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Monday, 15 February 2016

Greece and Travel Journalism, Some Modern Myths

The Sunday Times Travel Section feature “Best of Greece” (Dana Facaros, 14.2.2016) perpetuated a number of myths or half-truths, in my opinion.

On Corfu: “Lush Corfu is Prospero’s magic island in The Tempest- according to the author Lawrence Durrell”.

- Lawrence Durrell wrote a classic book about Corfu, “Prospero’s Cell”, but he doesn’t make the claim about the setting of Shakespeare’s play in his own authorial voice. He attributes the entertaining but far-fetched theory to Count D; it’s more imaginative conjecture - idle taverna speculation - than accepted hypothesis or historical fact. “I cannot think that the scholars would support me”, says the Count. Bermuda has a better claim to links to The Tempest.

On Crete: “It’s also the birthplace of Zorba”.

 - In some respects, yes: the Cacoyannis film version and the Cretan rhythms adapted by Theodorakis for the soundtrack - but read “The Real Zorbas and Nikos Kazantzakis” by John Anapliotes. Neither the real George Zorbas, nor the lignite mine, were Cretan.

On Lefkas: “Vasiliki, near the precipice where Sappho leapt to her death for the love of a man”.

- Few, if any, scholars believe in this old myth, which inspired many poets and writers. Read my account in “The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History” (Chapter One, Classic Ground, from page 3).

As for Matt Rudd’s Grecophile-baiting column, “I love the Greeks but…A national character assassination” –

Whose fault is it if he only ever orders and eats kebabs, fried squid, tzatziki and mousaka?

He writes: “You don’t go to Greece to eat well. You go to Greece to smoke passively”.

Right about the smoking. Wrong about the cuisine.

Old myths die hard.

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