OPINION

Greece’s metaphysical charm

The other day, I found an article I had written 14 years ago while living in the USA and, as most Greeks who live abroad, was grappling with the idea of moving back home. «Even after 15 years, it’s still hard to get over the post-Greek holiday blues,» I wrote. «All of us who live abroad can describe the strange sensations we get from a visit to Greece in summer. Friends warn: ‘For goodness sake, don’t come back. Greece isn’t what you see in the summer!’ Yet for all its problems, Greece radiates a metaphysical charm… It is more a combination of experiences awakened by a song or an island sunset… The schizophrenic existence that Greeks take abroad with them is based on a nostalgia for things they know very well they won’t find upon returning… Like Proust’s madeleine moment, there are some things that bring memories flooding back… Of those who have returned, some praise the country, such as the Greek fundamentalists, and others try to ward you off with horror stories… We get annoyed by the lack of professionalism, the cynicism, the ‘Helleno-centrism’ and the conspiracy theories that do away with any element of logic, even among cosmopolitan Greeks. I live in a country where Americans believe what you tell them, don’t look for sinister forces and don’t have opinions on subjects about which they know nothing. I also live in another country where 10 million people question even the most obvious facts, find conspiracies where none exist, and know everything…» Five years after I wrote the above, I returned to Greece. I don’t know if I have become a Greek fundamentalist and hope I am not an arrogant Greek that faces the rest of the world with inexplicable narcissism but I am much surer that this country has its own metaphysical charm, even if we don’t understand it or respect it.