Saturday, August 22, 2009

Poets Corner

The donkey waiting under a load of jars
Under the prickly-pear and the white walls
Of this necropolis brays without an echo
To stir the rare blue waterfalls of shade.
There is nothing here, nothing at all.
Only, perhaps a question or a mood
A reference or a suggestion,
Rocks and the sun, and pastures for dolphins
Scattered with other islands, old and bare
As jutting bones, recent as thunderbolts.

Unfathomable wells
Tunnel the heart of the pumice. Like a hand
The fig leaf lays a shadow on the dust.

These islands are at the end of a hundred worlds.

From Greek Archipelagoes, Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1949

Friday, August 21, 2009

The book that started it all !

Bibliography : Greece Travel Writing in English

This bibliography is intended as a resource for collectors of 'travel literature', which I take to mean books which have been written to relate personal experience of travel or residence. In other words, they are at least in part biographical, which sets them apart from the much larger 'guide book' genre. The list is not exhaustive, excluding for example material published before 1882. Publication dates are given for the first English language edition.

Where the title is given in capitals, I have linked to an image of the book cover.

Please feel free to make suggestions and help me populate the list by posting comments to this blog.

I have attempted to implement a crude rating system.

Books which I would personally recommend without reservation are marked (Rec)

Books marked (???) are included to let you know they exist. I know too little, if anything, about the book or author to recommend them in any way.

For everything else you may assume that either I own a copy, have read positive reviews, have examined the book in detail or am confident in the quality of the author. These books have something to recommend them, depending on your particular interests.

Richard Ridley Farrer A Tour in Greece - 1880 (1882) Greece general ???

J. Theodore Bent The Cyclades or Life among the Insular Greeks (1885, reprinted 2002) Rec

Charles Edwardes Letters from Crete: Letters Written During the Spring of 1886 (1887) ???

Isabel J. Armstrong Two Roving Englishwomen in Greece (1893) ???

Samuel J. Burrows The Isles and Shrines of Greece (1898) Greece general ???

George Horton In Argolis (1902) Greece general ???

Philip Sanford Marden Greece and the Aegean Islands (1907) Greece general ???

Ellen Sophia Bosanquet Days in Attica (1914) ???

Manatt J Irving Aegean Days (1914) ???

Anthony Dell Isles of Greece (1926) ???

W Macheile Dixon Hellas Revisited (1929) Greece general ???

Harry Alverson Franck I Discover Greece - Wherein an Incurable Nomad Sets Forth What Befell Him and an Artist Friend During a Labarynthine Summer Journey Through Modern Hellas. (1929) Greece general ???

George Horton Home of Nymphs and Vampires: the Isles of Greece (1929) ???

V C Scott O'Connor Isles of the Aegean (1929) ???

Frederick Spencer Burnell Wanderings in Greece (1931) Greece general ???

Compton Mackenzie Athenian Memories (1931) first world war, military intelligence ???

Compton Mackenzie Greek Memories (1932) first world war, military intelligence ???

Ernest Gardner Greece and the Aegean (1933) mainland, islands, Constantinople ???

Eric Wharton Wine Dark Seas (1937) islands ???

Bert Birtles Exiles in the Aegean: a Personal Narrative of Greek Politics and Travel (1938) Greece general ???

Ralph Brewster Island of Zeus: Wanderings in Crete (1939) ???

Eric Gifford East of Athens (1939) mainland, islands, Cyprus, Cairo, Palestine

Sidney Hopper Greek Earth (1939) mainland

Dorothy Ratcliffe News of Persephone: Impressions in Northern and Southern Greece with a car, a kettle and cameras (1939) reissued 1941 as 'Grecian Glory' ???

Compton Mackenzie Aegean Memories (1940) first world war, military intelligence ???

Henry Miller The Colossus of Maroussi (1941) Greece general Rec

Dilys Powell Remember Greece (1941) Greece general

Peter Gray People of Poros (1942) ???

Dilys Powell The Traveller's Journey is Done (1943) Humfry Payne; archaeologist, Perachora, mainland

Richard Capell Simiomata: a Greek Notebook 1944-1945 (1945) end of war and aftermath

Lawrence Durrell Prospero's Cell (1945) Corfu

W.E. Benyon-Tinker Dust Upon the Sea (1947) World War II, Aegean, Levant Schooner Flotilla Rec

John Lodwick The Filibusters: the Story of the Special Boat Service (1947) World War II, including much on Aegean operations Rec

Willie Snow Ethridge It's Greek to Me (1948) Greece and Balkans, Diplomacy ???

Osbert Lancaster Classical Landscape With Figures (1949) Greece general

Christopher Kininmonth The Children of Thetis: A Study of Islands and Islanders in the Aegean (1949)

W. Stanley Moss Ill Met by Moonlight (1950) World War II, Crete

Rex Warner Views of Attica and its Surroundings (1950)

Lilian Brown Cleopatra Slept Here (1951) Samos

Walter Thomas Dare to be Free (1951) Crete, Mount Athos, world war 2 escapism ???

Lawrence Durrell Reflections on a Marine Venus: a Companion to the Landscape of Rhodes (1953) Rec

Xan Fielding The Stronghold: an account of the four seasons in the White Mountains of Crete (1953)

A.M. Rendell Appointment in Crete: the story of a British Agent (1953) World War II

Goran Schildt In the Wake of Odysseus (1953) Italy, Greece and Greek Islands yachting Rec

Xan Fielding Hide and Seek: the Story of a War-Time Agent (1954) World War II, Crete Rec

Robert Liddell Aegean Greece (1954)

Barbara Whelpton A Window on Greece (1954) Greece general ???

George Psychoundakis The Cretan Runner: His Story of the German Occupation (1955)

Harold Freed Alderfer I like Greece (1956) ???

Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals (1956) Corfu

John Kinross (Lord) Portrait of Greece (1956) mainland, Crete, islands ???

Anne Anthony Greek holiday (1957) Greece general

Lawrence Durrell Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (1957)

Monica Krippner BEYOND ATHENS, Journeys through Greece (1957) mainland and islands

Clarence Lee ATHENIAN ADVENTURE - with Alarums and Excursions (1957) ???

Dilys Powell AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART (1957) Perachora, mainland

Patrick Anderson FIRST STEPS IN GREECE (1958) mainland, islands

Charmian Clift Mermaid Singing (1958) Kalymnos Rec

Patrick Leigh Fermor Mani (1958) southern mainland Rec

Robert Liddell The Morea (1958) Peloponnese

John Lincoln (nom de plume for Maurice Cardiff) ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE: an Eastern Aegean Exploit (1958) World War II, Lesbos and Samos Rec

Kevin Andrews The Flight of Ikaros (1959) mainland : civil war period

Charmian Clift PEEL ME A LOTUS (1959) Hydra Rec

Goran Schildt The Sea of Icarus (1959) Venice, Dalmatia, Greece and Greek Islands Yachting

Helen Miller Greek Horizons (1961) mainland and islands ???

Eric and Barbara Whelpton Greece and the Islands (1961) ???

Christopher Rand Grecian Calendar (1962) Greece general

Patrick Anderson DOLPHIN DAYS: a literary companion to Mediterranean pleasures (1963) mainland, Ionian islands

Stephen Toulmin Night Sky at Rhodes (1963) Islands and Turkey

Leslie Finer Passport to Greece: an Informal Guide to Enjoying the Country (1964) ???

Michael Carroll Gates of the Wind (1965) Sporades

Brenda Chamberlain A Rope of Vines (1965) Hydra

Robert Liddell Mainland Greece (1965) north of Corinth

Robert Payne The Isles of Greece (1965)

Michael Smith The Great Island: a Study of Crete (1965)

Lucile and George Brockway GREECE, A CLASSICAL TOUR WITH EXTRAS (1966) mainland, islands

Patrick Leigh Fermor.Roumeli (1966) northern mainland Rec

Ethel Beer Marvellous Greece: an Appreciation of the Country and its People (1967) ???

Peter Bull It Isn't All Greek to Me (1967) Paxos

Elias Kulukundis Journey to a Greek Island (1967) Kassos

Frederick Will From a Year in Greece (1967) mainland, islands, Turkey ???

Carola Matthews The Mad Pomegranate Tree: an Image of Modern Greece (1968) Greece general Rec

Colin Simpson Greece: the Unclouded Eye (1968) Greece general Rec

Robin Bryans Crete (1969) ???

Gerald Durrell BIRDS, BEASTS AND RELATIVES (1969) Corfu

Lawrence Durrell (Alan G. Thomas ed.) Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel (1969) includes Greece and Cyprus

Joseph Braddock Sappho's Island: a Paean for Lesbos (1970) ???

Herbert Kubly Gods and Heroes (1970) Greece general

William Travis Bus Stop Symi (1970)

Anne Anthony Greece: Hut and Highrise (1971) Greece general ???

Ian Brook (nom de plume for Ian Brinkworth) A Sea Blue Boat and a Sun God's Island (1971) Rhodes

Carola Matthews At the Top of the Muletrack (1971) Amorgos

Jack Causton Skiathos: the Shaded Isle (1972) island guide with contributions from local expatriates ???

