Spanish Hellenist in Arcadia

«If I don’t believe it, I don’t see it,» says Pedro Olalla as an explanation of the way he pursues his visions. A massive volume with the enigmatic title «Arcadia Feliz» (Road Publications) and subtitle «The Allure of a Myth in the Culture of the West,» is the result of a search for an idea in the valleys and gorges of Arcadia. It is the spiritual journey of a man who has lived in Greece for the past 10 years, trying to tune in to the echo of myths and history and highlight the main component of today’s common consciousness. «Arcadia Feliz» by Pedro Olalla Gonzalez de la Vega is not purely of local interest but a «journey into Western Civilization.» It tells modern Greeks of the charm the name of Arcadia exerts in the West as a place of «innocence, substance, moderation and harmony.» Through text, photographs and journeys (both geographical and mental) it relates the way the Arcadian myth has spread through history. The Latins used to say «Et in Arcadia ego,» and Olalla stood on the heights of Arcadia and wondered how far he could take his discovery of the ancient landscape unfolding before his eyes. «It was a place in which I had already traveled several times in books,» he says. For Western man, Greece is «always on the horizon, in his earliest reading, in his entire field of knowledge… that is what happened in my case,» explained Olalla. «The first few times I came to Greece I set in motion a peculiar mixture of reading, recollection and exoticism that I have never been able to rid myself of,» he added. «Initially it was a feeling that developed into an emotion. It is from that emotion that I try to elicit the stimuli for everything I do in Greece.» Olalla became known to the Greek reading public with his book «The Mythological Atlas of Greece» (translated into several languages), a complete identification of mythological references and geographical sites with photographs, text and references. «It was the distillation of years of deep, internal contact with Greek culture, a relationship born outside Greece in Olalla’s hometown of Oviedo, Spain. «In Greece, I am journeying into my own self. It isn’t something foreign to me. I don’t encounter anything exotic. I am returning to a familiar place, a seductive place. Greece is a part of my own education, a part of my own experience.» In his latest book, Olalla examines a spiritual quest in the West that has been linked with the Arcadian landscape and which has come down to us through the centuries in the names of hotels, products, univerisities and businesses. The very name «Arcadia» connotes peace, calm, and renewal. It is one of the strongest symbols of tangible felicity. «It is not easy to determine the origins of the connotation,» explained Olalla, «but beginning with the Latin poet Virgil, it acquired the name Arcadia for all time. Beyond the historical and contemporary geographical region, Arcadia as a name has prevailed within our civilization as a contemplation of peace, innocence, harmony, nature, the joy of life, freedom in love, sensitivity, simplicity, moderation and a return to the essence. Arcadia is the portrait of a place from which man does not feel uprooted.» In contrast to utopia, Arcadia does not have a «political platform.» «Arcadia is not a revolution, it is a conviction,» he continues. According to Olalla, Arcadia has undergone endless transformations – an allegory for the world of the palace, a refuge from religious persecution, an apocryphal symbol for philosophers, writers and alchemists. “Later, in a world tired of the excesses of the Baroque, Arcadia once more claimed the harmony of Classicism. In an enlightened age where man is seeking to redetermine society, Arcadia once again refers to the innate goodness of people,» he said. It is a counterweight to the development and consumerism of the industrial revolution, a universal idea of recreation and rest. «The idea of Arcadia is even known in Japan,» explained Olalla. «It was represented at a recent exhibition on the idea of happiness.» Olalla’s book «Arcadia Feliz» will be released in English and Spanish as the only exhaustive book of its kind on the subject. «I wanted to emphasize the mental Arcadia above the tangible, to answer the question of what Arcadia means to the world.»

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.