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Culture

Short Story Collections for Your New Year’s Reading

January 1, 2018

As the new year begins, a nice short story collection can be just the thing for a cold winter’s night. The following collections include the renowned Greek author Alexandros Papadiamantis, a master of the short story, whose work evokes the multifaceted experience of life on Skiathos, the island where he was born.

Tales from a Greek Island by Alexandros Papadiamantis is essential reading for fans of the author’s work and anyone interested in great short stories. As noted in the book description, “Set on the author’s native Aegean island of Skiathos, these twelve stories capture the folkways of Greece. With acute observation of daily activities and loving descriptions of land and sea, Papadiamantis portrays the beauty and harshness of traditional island life.

His prose captivates a reader with its rich combination of realism and symbolism, sensuality and mysticism, insularity and universality. Written near the turn of the century, these works speak today in ways both remarkable and familiar.” Papadiamantis’ Tales from a Greek Island is available online and in bookstores.

Beyond the Broken Statues: Modern Greek Short Stories translated by Nicholas Kostis is a wonderful anthology for those who enjoy short stories. Chronologically arranged, the stories by various famous Greek authors highlight the development of modern Greek literature from the middle of the 19th century to 1950. The distinctive character of Greece, the influence of politics and culture, imbue these stories just as they influenced the lives of the authors.

The stories offer a deeper understanding of the country and the people of Greece through the remarkable contributions to literature included in the collection. Among the stories in the book are Psychology of a Husband from Syra by Emmanuel Roidis, My Mother’s Sin by George Vizyinos, Dream on the Wave by Alexandros Papadiamantis, How the Village Became Greek by Ioannis Kondilakis, In Broad Daylight by C.P. Cavafy, The Prince by Andreas Karkavitsas, The Madman With the Red Lilies by Gregorios Xenopoulos, The Little Hunchback by Stratis Myrivilis, and Mycenae by Elias Venezis. The book is available online.

The Greek-American experience is recounted in the charming short story collection Profane Feasts by Tom Tolnay. The experience of growing up in a Greek immigrant family in Brooklyn is something many people will relate to regardless of whether or not their roots are in Greece. The colorful characters in the book may remind some readers of their own family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, Yiayia and Pappou. As noted in the book description, “With humanistic and humorous intent, the subplot follows the Hestiakos-Dropoulos family as part of an unconscious ‘movement’ to reinvent the greatness of their ancient culture by ‘taking over’ North America one coffee shop, one hot dog stand, one neighborhood at a time.” Those who have studied the immigrant experience will recognize the common practice of recreating the homeland neighborhood in the new neighborhood. How many of us grew up on blocks where our relatives moved in as soon as they came to America? The familiar aspects of Greek culture, hearing the language spoken, the scent of Greek foods cooking, so far away from the homeland, were undoubtedly a comfort to those who had made the momentous decision to settle in a new country. Profane Feasts is available online.

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