Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books: Western Europe: The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins/Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books: Western Europe: The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins/Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know

Article excerpt

The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins BY JAMES ANGELOS. Crown, 2015, 304 pp.

Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know BY STATHIS N. KALYVAS. Oxford University Press, 2015, 264 pp.

Since the birth of modern Greece 200 years ago, the Greeks have tried-and inevitably failed-to live up to the legacy of their illustrious ancient forebears. Two recent books examine the current state of the country. The Greek American journalist Angelos offers a fairly conventional portrait of dysfunctional Greece, served with an extra-large dollop of local color. He concerns himself mostly with exceptional individuals on the edges of society: asylum seekers from Africa and Asia and the right-wing extremists who hate them, people who file fraudulent disability benefit claims, Greeks old enough to remember the Nazi occupation of their country, and a group of scheming civil servants who murdered their boss. This all makes for fun reading, but Angelos doesn't do enough to show how the experiences of these groups are representative of everyday Greek life or how they will shape the country's future.

Kalyvas, one of the leading comparative political scientists of his generation, takes a more thoughtful and measured approach. …

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