|Greek Notes (Part One of Two)|
by Willard Manus
(My book THIS WAY TO PARADISE--DANCING ON THE TABLES is a memoir of the 35 years my wife and I spent in the Greek islands. While tidying up my files recently, I discovered a batch of stories, quotes and jottings that didn't make it into the book but might make for entertaining--or even enlightening--reading nonetheless. Here they are, in no particular order.)
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The novelist Patrick White on Greece: "Greece is an increasing obsession in spite of the fact that the people are frequently maddening and that one can see no real hope for them or ultimate solution to their problems. They have this terrible innate desire to destroy themselves, just as they have destroyed or attempted to destroy so many of their great people from Socrates down. But one continues to do all one can for them."
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Excerpt from a rizitiko ballad sung by villagers in the White Mountains of Crete: "When will starry nights come round again, that I can take up my gun?"
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The Cretan-born writer Nikos Kazantzakis said this to his wife about Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: "Whitman is a great joy. This is a great work and we shall read it together regularly. It's all wind, sea, light, joy."
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Another Kazantzakis quote: "The destiny of the Greek race is terrifying and mysterious, as though upon this parcel of earth the spirit can be watered only with tears and blood."
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"First of ALL it is necessary
To find yourself a country
Which is not easy.
It takes much looking
After which there must be rocks and water
And a sky that is willing
To take itself for granted
Without being overbearing.
There should be fresh fish
In the harbor, fresh bread
In the local stores.
The people should know
How to suffer without
Being unhappy, and how to be happy
Without feeling guilty. The men should be named Dimitrios, John or Evangelos
And all the women should be
Named Elena or Anthoula.
The newspapers should always
Lie, which gives you something
To think about. There should be
Great gods in the background
And on all the mountain tops.
There should be lesser gods
In the fields, and nymphs
about all the cool fountains.
The past should be always
Somewhere in the distance
Not taken too seriously
But there always giving perspective.
The present should consist of the seven
Days of the week forever.
The music should be broken-hearted
Without being self-indulgent.
It should be difficult to sing.
Even the birds in the trees should
Work for a dangerous living.
When it rains there should be
No doubt about it. The people
Should come from the villages
And go out to sea, and go back
To the villages. There should be
Farmers and sailors, with only
A few poets. The olive trees
And the orange trees and the cypress
Will change your life, the rocks
And the lies, and the gods
And the strict music. If you go there
You should be prepared to leave
At a moment's notice, knowing
After all you have been somewhere."
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