This book introduces the major works and authors in modern Greek literature from the 11th century to the present. The progress of Greek letters through the centuries, like that of the modern nation itself, has been neither smooth nor even. The nation has found itself alternately scaling great creative heights and plumbing the depths of cultural stagnation, with its impulse for creativity almost extinguished. However, this impulse was never entirely smothered, not even during the endless years of enslavement, the dark ages following the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Modern Greek literature belongs to the wider family of modern European literature. However, there are many features of it, which distinguish it from the rest of the group. It is a literature which once featured prominently on the European literary scene, but today is, regrettably, regarded as one of the so-called "minor literatures", and the Greek language itself is a linguistic loner, relatively inaccessible to foreign readers. But however "marginal" it may have been at certain points in its development, it is a literature which has never isolated itself from the centre; indeed, it has been in constant dialogue with the literatures of other European nations. Moreover, the overwhelming Classical literary legacy and the inevitable "anxiety of influence" have at times worked against Greek writers; the separation of history and emotion has proved difficult to sustain.
The title of this book is self-explanatory: this is a book about books and writers, and thus prominent writers and their works provide the focus throughout. This volume does not aim to serve as a literary history in the conventional academic sense; rather, it seeks to recast the history of Greek letters in a fresher, more personal narrative, supported by a vast array of illustrations and photographic material. So while the various stages in the development of Greek literature are presented in a linear manner in parallel with modern history, "Greece, Books and Writers" regularly sidesteps the main historical narrative to make fascinating literary detours.