Facing Athens: Encounters with the Modern City

Facing Athens: Encounters with the Modern City

by George Sarrinikolaou
     
 

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A legendary city seen afresh from an expatriate's point of view

In this original and radiant book, George Sarrinikolaou, a native Athenian expatriated to America, strips Athens of its clichés to reveal a city straining under the passions and burdens of early-twenty-first-century life.

Modern Athens exists in the shadow of its ancient past:…  See more details below

Overview

A legendary city seen afresh from an expatriate's point of view

In this original and radiant book, George Sarrinikolaou, a native Athenian expatriated to America, strips Athens of its clichés to reveal a city straining under the passions and burdens of early-twenty-first-century life.

Modern Athens exists in the shadow of its ancient past: cradle of civilization, birthplace of democracy, inspiration for the Olympic Games. But as the city prepares to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, it faces challenges quite unlike those depicted in mythology and epic poetry. As Sarrinikolaou walks through the city, striving to face the Athens of his childhood head-on, he encounters people who reveal the demythologized city: newly wealthy Greeks at a Las Vegas-style nightclub; Gypsies building a middle-class house amid their squalid encampment; Kurdish and Eastern European immigrants seeking day labor in Omonia Square; aged Athenians wistfully recalling the past as their neighborhood crumbles around them. In their stories, Sarrinikolaou sees the economic, social, and historical forces that are shaping Athens today.

This is the Athens that even many Athenians see only in passing, and in Facing Athens Sarrinikolaou claims it for himself, a perennial visitor, and also for the reader, who, in effect, visits the city through his gritty, lyrical, unstinting, yet finally affectionate portrait of the place.

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Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
Writing with lucidity and restraint, Sarrinikolaou allows images to quietly resonate: in a night club, nouveau-riche Greeks shower singers with hundreds of euros' worth of carnations; it is carnations, too, which are later tossed after his grandfather's coffin into a concrete grave.
Publishers Weekly
Sarrinikolaou's snapshot observations are significant, as he touches on frenzied soccer games, gypsies' homes, the ritual of a lamb feast, student politics and the Archbishop Christodoulos' protest against government exclusion of religion on new state identity cards. His writing seems conflicted, troubled, as if he didn't want to cast his childhood recollections against the myth of Athens. Nevertheless, he tries to play fair in a somber overview of the city, regardless of its defects.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940014268721
Publisher:
North Point Press, Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/09/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
144
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

George Sarrinikolaou, born in Athens in 1970, immigrated to the United States with this family at the age of ten. He was educated at Cornell and Columbia and worked as a journalist before turning to environmental policy.

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