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Culture

Greek Winter Break Books to Read Greek

With the strange weather this winter, at least in the Northeast, it can seem difficult to get into a solid pattern of winter reading.

Whether you enjoy escapist fare to distract from winter storms or weather appropriate tales set in cold climates, books offer a break from the usual, a peek inside other worlds. Here are a few Greek books for your winter reading list.

Nikos Kazantzakis was born on February 18, 1883. In honor of the author’s birthday, add Zorba the Greek to your reading list, if you haven’t read it already in either the original Greek or in English translation. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the novel, first published in 1946.

The recent English translation by Peter Bien was published in 2014 and replaces the previous English version first published in 1952.

The extraordinary novel and best-known work by Kazantzakis tells the story of the lively Alexis Zorba through the eyes of the bookish narrator as they embark on a business venture in Crete.

The intellectual life contrasts sharply with the sensual life of experience, but somehow the friendship between the two men transcends their differences. With an advanced degree from the school of life, the gregarious Zorba has a great deal to teach.

Zigzag through the Bitter-Orange Trees by Ersi Sotiropoulos was first published in Greek in 2000. The English translation by Peter Green appeared in 2006 and in paperback in 2013.

The acclaimed book follows the lives of four people, Lia who is dying in a hospital, her brother Sid, Lia’s nurse Sotiris, and twelve year old Nina. The first novel to win both the Greek State Prize for Literature and the Book Critics’ Award, this black comedy is a powerful depiction of youth and the often contradictory motivations in their complicated lives.

Landscape with Dog and Other Stories by Ersi Sotiropoulos is a short story collection focusing on relationships. The often quirky characters depicted, lovers, married couples, and family members, struggle to connect with each other in their everyday lives. The English translation by Karen Emmerich was published in 2009 and includes seventeen compelling stories, only one of which has a happy ending.

This year, February 21 marks the beginning of the Triodion, the weeks of preparation before the start of Great Lent. Each Sunday of the Triodion features a reading from the Gospel that highlights vital aspects of this preparatory period. Add the parables from the New Testament to your reading list. The first Sunday of the Triodion is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. This parable from the Gospel of Saint Luke 18:10-14 focuses on the importance of humility and following the example of the lowly Publican, a tax collector, with his humble prayer, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” The second Sunday of the Triodion, February 28 this year, is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. The parable from the Gospel of Saint Luke 15:11-32 tells the story of a young man who took his inheritance from his father and then squandered it, but returned to receive his Father’s forgiveness much to the chagrin of the elder son. A feast is held in honor of the younger son’s return, but the elder son does not attend. The Father symbolizes God whose boundless love and forgiveness transcend human understanding. The third Sunday of the Triodion, March 6 this year, is Judgment Sunday or Meatfare Sunday. The Gospel according to Saint Mark 25:31-46 describes the Last Judgment when Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The fourth and final Sunday of the Triodion, March 13 this year, is the Sunday of Forgiveness or Cheesefare Sunday. The Gospel according to Saint Matthew 6:14-21 highlights forgiveness and how one should approach fasting on the final Sunday before Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent. The Gospels are available online through the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website.

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