4 out of 4 stars
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The Curse of the Ancient Greeks by Faris Nejad opens in the midst of the modern Greek economic crisis. The country is reeling: unemployment is high, taxes are higher, and everyone's looking for someone to blame. Panos, our protagonist, has been tasked with reporting on the crisis for a newspaper. As he haplessly searches for answers, he also finds himself struggling to save his job, his family relationships, and more. But most of all, he's struggling to find a reason to keeping believing in the future.
Through Panos, we get an insightful look into the Greek crisis and how it has impacted the day to day lives of the Greek people. From the strikes, to the failing businesses, to the endless bureaucracy and taxes, we see it all. Even better, we hear from different generations and parts of society, getting their views on how everything went so wrong. The novel is ambitious and comprehensive in scope, but rarely does it feel forced.
In the latter half of the book, Panos has a series of online conversations with someone he calls Socrates. These chats quickly become philosophical, as Panos searches for answers about his life and his identity. It was a smart choice to use a chat format for these talks, since it keeps things fairly casual. This part of the book was genuinely enjoyable for me, but it felt a little contrived sometimes. I can appreciate a bit of philosophy in a book, but it would be even better if it were incorporated more seamlessly.
The Curse of the Ancient Greeks tackles some serious subjects, and it would be easy for this to become an incredibly morose book. At times, it's written in a way that almost feels stream of consciousness in style, which underscores the sense of desperation that pervades the novel. However, although the darkness is present, there's also a fair amount of levity. In fact, it often feels like a tragicomedy. Panos is a highly imperfect character, and the situations he often finds himself in can only be described as ridiculous. The absurdity of his life adds some much needed humor to the story without trivializing the experiences of the Greek people.
In the end, this is more than just the story of Panos; it's the story of a nation. It's a tale full of cynicism, but it's also not without some hope. I'm giving this book 4 out of 4 stars, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the Greek crisis. Even if you don't know much about Greece's modern troubles, this is still a worthy read. If you can appreciate books about people's daily struggles and welcome a little philosophy, give The Curse of the Ancient Greeks a chance.
The Curse of the Ancient Greeks
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