Under the Spell of a Myth: Empress Sisi in Greece, is a compelling new book which provides a fresh perspective on Elisabeth of Austria’s travels (1837-1898), her young Greek companions, and her fascination for Greece, its culture and history.
With the English translation of his first book, Austrian journalist and author Stefan Haderer offers Greek readers a new twist on an important piece of history. An intriguing discussion of biography, travelogue, and poetry gives readers laser-focused insight into the aging Empress’s special relationship with Greece and its people, a largely unknown chapter in her famous life.
Haderer has done extensive research in various places in Greece and combed a number of different archives for details of Sisi’s life and journeys.
In his narrative, he uncovers not only Elizabeth’s (nicknamed Sisi) passion for the country but also the observations made by her young readers and travel companions.
In eight chapters, readers follow the legendary Empress on her many trips to Greece. The odyssey begins with the sick young bride’s first landing on Corfu in 1861 and ends with her final departure and subsequent tragic assassination in 1898. Haderer sheds light on Elisabeth’s private life and close relationships – in lively conversations with her ladies and readers, in witty correspondences with her remote husband, Franz Joseph, and in her own melancholic poems included at the end of each chapter.
Almost as adventurous as Sisi’s own life are the impressive biographies of her companions. Drawing on their diaries and many historical reports, Haderer has shown that the young men were quite prominent figures in their own right: Some became diplomats. Others were gifted athletes and joined the first Olympic Games in Athens. Perhaps the best known of Sisi’s tutors in Greece today is stage director and poet Constantin Christomanos. Rare excerpts from his diaries are a bonus in the book. Another teacher was the poet Constantin Manos, who fought for Greek national independence and died in a plane crash.