Book Lover

I was hoping to visit Papasotiriou again, a large bookstore across from the university in Central Athens. Especially the large English-language section on the top floor where I found the latest titles in Greek history, politics, and culture in previous years. But it’s no longer in business.

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There are English-language books at Public on Syntagma Square, though nothing resembling the depth of titles stocked by the defunct bookstore. However, it’s a great source for new Greek CDs.

One evening I noticed a bookstore in the neighborhood specializing in dictionaries but it was closed. A few days later I checked it out during business hours and was amazed at what I found. Lexikopoleio sells French, English, Spanish, and Italian books as well as dictionaries. And all titles are sold at the prices charged in their country of origin.

When Odile Brehier rented the space in the wake of the economic meltdown, women passing by frequently asked her if she really wanted to do this. She was undeterred by their skepticism and launched what’s become a successful venture five years ago.

Odile’s father was French and her mother Greek. She was born in the French Congo and has lived most of her life in Athens. Working as a translator is a solitary task. The store allows her an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.

An event I attended hosted by Lexikopoleio featured young Greek prose writers and the editor who put together a book of their work for French readers. An overflow crowd packed the store and some lingered afterwards for a reception with people chatting with one another both inside and out in the street.

Brehier is a charming and gracious host who enthusiastically greets both old friends and new visitors to her store. She lives and works in Pangrati, or Frog Island, an area defined by two rivers that still flow underground.

I look forward to visiting this neighborhood gem and seeing her again the next time I visit the city.

image & text copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com

Island Crossroad

Sicily: An Island At The Crossroads Of History by John Julius Norwich, Random House, 2015 covers the history of an island situated along what was once an important Mediterranean sea route. Its past included a large presence of Greeks, Romans, and Amazighs brought to new heights under Norman rule.

islandcrossroad

It’s long been denigrated by northern Italians and Americans as well because of its association as homeland of a notorious criminal element. However few people are aware of the complexities the author reveals.

Norwich wrote two earlier books about Norman rule as well as numerous other volumes about the region I’ve read and recommend. These include a two-volume history of Venice and three-volumes on the Byzantine Empire. But his history of the Mediterranean Sea remains on my bookshelf only partially read.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved.

www.nikosdiaman.com

City Edge

Papa Was Not A Rolling Stone directed by Sylvie Ohayon (France) 2014 is an autobiographical coming–of-age narrative feature.

cityedge

It’s set in a suburb outside of Paris where the poor, immigrants, and other marginal populations are warehoused in large, ugly, neglected, high-rise buildings. Typical of the neighborhood where youths rioted a decade ago.

Stephanie, is a bright, talented teenager who lives with her neurotic mother and abusive stepfather.

Despite tremendous odds she’s determined to escape her circumstances in order to build a better future for herself.

The film screens again at the California Theatre in Berkeley Tuesday night 4 August 2015 and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael Sunday evening 9 August 2015 as San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 35 moves outside of San Francisco.

For more information and tickets contact the Jewish Film Institute.

copyright © 2015 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved.

www.nikosdiaman.com

Graphic Normandy

Gemma Bovery directed by Anne Fontaine (France) 2004 is based on the graphic novel by the same name written by Posy Simmonds. It takes place in the village where Flaubert wrote his classic work, Madam Bovary. However, the time is the present.

GEMMA BOVERYRéalisé par Anne Fontaine

GEMMA BOVERYRéalisé par Anne Fontaine

Much of the story is seen through the eyes of a local baker who’s smitten by the young English woman who settles nearby with her husband Charlie. The baker begins to imagine the modern Gemma moving toward a tragic end as did Emma in the Flaubert novel.

The film is now showing at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco, Regency Cinemas in San Rafael, Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, and State Theater Modesto in Modesto.

Also Ritz at the Bourne in Philadelphia; Music Hall, Portsmouth in Portsmouth; Enzian Theater in Orlando; Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables; and Varsity Ashland in Ashland.

copyright © 2015 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved.

http://www.nikosdiaman.com

Art Whirl

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro published (2112) by Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill is an engaging and quite believable fictional narrative told from the perspective of a contemporary artist living and working in Boston.

artwhirl

The protagonist manages to support herself copying famous artworks while struggling to overcome obstacles preventing her from being recognized as an outstanding, talented painter in her own right. She receives an incredible offer from the owner of a prominent gallery that will change her life.

Shapiro delves into many complicated issues involving money and art in present day society. The roles of museums and galleries as arbiters of taste. The quixotic nature of public opinion fueled by media reports and gossip. The illusive definition of creative achievement and its relation to financial success.

The novel begins with a newspaper article about the theft of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a crime still unsolved after more than two decades, and goes on to speculate about a possible romantic liaison between its founder and French impressionist artist Edgar Degas a century ago.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

http://www.nikosdiaman.com

Culinary Roots

Ikaria: Lessons On Food, Life, And Longevity by Diane Kochilas published 2014 by Rodale spotlights the Aegean island heritage of the author. While there are a substantial number of health tips scattered throughout because of the locale’s Blue Zone status, the heart of this book and its most valuable asset lies in its recipes.

culinaryroots

One surprise for me was the inclusion of tarot root among native ingredients and I look forward to trying the instructions for skordalia (page 9), a dish I’ve only had using potato or bread as the base for this garlic dip.

Other tantalizing dishes are: whipped feta kaponisti (page 7); old style Ikarian tourlou (page 135) casserole combining potatoes and zucchini; noodles with yogurt and herbs (page 190); smoked herring rice (page 201); and baby goat with avgolemono (page 243).

When searching for a recipe in the index, look first for a key ingredient and then zero in on the name of the dish!

I frequently cook savory pies from an earlier Kochilas book, The Glorious Foods Of Greece but my attempt to make my own phyllo dough was unsuccessful. However I’m going to give it another try with one of the recipes in the section on savory pies and breads.

Ikaria by Diane Kochilas, with photos by her husband Vassilis Stenos, is available in both a hardbound and e-book edition from Rodale Books.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Moroccan Desire

Two autobiographical novels by Abdellah Taia are available in English in the US. The Salvation Army (2009) and An Arab Melancholia (2012) are both published by Semiotext(e) and distributed by The MIT Press.

The Salvation Army begins the story of a young boy growing up in a large, poor family in Salé near Rabat. He idolizes his older brother and is inspired by him to study French literature. His initial sexual experiences are with other Moroccan boys and men.

His meeting a visiting Swiss academic allows him opportunities to travel to Europe and a scholarship to study in Geneva.  His first days living abroad are filled with disappointment and emotional turmoil.

moroccandesire

Abdellah’s story continues in An Arab Melancholia. He is now living in Paris pursuing his life goal of making movies. His career involves trips to the Middle East and he recounts painful incidents from his adolescence and a two-year relationship with a somewhat older Algerian man in France.

For additional background about the author, I recommend the PEN conversation available on YouTube.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

www.nikosdiaman.com