Homer (9th century BC), author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, was the greatest ancient Greek writer. The world's first travel writer was Pausanias, who, in the 2nd century BC, wrote The Guide to Greece. Umpteen editions later, it is now available in English in paperback. Sappho (who lived on the island of Lesvos in the 5th century BC) is famous for her love poetry dedicated to women.The Greek Myths by Robert Graves is one of the best collections of the ancient myths.Greek Art by John Boardman is a concise yet comprehensive introduction to ancient and Byzantine art.A Traveller's History of Greece by Timothy Boatswain and Colin Nicholson is a good general historical reference tracing times from the Neolithic era to the present day.Eleni by Nicholas Gage conveys the strength of feeling that still festers in most Greeks on the subject of the civil war, although it is unashamedly right wing and anticommunist.The most celebrated contemporary Greek author is Nikos Kazantzakis. His novels, which include The Last Temptation and Zorba the Greek, are full of larger-than-life drama.Mary Renault's novels provide an excellent insight into ancient Greece. The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea are vivid tales of Minoan times.Ardent Philhellene Patrick Leigh Fermor recounts his adventures in the Mani peninsula during the 1950s in The Mani and does another nifty job on northern Greece in Roumeli.Captain Corelli's Mandolin by the irrepressible Louis de Bernières is a captivating WW II-era love story set on a Greek island. The book has now been made into a film, shot on location in Kefallonia in the Ionian Islands, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.Home Time and Milk by Australian author Beverley Farmer are evocative collections of stories focusing on the experiences of foreigners who endeavour to make their home in Greece.The Mule's Foal by Australian Vogel Prize winner Fotini Epanomitis is a magical account of the life and times of her Greek forebears.Patricia Storace's Dinner with Persephone is a thoughtful but lacerating account of a year in Athens confronting Greek machismo, sexism and rudeness. The book examines the country's stunted modern identity, and is guaranteed to erase any Shirley Valentine fantasies you may be harbouring.
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