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.


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

The Story Of French

I arrived in Paris on a Sunday, registered at The Alliance Française on Monday, and began my first class Wednesday on rue Raspail. In 1966 I was determined to learn the language because I intended to remain in France indefinitely. Sadly, I only made it to the second grade. Failing to find work there, I returned to San Francisco six months later.

The year before I was to visit Paris again I began watching French In Action, from the beginning to the final episode in preparation for the trip I was to make three decades after my initial stay. I wanted to attain at least a basic level of proficiency. But in 1996, each time I asked a question in French I almost always received the answer in English.

The Story of French, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and his life partner Julie Barlow, St. Martin’s Press, 2006, not only traces the origins and subsequent history of the language but also unveils some startling information about the attitudes and practices of French people. These include the struggle to linguistically unite the French people over time, the current status of the language in a world dominated by English, and the popularity of French in places such as Tel Aviv.

It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and recommend to anyone curious about the language, history, and/or culture of France itself and other parts of the francophone world.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved