A Picture of a Greek beach in the Aegean, showing beachgoers lying on beach chairs, wading into the water in front of some docked boats and crystal blue water that says: It's Not All Greek To Me: 5 Great Greek Books Translated to English
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It’s Not All Greek To Me: 5 Great Greek Books Translated Into English

Summer 2021 will go down for me as the year of the Imagination Vacation. The pandemic blues have us unable to travel to a cottage up north for two weeks like we’ve done previous years, for the second time now. Instead, I have envisioned the sights, sounds, and stories of the places I’d prefer to be whilst soaking up some rays in the solitude of my backyard garden. In case that came off as whiny and pretentious to you as it did to me when I read it back, I’m not complaining and am grateful to be able to do so.

It started with my post 5 Books I’d Take To The Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This week I find myself pining for Greece; more specifically, the island my husband’s family hails from in the Aegean. Most of his family is there, and sadly, they still have not met our 8-year-old son. A trip overseas would mean so much to many and will be long overdue when we finally go.

I made a book list when we actually travelled to the island back in 2008. I don’t think there was a single Greek author on the thing. I remember Corelli’s Mandolin and some Maeve Binchy Island story, but the rest completely escape me, and were on the lighter side of fluff. 

There was so much to do on the island that I barely had a chance to read the entire month we were there! Daily swimming trips, nights at the Platia (the portside square), and visiting all the wonderful homes of the family for delicious meals…always so. many. meals. Other than the plane ride there and back, there just wasn’t enough time to read.

Kalymnos was my first overseas trip, and the scene of my midnight marriage proposal amongst the audience of empty chairs on the moonless Missouri beach. Unable to see a thing, it was in fits of laughter that we had to wrestle our camera’s flash just to look at the ring on my finger, haha! Beautiful memories.

This more developed list I’m sharing has only Greek authors, the books being written in their mother tongue and eventually translated to English; hence, they are not all Greek to me!

You are welcome to humour me in my fantasy holiday, as we enjoy this list of 5 Great Greek Books Translated into English.

Book Cover for Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis showing an orange spiral staircase with a detailed iron railing seemingly swirling up infinitely.

Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture sits at the top spot because of its gorgeous cover, but the story is captivating too. Tagged as a mystery, Uncle Petros’ nephew narrates as he seeks to understand his relative instead of shame him as others in the family do.

His Uncle’s life-long obsession with trying to decipher one of the oldest unsolved problems in number theory, Goldbach’s Conjecture, becomes a bonding force between the two, but to what end?

This short, highly-acclaimed mathematical tale steeped in philosophy is just the witty entry I need in my life right now, vacation or not. I look forward to reading this one the most of the bunch.

Book Cover for The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis showing a close up of an animated hand splayed

This novella is going to make my skin crawl. I can feel the nerves climbing the back of my neck already. A deep character dive into a middle-aged Greek woman on the Aegean Island of Skiathos in the 1800s, The Murderess is the creepy stuff of legend.

When Hadoula comes to the hard-learned conclusion that there is no worse destiny than being born female, she takes it upon herself to set free the little angels born into her same fate. They can thank her later, I guess.

Book Cover for Deadline in Athens: An Inspector Costas Haritos Mystery by Petros Markaris showing the Parthenon in the background with a blue tinge making it appear like dusk.

Petros Markaris is said to be one of Greece’s most successful living authors, and it looks like the Inspector Kostas Haritos Mystery Series has a great deal to do with why.

Although shielding a charitable heart behind his veteran armour, Kostas is crusty, obsessive, bull-headed, and unhappily married. He is the type of raw character that schools a reader in the gritty nature of a position as eventful and corrosive as Inspector of a metropolis, in this case, Athens.

In Deadline In Athens (originally The Late Night-News), we are voyeurs to the elementary case of a brutally murdered Albanian couple that graduates into the interlacing tragedy of child trafficking and media deception.

I have the sense I’m going to want more from this series when I’m done with this book and am currently worried that they may not all be in English translation. 😕

Book Cover for The Third Wedding by Costas Taktsis showing the silhouette of a woman wearing a wedding dress, a veil, and a bouquet of flowers, on a white background.

Hopeful that there won’t be too much of this story lost in translation, as some English reviews have mentioned that the tale is better in its original form, The Third Wedding promises to be an enlightening journey through the eyes of two Athenian women in the 1800s. 

Costas Taktsis chronicles for us their struggles during the German Occupation of WWII, the Civil War, and possibly a taboo affair between them? I’m only guessing, as there is an LGBT tag on the Goodreads page, so forgive me if I’ve erred.

Book Cover for Z by Vassilis Vassilikos 25th Anniversary Edition with purple and red lettering.

Z is the heavy read of the bunch, and I mean that literally and for the intensity of its content. Considered a classic of Greek historical Fiction, I hope to use it as a window to the bitter history of a land and people that I’ve come to adore, as it details the assassination of Z, a communist party leader in the 60s.

A fictional yet courageous expose into the real corruption that permeated the political landscape of those years, the lack of truth and loyalty amongst the bureaucrats on blast for our disapproval. Vassili Vassilikos pulls back the curtain on the nefarious and destructive side of politics and people.

Where would you go for your imagination vacation?

Do you like to read when you’re away, and if so, do you spend time choosing books suited to your destination?

Graphic for the Peachy Books Post: 5 Books I'd Take To The Tokyo 2020 Olympics showing a Japanese night market in the background with lanterns and signs with Japanese writing
Blog Roll, Lists

5 Books I’d Take To The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

If I could go. What a strange time we are in when the Olympics are live sans visitors. After already having postponed the games last year, this is where we’ve ended up, all thanks to the blasted Coronavirus pandemic. 