Henry Miller First Impressions of Greece (1973)

John Pierson Island in Greece (1973) Syros ???

Dilys Powell The Villa Ariadne (1973) Crete Rec

Theodore Stephanides Island Trails (1973) Islands general, mainly Corfu

Brian Dicks RHODES (1974)

David MacNeil Doren Winds of Crete (1974)

Glyn Hughes Fair Prospects: Journeys in Greece (1976) ???

Brian Dicks Corfu (1977)

Jackson Webb The Last Lemon Grove (1977) Crete

Gerald Durrell The Garden of the Gods (1978) Corfu

Lawrence Durrell The Greek Islands (1978) Rec

Arthur Foss Epirus (1978) northern Greece ???

Gwendolyn Macewen Mermaids and Icons: a Greek Summer (1978) mainland, islands

John Ebdon Ebdon's Odyssey (1979) Andros, Cos

George Moussa Paros the White Island: a Comprehensive Guide to Paros and Antiparos (1980) ???

Peter Levi The Hill of Kronos (1981) Greece general

Brian Dicks Portrait of Southern Greece (1982)

George Galt Trailing Pythagoras (1982) Reissued 1988 as 'A journey through the Aegean islands'

John Ebdon EBDON'S ILIAD (1983) Rhodes, Kos and Karpathos

Peter Greenhalgh and Edward Eliopoulos Deep into Mani: Journey to the Southern Tip of Greece (1985)

Brian Dicks THE GREEK ISLANDS (1986)

Murray Elliott Vasili - Lion of Crete (1987) Special Operations Executive, Crete, world war 2

Nicholas Gage HELLAS: a Portrait of Greece (1987)

Arthur Eperon Eperon's Guide to the Greek Islands (1988) a good tourist guidebook of the '80s' with enough anecdotal material and reflection to set it apart

Oliver Burch Under Mount Ida: a Journey into Crete (1989) ???

ohn Ebdon Near Myths (1989) Crete, Symi, Rhodes

Willard Manus This Way to Paradise: Dancing on the Tables (1989) Lindos, Rhodes Rec

Mimi Summerskill Aegean Summer: a Family Odyssey (1990) sailing in 1965

Nancy Raeburn Mykonos: a Memoir (1992) ???

Christopher Thorne Between the Seas (1992) Crete ???

Sara Wheeler AN ISLAND APART: Travels in Evia (1992) reissued 2007 as 'Evia: Travels on an Undiscovered Greek Island'

Michael Woodbine Parish.AEGEAN ADVENTURES 1940-43 and the end of Churchill's Dream (1993) Aegean : World War II memoirs

Lawrence Davey Going After Feta (1994) ???

John Gill The Stars Over Paxos (1995) ???

Tim Salmon The Unwritten Places (1995) Pindos mountains, northern Greece

Adrian Seligman War in the Islands: Undercover Operations in the Aegean 1942-4 (1996) Rec

Patricia Storace DINNER WITH PERSEPHONE (1996) Greece general

Geoffrey Kirk Towards the Aegean Sea: a Wartime Memoir (1997) World War II, Levant Schooner Flotilla Rec

Katherine Kizilos The Olive Grove: Travels in Greece (1997)

Ernle Bradford (Francis Pagan ed.) The Companion Guide to the Greek Islands (1998) Revised edition of classic islands guide

Fionnula Brennan On a Greek Island: a Personal Experience (1998) Paros ???

Edmund Keeley Inventing Paradise: The Greek Journey 1937-47 (1999) literary criticism

Larry Habegger Travellers' Tales: Greece - True Stories (2000) quality holiday reading

Anthony Cox Still Life in Crete (2001) ???

David Roessel In Byron's Shadow: modern Greece in the English and American Imagination (2002) Greece in western literature 1770 - 1939

Tom Stone The Summer of my Greek Taverna (2002) Patmos

Byron Ayanoglu Crete on a Half Shell: a Story About an Island, Good Friends and Food (2003) ???

Edward Enfield Greece on my Wheels (2003) ???

Patrick Leigh Fermor (Artemis Cooper ed.) Words of Mercury (2003) collection of pieces from books, journalism and letters, including Greece Rec

George Hellyer In Calypso's Thrall: an American's Decade in a greek Village (2004) Corfu ???

