is always a welcome opportunity to replenish mental and physical batteries. For book lovers it’s a chance to dip into old favorites or sample something new. Here are some recent releases to tempt young and old. For children: Eugene Trivizas, winner of the 2003 Children’s Literature Award for «The Baron’s Tortoises,» shares the fruit of his inexhaustible imagination with young readers in «The 33 Pink Rubies» (ill. Rania Varvaki, pub. Kalendis), the second in a series of interactive books that began with his wildly popular «88 Dolmadakia.» The story begins with a poor but courageous knight and his trusty steed, an alabaster castle, hundreds of canaries, and a beautiful princess in a high tower. Classic fairy-tale material, but readers can actively participate, choosing from alternative versions, which they find by solving puzzles based on words and letters. There are even special activities for those who declare they are fed up with the story. Mark Weinstein is back with another of his engaging books for children, available in separate Greek and English versions from Ellinika Grammata. In «20 Rules to Help You Do Well in School and Not Drive Your Teachers Crazy,» the author and illustrator makes the subject of rules for children amusing. With all the artless charm of young children, the animals that populate his classroom gently deliver helpful messages. Champion food: When not tempted by suspect supplements, today’s athletes follow strict dietary regimes. If you’ve ever wondered what contenders in antiquity ate so as to improve their performance, diet and nutrition expert Lena Terkesidou has the answer in «The Golden Diet of the Ancient Olympic Champions,» (pub. Kastaniotis). A boxer might have five meals a day, the author’s research shows, including herbal tea, milk, fruit, olives, bread, honey, pulses, salad, meat or fish, wine and nuts. Though the classic components of the Mediterranean diet are covered, this is far more than a list of ingredients. Going from the Minoan-Mycenean era to the classical period in Athens and Sparta, Terkesidou draws on ancient sources to illustrate everyday life and customs, explain the role of herbal medicine, and recount the history of the Olympic Games. Performing arts: Exceptional photographs of great moments in the Greek performing arts illustrate «Dance and Theater: From Duncan to the New Dance Companies,» published by Efessos for Athens University Theater Studies Department. As its title suggests, the book is a record of dance and theater in Greece and Cyprus in the 20th century. Edited by Eleni Fessa-Emmanouil, the book is a collective effort, based on research by 80 of the school’s students. From the Delphic Festivals organized by Angelos Sikelianos and Eva Palmer-Sikelianou in 1927 and 1930 to the experimental groups of the 1990s, it covers 61 Greek dancers and choreographers and 40 dance troupes. Meticulously documented, this is a work of record that also captures the energy and excitement generated when these two art forms, inextricably intertwined in antiquity, meet again on the modern stage. Local history: Founded in 1904 by Dr John Henry House, a Protestant missionary, the American Farm School has been part of Greek history – with its wars and unrest, change and growth – for 100 years. Historian and academic Brenda Marder, who has lived in Greece on and off for 40 years, does justice to that history in her chronicle, «Stewards of the Land: The American Farm School and Greece in the Twentieth Century» (pub. Mercer University Press, and in Greece by Metaixmio, translated by Ioannis D. Stefanidis and Evangelos Bairaktaris). Intriguing period photographs help trace the journey toward modernity. Memoirs: Edmund Keeley, an illustrious former pupil of the American Farm School, writes about growing up in «Borderlines» (published in Greek as «Akrovatontas sta oria» by Oceanida, translated by Ilaeira Dionysopoulou). A critic, novelist, and academic, Keeley is probably best loved for his translations with Philip Sherrard that made modern Greek poetry widely accessible to English speakers. As he explained at the launching, this is the first of his books where he openly, «shamelessly,» appears in the first person. Keeley spent three years in Greece as a boy when his father was American consul in Thessaloniki. That was the beginning of a love affair with the country that has lasted to the present day, and much of this book is a passionate though humorous account of those early years, the wrench of separation and his attempts to adjust to American life when his father was posted home, the search for identity, and his return to Greece after the war. Essay: Last of all, a real mind-stretcher. Costis Papagiorgis, translator and essayist, is an astute observer of life and literature. His latest book, «The Laughing Animals» (Kastaniotis), traces the history and philosophy of laughter from the animal world, Aristophanes and Oedipus, through irony and humor, to laughter in the modern Greek writers Papadiamantis and Vizyinos. Exceptionally well read and with a highly individual take on the world, Papagiorgis is always thought-provoking.