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: 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.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014268721
Publisher: North Point Press, Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 06/09/2004
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 880,461
File size: 2 MB

About 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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Facing Athens: Encounters with the Modern City 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
bsanner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sarrinikolaou paints modern Athens as a city of contradictions. True enough. Two major deficiencies, however, quickly surface in Sarrinikolaou¿s account: purpose and perspective. At times, ¿Facing Athens¿ has the feel of a city tour, examining the changing neighborhoods around the capital. At other times, ¿Facing Athens¿ is the personal memoir of a Greek-American revisiting the homeland of his childhood. While this juxtaposition has great potential, it is done sloppily here, giving the reader the feeling of reading two disjointed works. Secondly, ¿Facing Athens¿ lacks perspective. Sarrinikolaou is quite critical of many of the changes in Athens, and many of the attitudes he encounters. However, the difficulties and dereliction found in central Athens, for example, only mimic the pattern set forth by other major European and American cities (perhaps a generation later, due to slower development in Greece). Very little of what Sarrinikolaou describes is unique to Athens. The author comes across as condescending and lacking any sense of evenhandedness. D+
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quick and thoughtful travel memoir of Athens by a Greek immigrant to the US who returned to Athens in his 30s and took walking tours around town and comments on his personal recollections and thoughts. George focused on things most people disregard - working class people and neighborhoods, Gypsies and Albanian low-wage workers, the corruption and general systematic disregard for the law. The hospital story of bribes for the doctors is frightening. As both an American and Greek, George is able to write for an American audience but from a Greek perspective. For those of us who see ourselves as "travelers" and not "tourists", George's focus on the street and dark corners is exactly what we are looking for, a "rough guide", but told with respect, humanity and tact.I found this book for free at "The Great Sage" restaurant in Clarksville, MD in June 2007 - one of the employees set out a box for anyone to take from her personal collection. Thank you anonymous giver, I would have never read it otherwise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a short book, which as the title suggests, is a sort of expose of a major European city. Unfortunately, it does not rise to a balanced and honest assessment of modern Athens's shortcomings or virtues. The author merely seems to be writing an 'angry letter' to his estranged father. Perhaps for this reason no attempt is made to support any of the book's cetral propositions by citing an authorative source. As one who has visited Athens, I agree with many of the author's observations yet find the overall tone and conclusions of the author unfair and biased. For example, no mention is made of the very good transportation system that the city offers (its underground or 'metro' is not only efficient, but also aesthetically pleasing). The city also offers easy access to many superb beaches. In short, a prospective visitor to Athens, would be better served if he or she purchased one of the more traditional travel guides.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well worth reading now, as we await the Olympics in Athens, and onward, as we experience changes in treasured European cities faced with globalization, immigration and other strains of modern life. Not only does this book intricately describe Athens in elegant and fluid writing, it combines the rational perspective of journalism, the colorful and heart-tugging succinctness of poetry, with the sensitivity and honesty of a memoir. The result is a poignant account of the Athenian spirit ¿ with its invigorating contradictions and struggles ¿ within a personal journey to confront these attributes as they resonate in the author's own life. A fast read... and a treat.