Reading Recomendations for Maud

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Peter W
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Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Peter W » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:51 pm

In an earlier thread I promised to share with Maud some of my favourite literature about Crete, apologies it has taken a while to post this list

The Eagles of Crete
Colin James
Heroes of the resistance become guerillas in hiding as civil war breaks out in Crete in April 1947. Colin James’ book describes in great detail the aftermath of the conflict between rival resistance groups, the communists are defeated in a battle in the Samaria Gorge in 1948 and many escape to the mountains. Incredibly it is not until February 1975 that the two remaining fugitives, the Eagles of Crete, accept an amnesty. This is a fascinating read for those interested in the post WWII history of Crete.

Hide & Seek
Xan Fielding

The Stroghold
Xan Fielding

Xan Fielding was a contemporary of Patrick Leigh Fermor, both were members of the SOE on Crete. Hide & Seek records Fielding’s time on Crete during the German occupation whilst The Stronghold recalls his return to the island in 1951. Not great works of literature but interesting for students of the period.

Travels and Researches in Crete Vol 1
Thomas A B Spratt
An unabridged facsimile of the original book published in 1865, very detailed and very dry, that’s perhaps why I have yet to get around to reading Volume II

History of Crete
Theocharis E Dektorakis
I think this book has been mentioned previously on the forum, it is highly recommended. From Neolithic Crete to the Battle of Crete in 440 pages, probably the best overview of the history of Crete in the English language.

Nikos Kazantzakis
Freedom or Death (Greek title Captain Michalis)
Although to most English readers Zorba the Greek is his best known work I much prefer Freedom or Death, fabulous prose and a great insight into Cretan life under Turkish rule, a stunning work by a brilliant writer.

There are plenty of travel and walking guides to Crete see Jean Bienvenu’s inspirational West-Crete website and be sure to look at his photograph of the day for the best Cretan photography – thanks Jean:-

http://www.west-crete.com/books-crete.htm

I hope you enjoy the read and I hope other forum members will share their Cretan book choices.

Peter

Yin&Yang
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Yin&Yang » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:43 am

Have read:

The Cretan Runner
Author George Psychoundakis
(His story of the German occupation)

Vasili the Lion of Crete
Author Murray Elliot
(The heroic story of a New Zealand special agent behind enemy lines during World War 11)

Both very interesting. Have also read Winds of Crete, can't recall author, but didn't enjoy it.
Someday is now : )

Kilkis
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Kilkis » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:26 am

Yin&Yang wrote:...Have also read Winds of Crete, can't recall author, but didn't enjoy it.


David MacNeil Doren

Warwick

Yin&Yang
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Yin&Yang » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:55 am

Thank you Warwick :)
Someday is now : )

Kilkis
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Kilkis » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:49 am

I think there are more or less three genres of books represented by the titles suggested:

    1 Some are purely factual, like the history and travel books mentioned.
    2 Some tell a story. The story might be based on fact and may vary from sticking closely to real events to being mainly fiction set around some event.
    3 Some appear to tell a story but really the story is just a contrivance on which to hang anecdotes about life in a foreign country.

I would put the Winds of Crete in the last category. The story is about someone who is obsessed with the legend of Icarus and wants to emulate him, apart from the ending, by building his own plane and flying it on Crete. Obviously that leads him into interactions with many locals and describing those is the real purpose of the book. As such the story is rather contrived and not very compelling and the interactions are similar to those we have all experienced. It fits into the same category as Peter Mayle's, "A Year in Provence" and sequels, Chris Stewart's, "Driving Over Lemons", set in Spain, Annie Hawes', "Extra Virgin" and sequel set in Italy and Stavros Allanopolis' "Step into the Mani with Stavros". All have a very weak story line and are really about social interactions and cultural differences.

Warwick

margarita
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby margarita » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:21 am

Warwick,

I think you have the wrong book there, The one about the man obsessed with Icarus was called something like 'Flying with Icarus'. I agree with those who say it was not very good, I disagree with you about the purpose of the book. Having met the author I believe the purpose of the book was for him to show off!

'Extra Virgin' & the follow up are excellent and very funny. So many similarities with Crete.

Kilkis
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Kilkis » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:59 am

Oooops! My memory is getting terrible. Obviously "Winds of Crete" didn't make a big impression on me because I can't remember a single thing about it. I agree that "Extra Virgin" was very well written and if you changed a few names it would translate to a novel about Crete. It's not surprising. I had an Italian landlady in the UK for a couple of years and she used to tell stories about life in Italy, especially the bureaucracy and corruption, and when I moved to Greece I found it was exactly the same.

Warwick

filippos
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby filippos » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:23 am

margarita wrote:Warwick,
I think you have the wrong book there, The one about the man obsessed with Icarus was called something like 'Flying with Icarus'

I've just traced the book referred to by Margarita. It's 'Falling for Icarus' by Rory MacLean, currently on Amazon in paperback at £12.99.

We met MacLean while he was still writing the book; my opinion of him was that he was about the most pretentious, self-regarding person it had been my misfortune to meet. He seemed intent on making fun of Cretans from a perch some distance above them. I suspect he thought he was being amusing about them but, at least for me, it didn't work.

