The Full Catastrophe
Travels Among the New Greek Ruins
This book explains many things about modern Greece, a nation often shaped by forces outside it's control. The book comes at the right moment, with increasing concerns about the debt crisis, and how ordinary people are coping with the economic crisis and the increasing tide of migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty, and trying to use Greece as a way to the rest of Europe and hopefully a better life.
The author is an American journalist of Greek descent and he gives the reader a good look at issues facing the country such as corruption, mismanagement, and an overblown and inefficient bureaucracy. It examines some of the episodes that will help readers understand how and why Greeks react to certain current events. For example, he looks at reasons why Greeks think the Germans should pay reparations for their occupation during WWII as well as some events that happened during the war that shaped the generations to come. He also examines how and why it has become so easy to take and give bribes for even the most mundane services. Something that many of us would find unimaginable.
I learned a lot about Greece, not just about its current economic troubles but more generally about what makes this country and it citizens tick. It also brings to light facts about Greece not known to many outsiders. For instance, I was unaware that the birthplace of Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey was Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. This city was also once home to a large, thriving Jewish community before WWII. But during the war nearly all of the 50,000 Jews in Thessaloniki were deported to Auschwitz.
This book did leave me wondering about what the future holds for Greece. It seems that more effort is spent by Greeks, blaming outsiders, corrupt politicians and history for many of the problems currently facing the country. There seems little attempt to unite and find realistic ways to institute the needed changes. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.