Early in 2019, The New York Times published a “Globetrotting” list of books from a variety of genres and countries. Drawing from works originally published in and about every inhabited continent, the list presented an assortment of novels, memoirs, nonfiction works, and collections of poetry or short stories that drew critical acclaim in their original languages before being made available to the English-speaking world.
In response to this article, Graduate Student Fellows from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies present a collection of book reviews drawn from NYT’s “Globetrotting”, in particular from those works published in Europe or about European issues. Collectively, these brief reviews cover a variety of topics and genres. In bringing together this array of reviews, the Nanovic Graduate Fellows hope to draw attention to exceptional pieces of scholarship and literature that highlight diverse voices across the European continent in a time when hearing them is so gravely important.
This week, Moritz S. Graefrath, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science, reviews a collection of personal short stories about life in the contemporary Greek Isles.
Good Will Come from the Sea, by Christos Ikonomou. Translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich. Archipelago. 252 pages. $18.
In recent years, one often encounters two common perceptions of contemporary Greece. For the first group of people, Greece equals beautiful landscapes, great food, and wine – in short, an ideal vacation spot. The Greek life is viewed as the good life. For the second group of people, Greece is a country that was led into ruin by its lack of dedication to frugality and efficiency. The Greek life is viewed as a miserable life, brought about by its own people’s deficiencies.
In this collection of short stories, Christos Ikonomou takes his readers on a trip to an unnamed island within the Aegean sea, by the end of which they will certainly view the country and its people with different eyes. Through the eyes and words of his characters, Ikonomou lets his readers explore many of the socio-economic and political issues confronting Greece today – and in the process debunks both of the above-mentioned preconceptions. Whether it is internal migration, which serves as a recurrent theme, mistrust of government authorities, or the struggle about whether to love or hate one’s country, the author approaches all the themes touched upon with both depth and nonchalance. It is this style specifically which produces an atmosphere of curious nervousness throughout the four stories. This nervousness, in turn, is a force powerful enough to shake up pre-held beliefs on the side of the readers.
Good Will Come From the Sea represents a much-needed complement to the existing discourse on contemporary Southern Europe, as it succeeds in highlighting the personal, real-life implications of many of the issues recurrently debated by policymakers and academics alike. In this sense, I can recommend it to anyone with a genuine interest in contemporary Europe and all those who recognized themselves in the first paragraph above.