5 Great Classic Novels set in Greece
Greece has been a powerful muse for countless foreign scribes throughout the ages. Insider’s Leo Nuovo rounds up 5 must-read literary classics set in Greece to add to your reading list.
The Colossus of Maroussi – Henry Miller
The esteemed writer Henry Miller explores human nature and Greece at the same time in The Colossus of Maroussi. First published in 1941, The Colossus takes readers to recognizable sites across Greece as its writer catalogs his epic journeys. Take a moment to see Greece’s monuments through Miller’s eyes as his prose helps you philosophize about the spirit of Greece as it was in Miller’s time. This innovative take on travel writing will introduce you not only to the mighty archaeological history that Greece is so well known for, but also to esteemed Greek literary figures like the famous Greek poet George Katsimbalis.
The Magus – John Fowles
Suspense will pull you in to The Magus and keep you there as you find yourself turning pages through this thriller that questions reality itself. Set on a fictional Greek island called Phraxos, Fowles’ novel follows its young English protagonist as he decides to detach himself from his daily life in Paris and go teach at a school in Greece. The Magus will take you on a labyrinthine journey of understanding and mis-understanding that has confused and excited readers since its original publication in 1965. The book’s descriptions of the island of Phraxos, based off the real island of Spetses, will have readers nodding as Fowles describes the silent beauty of one of Greece’s most charming islands with intricate and talented detail. The Magus was adapted into a film in 1968.
The Corfu Trilogy – Gerald Durrell
Those familiar with the popular British comedy-drama The Durrells will love the original trilogy of books that inspired the series, written by Gerald Durrell. Naturalist and writer Durrell describes his time on the Greek island of Corfu in this series, comprised of three books: My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods. Become familiar with the natural beauty of Corfu as Durrell guides you through his childhood on the island. Readers of this trilogy often regret that the series ends at just three of these feel-good books, but Durrell’s legacy lives on through his wildlife conservation efforts all over the world.
Roumeli and Mani – Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor’s peripatetic travels took him all over Europe. His two books located in Greece: Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, and Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece are evocative records of his journeys across Greece. His vivid descriptions of the people and landscapes of Greece meld with his knowledge of the history of the land. One of the great things about “travelogues” is that not only do they offer marvelous historical information, they also offer a time-capsule of the era in which they were written. These books from the 1960’s are no exception and can be read together or separately. Sir Patrick’s connection to Greece goes far beyond the pages of his celebrated books. Regarded as a hero by many in Crete and in Greece for his intrepid military exploits, “Paddy” made his home in Mani in the Southern Peloponnese where he mostly lived until his death in 2011.
Eleni – Nicolas Gage
A deeply disturbing personal account of Greece’s Civil War, still a taboo subject at dinner parties, Eleni, (published in 1983), was made into a feature film starring John Malkovich as Gage. Eleni describes the life of his family in Greece during the Second World War and Greek Civil War. Gage’s mother, Eleni, was executed for arranging the escape of her children from their Communist-occupied village. Decades later, as an adult, Gage sought out those responsible for her death. His other autobiographical memoir, A Place for Us (1989) offers a fascinating insight into his family’s experiences as Greek immigrants in 1950s America.