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Memories of Greece, mostly blissful ones, from an amiable and very knowledgeable philhellene. Levi is a former Jesuit, an Oxford classicist and poet, who first came to Greece in 1963, partly for his health but chiefly to satisfy a lifelong passion. The young (32) priest found what he was looking for: the stunning landscapes; the language, as spoken in the streets and written by poets like Seferis and Catsos; the people, whom he seems to have loved instinctively; and, of course, the ruins, classical and otherwise. His favorite among the latter was, and is, Olympia, with its haunting pastoral setting--and the hill of Kronos. Levi's travel journals are gracefully written, gently self-effacing, and resolutely old-fashioned. Dismayed as he is by the costs of modernization in Greece (pollution, hideous urban sprawl, etc.) Levi nonetheless resists--usually--the temptation to plunge into an ideal ""eternal Hellas"" and ignore the messy present. There may be something romantic-anachronistic about hiking all over Greece with Pausanias in hand, but Levi didn't just chat with shepherds about forgotten sites or admire the cyclamens fringing them. In the years the Colonels ruled Greece, he played his modest part in the resistance and became persona non grata to the regime. In his next to last chapter Levi perversely apologizes for letting ""elements of autobiography"" creep into his book. If anything he should have told us more about how his travels provoked or hastened his decision to leave religious life. At any rate, though not a confessional writer, Levi is a decidedly personal one, and these notes give us an intimate and charming picture of an extraordinary tourist in a country often visited but seldom understood.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1981
Publisher: Dutton