Summer ’21, the world is still floundering, but it seems the powers that be have deemed the sporting ritual must go on. Not much different than the major leagues, I suppose. And while it fulfills its role as an anesthetic to the masses, we’ll cruise through the summer, headlong into the inevitable fall ‘variants-wave.’ 

I wouldn’t have been able to go to the Games even if the pandemic hadn’t bulldozed the world, so it isn’t much of a difference to me if I’m honest. But when I think about the athletes who are risking their health to compete, I wonder how many of them will miss their friends and family being there to support them as they live their dream. Or maybe they feel safer knowing their loved ones are home and less vulnerable? The whole thing is unfortunate. 

Was it wise to go ahead with the Olympics? I don’t know. I do know it’s nice to have something to look forward to entertainment-wise. I am perplexed, however, as to how the Japanese government and The Olympic community would allow such an abysmal national vaccination rate in the country hosting the Games. If I were a citizen of Tokyo, I would be none too pleased over this data. The necessary quarantining of those who catch the dreaded virus could result in no players for the games, and what kind of a competition would that be? Time will tell how the variants might spread or how hard it will be to maintain healthy athletes.

Lost in my thoughts as I often am, I have found myself imagining a world where none of these variables were at play, and I would be able to attend the Tokyo Games. In the spirit of authenticity, I’ve created a reading list to assist me with my fantasy trip; a literary companion to draw from regarding the culture, tastes, sights, and sounds of the Japanese capital city I would scour from top to bottom. These carefully selected books would keep me company and help align me with my surroundings, as I soak them up whilst riding transit or waiting in the stands for an event to start! Hey, it’s 2021, all a gal can do is dream. 

These are the 5 Books I’d Take To The Tokyo 2020 Olympics! 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata with a yellow cover and a clip on identification for a young Japanese woman

Keiko is an odd duck. Socially awkward, as she is, she could never quite fit in with her family or at school. At 18 years old she gets a job at a convenience store which opens her eyes to what is ‘normal.’

Through spending 18 years as an employee of Smile Mart, we observe this eccentric yet happy heroine, as she is educated in the ways of society and finds her place in a rigid world that presses upon her its idea of what a woman should want.

I had seen Convenience Store Woman bouncing around the blogosphere and was intrigued by the cover and premise, but it wasn’t until digging a little deeper when compiling this list that I decided to add it to my TBR mountain. Sayaka Murata offers us a gender-based perspective on the Japanese experience while tackling conventional wisdom that is common to us all.

Book Cover for Manga comic: Oishinbo A la Carte by Tetsu Kariya Art by Akira Hanasaki showing a comic book style cover with sushi chefs preparing Japanese Cuisine

No Japanese reading compendium worth its salt would be complete without a manga selection, and a trip to Tokyo would be ill-prepared without a lesson in the delicacies of Japanese Cuisine. The graphic novel Oishinbo: A la Carte: Volume 1, part of the highly acclaimed series by Tetsu Kariya, checks off both of these boxes.

Although I have never read any graphic novels, I have always been curious about them, so this plot-driven and informative manga series might be just the ticket for my inquiring mind. Our protagonist, a culinary journalist, Yamaoka Shiro, is assigned to discover the ‘ultimate menu’ in Japanese Cuisine. I’m hungry just thinking about reading this one!

Book Cover for After Dark by Haruki Murakami with a blurred picture of a walkway between two rows of Pachinko machines

One of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary Japanese writers, Haruki Murakami, has at least six books on my TBR list. I enjoy well-executed magical realism and have wanted to read one of his novels for a while now, but I have yet to take the plunge. Norweigan Wood1Q84, and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World could all have been great additions to the Tokyo 2020 compilation, but I chose After Dark to get a sense of the nightlife in Tokyo. 

Rainy Day Ramen and the Cosmic Pachinko by Gordon Vanstone gets an honourable mention here, as I was considering it as my window into the Japanese underworld but decided, for this list, to choose a book written by a native instead. 

In After Dark we follow two sisters, a fashion model, and a student, as Murakami cleverly binds their lives and the various ‘night people,’ they encounter through space and time, memory, and perspective. This is the book I look forward to the most on this list. 

Book Cover for I live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi showing a Japanese boy and girl admiring a flagpole displaying 4 kites, 3 of which appear to be fish

I Live in Tokyo makes the cut as it’s an educational and cultural book I can share with my little one who, not unlike his mum, is always eager to learn about new (to him) places and customs.

Mari Takabayashi’s beautifully detailed illustrations coupled with seven-year-old Mimiko’s narration as she treats us to over a year’s worth of celebrations, food, and festivals offer the author’s first-hand perspective of this buzzing metropolis through the wide-eyes of a child.

Book Cover for Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

As worldwide disasters would have it, Japan’s Olympics were not only postponed in 2020 but also, for the first time, in 1940 when they were delayed because of World War II. I came across Miri Yu’s Tokyo Ueno Station when searching for books written about the rescheduled Tokyo 1964 Olympics. Although this story isn’t necessarily about those Games, it bonds both the first and the second within its narrative.

Kazu was born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Emperor. Yu uses the art of magical realism to share with us this commoner’s life, so intertwined with the Imperial family as it is, and his connection to the park near Ueno Station. From labourer for the 1964 Games in Tokyo to someone traumatised by the devastation of the 2011 tsunami, being left homeless, Yu’s story provides us with two sides of the Olympic medal.

Are you excited for last year‘s Summer Games this year? Have you been to Japan; how did you enjoy it? Or maybe you know of another book that you think should be on this list? Let me know, let’s chat!