A Greek man struggles under the weight of debt, the dissolution of his marriage, and cultural upheaval.
Panos’ life is as precarious as the continued survival of his country; he’s a journalist demoted to freelance status, and he hasn’t been paid in months. Banks are constantly calling him, hounding him for the mortgage payments on a modest home he can no longer afford. His cellphone gets cut off, and the lights at home go dark. He can barely afford to provide his family with food, and he’s worried he’ll soon be fired for his lackluster performance. He starts to experience what could be the signs of serious heart failure, but he no longer has health insurance. His son seethes with disrespectful contempt for him, and his wife kicks him out of the house. Panos sunk whatever money the family once had into land he inherited from his family in hopes of developing it into a lucrative resort, and he waits interminably for the settlement of a court case stymying its fruition. All the while, he searches for his former classmate Stavros, derisively called Socrates by peers, for some sort of answer to his life’s woes. In his first book, author Nejad paints a discomfiting picture of a nation in crisis, not only wrestling with financial catastrophe, but with the sustainment of its collective soul. Greece is not merely broke, but broken, and the historical womb of democracy has degenerated into bureaucratic chaos, opportunism, and despair. Mercifully, the author leavens the mood with antic comedy, often reminiscent of the kind of free-wheeling humor one might find in the writings of Joseph Heller. Also, despite the cloud of cynicism that hangs over a beleaguered Greece, Nejad refuses to surrender to it fully. “The most important thing is that this is not the end. I am a man, I am Greek, and this is a country with a big history. We will show them.” The dialogue tends to meander, resulting in a bloated work that should have been shorter. The affecting portrayal of a country and culture on the brink and the punchy humor, however, make the long road one worth traveling.
A sharp, witty, and often moving account of an ancient nation on life support.