Having met him I decided to read the book on publication (2004). It reinforced my first impression of the man.

margarita
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby margarita » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:30 pm

Kilkis wrote: Obviously "Winds of Crete" didn't make a big impression on me because I can't remember a single thing about it.
Warwick


The same for me.

marion
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby marion » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:32 pm

It is many years since I read the Winds of Crete. I have it on my bookshelf published in 1974 it is about an American and his Swedish wife who travelled around Crete for 6 years in the 60's-70's. Their travels started around Sitia in the East and they finished their stay in Plaka in the North West.

Peter W
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Peter W » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:40 pm

1 Some are purely factual, like the history and travel books mentioned.
2 Some tell a story. The story might be based on fact and may vary from sticking closely to real events to being mainly fiction set around some event.
3 Some appear to tell a story but really the story is just a contrivance on which to hang anecdotes about life in a foreign country.

I would put the Winds of Crete in the last category. The story is about someone who is obsessed with the legend of Icarus and wants to emulate him, apart from the ending, by building his own plane and flying it on Crete. Obviously that leads him into interactions with many locals and describing those is the real purpose of the book. As such the story is rather contrived and not very compelling and the interactions are similar to those we have all experienced. It fits into the same category as Peter Mayle's, "A Year in Provence" and sequels, Chris Stewart's, "Driving Over Lemons", set in Spain, Annie Hawes', "Extra Virgin" and sequel set in Italy and Stavros Allanopolis' "Step into the Mani with Stavros". All have a very weak story line and are really about social interactions and cultural differences.

Warwick


I couldn't agree more Warwick, except to say that I would not recommend anything which fell into category 2 and 3 and that you should perhaps have added a category 4 - Great works of literature under which I would include the Kazantzakis novel. I find the 'Year in Provence' genre formulaic and boring and also rather patronising to the native 'hosts', life is too short to read rubbish books.

A book I forgot to include is 'Unexplored Crete' published by Road Editions, essentially a travel guide but full of useful, interesting information and observations, it particularly interested me as the author Stephanos Psimenos is a motorcyclist. Sadly now out of print but available on Amazon at a hefty £70 - don't be put off by the appalling cover illustration.

Peter

Clio
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Clio » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:30 pm

A few titles from my bookshelf of varying age and content but commendable quality:

The Great Island by Michael Llewellyn Smith.
Adam Hopkins' Crete.

These two written in the 60s and 70s respectively, are obviously quite dated but are both literate and flavourful personal descriptions.

Much more recent impressions:

The Golden Step: A Walk Through the Heart of Crete by Christopher Somerville.

About the war:

The Villa Ariadne by Dilys Powell if it hasn't already been mentioned.
The Nazi Occupation of Crete by G.C Kiriakopoulos.
The Cretan Resistance 1941-45 by N.A.Kokonas.

Academic Anthropology:
The Poetics of Manhood by Michael Herzfeld
A Place in History by Michael Herzfeld.

Herzfeld is/was an American anthropologist who conducted two ethnographic studies of Crete between the late 70s and early 90s. The first is about coming-of-age rituals in a lightly-disguised Anogia, the second about life for the residents of Rethymno's old town. Both are written in academic jargon which can get very tedious for the non-expert, but both, particularly the Anogia book, give a vivid picture of a Crete which still existed a generation ago, but is rapidly disappearing.

Archaeology:The Bull of Minos by Leonard Cottrell.
Literature: The Tale of a Town by Pandelis Prevelakis. Cretan-born Greek novelist - this is a nostalgic portrait of his native Rethymno as was - or his The Cretan.

Re the other titles mentioned: Winds of Crete is one of those many books by amateur writers published by the Efstatiadis Group at the time when the tourist boom was beginning and Peter Mayes-style accounts were all the rage. Cheaply produced, badly edited and very forgettable.

Falling For Icarus on the other hand is, as others have said, unforgettable for its irritatingness .I never had the questionable pleasure of meeting the author but I remember feeling I''d like to smack him for the way in which he assumed his hapless wife would trail round after him dealing with the practicalities while he pursued this idiosyncratic and pointless quest. I thought I'd long since hurled it into a bin but it's sitting there looking for a home if anyone would still like to read it?

And finally the Detorakis history: every time I've tried to find something in it, it's let me down. A curiously sketchy and unsatisfactory history. Personally I wouldn't buy it again certainly not at 30 quid which I see Amazon are asking.

Kilkis
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby Kilkis » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:28 pm

Peter W wrote:...I couldn't agree more Warwick, except to say that I would not recommend anything which fell into category 2 and 3 and that you should perhaps have added a category 4 - Great works of literature under which I would include the Kazantzakis novel...


I'm afraid I am a literary troglodyte. I assess books as simply ones that I enjoy and ones that I don't, with allowance for a grey area, and allow others to decide if they are "great works of literature". I wouldn't know a "great work of literature" if it slapped me in the face. While I am happy to read anything, I enjoy Mickey Spillane more than Jane Austin and John Grisham more than Charles Dickens.

Warwick

margarita
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby margarita » Tue Sep 12, 2017 11:10 am

Clio wrote:
I never had the questionable pleasure of meeting the author but I remember feeling I''d like to smack him ....


Oh, I do wish you had been with us the day that we met him, Clio.

filippos
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Re: Reading Recomendations for Maud

Postby filippos » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:22 pm

margarita wrote:
Clio wrote:I never had the questionable pleasure of meeting the author but I remember feeling I''d like to smack him ....
Oh, I do wish you had been with us the day that we met him, Clio.

I disagree. I'd have felt embarrassed to have landed him on anyone else although embarrassment may have been overcome by relief.


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