John Mole Its all Greek to Me! (2004) Evia

Barry Unsworth Crete (2004)

John Waller Greek Walls: an Odyssey in Corfu (2004)

Sofka Zinovieff EURYDICE STREET - a Place in Athens (2004)

Roger Jinkinson Tales form a Greek Island (2005) Karpathos

Rory Maclean FALLING FOR ICARUS: a Journey Among the Cretans (2005)

Lina Anritz DREAM SEEKING: on Nisyros a Small Greek Island (2006)

Christopher Somerville The Golden Step: a Walk Through the Heart of Crete (2008)

Ursula Haselden Orchids for Aphrodite: Aegean Odyssey (2009) sailing, Greece and Turkey


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Greek Islands: Travel Writing in a Nutshell

All too often these days, travelers to the islands will become the authors of nothing better than their own, sometimes considerable, misfortune.

It is particularly and shamefully a British phenomenon. Absorb the headlines and consider if you will the Kavos scooter army, or the never-ending cycle of crime and punishment between booze sodden Faliraki Brits and the Rhodian judiciary.

Officiates of the Darwin Awards should monitor the activities of these insular tribes more closely as the Fates are less tempted here than bated. Cynically, the object of the modern package odyssey almost seems to be a return flight in the hold of the aircraft, or at the very least an involuntary extension to the holiday, involving a prompt transfer to a Greek hospital or jail.

This can all too easily seem one sided but It takes two to tango, and the manner in which some Greeks have embraced, developed and exploited their relationship with package tourism has produced unfortunate results, allowing ad hoc vulgarity to triumph over order and ugliness to creep in where once there was beauty.

It is almost the lot of the seasoned travel writer to be chagrined at the demise of the Aegean arcadia of their youth, untarnished, azure and whitewashed as it remains still in the minds eye, but they too must concede that the unfettered epicurism of their own lotus eating days could only serve to prod island tourism in its current direction.

The identity of many island populations, and with it their cultural cohesion and 'character' as perceived by outsiders was changing dramatically as early as the late 1950's. The arrival of tourism and the nascent expatriate communities were significant agents for this change, within the wider context of economic, social and political development and the 20th Century Greek diaspora.

For example, the travel writing of the 60's and 70's is replete with cliched accounts of freeloading beatnicks and hippies shamelessly exploiting the Greek tradition of hospitality, while their Orthodox hosts are forced to observe their sexual shenanigans, on marijuana misted beaches, with varying degrees of perplexity and disdain.

Correspondingly, with the growth of the hospitality infrastructure and the first resorts, there are literary accounts, mainly naive in my own view, of how easily these 'poor' island communities were tempted to sacrifice the genius loci in order to meet the perceived requirements of a more numerous and financially lucrative, but less cultured, appreciative and therefore deserving clientele. It is far easier to hold the opinion that the best things in life are free if you are an independent educated traveler, from a privileged background, with the financial means to return to it as you please. The Greeks are, after all, a business minded people.

As a corpus, English language accounts of travel to Greece abound, and the genre attracted many highly acclaimed travel writers of the past century.

The topographical accounts of 19th century travelers and antiquarians are not as stylistically inaccessible as might be presumed. They often provide much fascinating detail but are now hard to find.

By far the most prolific generation of writers on Greece were published between the late 1930's and mid 1970's. Literati such as Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller and Dilys Powell are synonymous with the genre and it is not unjustified to regard this period as the 'golden age' of Greek travel writing.

In many ways, the evocative power of these books, relating as they do to a largely 'unadulterated' Greece in the nostalgic sense, sets the modern reader up for inevitable failure and disappointment, by generating an archetypal ideal, an impossible yardstick by which the travelers' Greece of today, physically and experientially, is too often measured. The pervading theme is the unique bond many of these writers felt with the Greek people and their cause, born of the exigencies of military, civil or diplomatic service in Greece during and in the aftermath of the Second World War. These writers cut their literary teeth in troubled times and are able to engage with their subject matter on a level rarely achieved before or since.

The postwar generation of travelers and writers encountered a rapidly changing Greece in an age of new possibilities. They brought with them new values and expectations, and the place of Greece in the western imagination, as a mystical, semi-eastern reliquary for the classical and Byzantine past, was changing too.

The Greece reflected in the travel writing of this era fulfils a variety of literary functions. It can sometimes be little more than an aesthetic backdrop to the bacchanalian rituals of those determined to drink as deeply as possible from the cup of life. For those seeking to achieve a balance between domestic responsibility, and a passion to live life differently, it can be a chance to flee the rat race, raise a family, get back to basics, perhaps go native and of course, to write a book about it afterwards. Others will write in order to record and share a spiritual odyssey, a catharsis, a pilgrimage to discover a tangible counterpart to the geography of the imagination or the landscape of a dream.