INVENTING PARADISE by Edmund Keeley

INVENTING PARADISE

The Greek Journey, 1937--1947

KIRKUS REVIEW

Sunny, island-hopping philhellenism as encountered in Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi and Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell and Reflections on a Marine Venus. Translator, scholar, novelist, and well-respected Hellenist Keeley (School for Pagan Lovers, 1993, etc.) lets himself fall under the spell of the characteristically colorful Greek travel writings of Miller and Durrell in the same way that they fell under the spell of prewar, pretourist Greece. Durrell and his wife moved to the island of Corfu in 1935, after a little bohemianism in Paris, where they had known Miller, and they eventually enticed him to visit in 1939. Durrell had already settled into the island’s community, discovered C.V. Cavafy’s poetry, and spent most of his time bathing in the warm Mediterranean and the country’s Homeric heritage. Miller also found the countryside, company, and literary life convivial. Among those with whom they struck up friendships were the gourmand and man of letters George Katsimbalis, who would figure as Miller’s “Colossus,” and George Seferis, who would become Greece’s first Nobel laureate, in 1963. Miller’s paean to Greece—“No country I have visited has given me such a sense of grandeur . . .”—came long after he had traveled all over the islands, and Keeley retraces his wanderings with unhurried pleasure. With WWII, Miller and Durrell were forced to leave, Miller never to return, Durrell for only a few years, and Keeley’s account of what their friends suffered under the Nazis is a spare but moving example of how literature survives and helps others to survive. Keeley, as longtime translator of Cavafy, Seferis, and others, skillfully works excerpts from their poetry into his account’s sun-drenched landscape, giving a sense of how modern Greek culture still lives on Homer’s islands. Learned literary tourism about literary tourism, in one of the best places on earth for it.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-17717-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999




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