Item description for The Feasts of Memory: Stories of a Greek Family by Elias Kulukundis...
The famous Greek shipping family of Kulukundis is the source of inspiration for a clever combination of travel book, Kulukundis' autobiography, and a collection of the family's stories. These stories are imbued with the sophistication and wit of a Greek expatriate, but at the same time they delve deep into the motivating passions of the Aegean Islands.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 4.75" Height: 8" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Aug 15, 2006
Publisher Peter E Randall Publisher
ISBN 1931807116 ISBN13 9781931807111
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Regaining a Lost Homeland Through Stories Jul 29, 2008
Regaining a Lost Homeland Through Stories
The book The Feasts of Memory: Stories of a Greek Family, by Elias Kulukundis (hereafter EK), was largely inspired by the author's experience of ksenitia, loss of one's homeland, the homeland which EK recreates narratively through an ethnographically rich collection of stories, anecdotes, and embellished personal histories. Conveying both a quiet sense of humor and an unmistakable aura of human warmth, The Feasts of Memory represents EK's attempt to understand his own identity as a transnational cosmopolitan as he explores, through stories, the complex mentality of those whose lives have been shaped by conflicting elements from diverse cultural sources. The stories of EK's text are a colorful mixture of family history, island lore, and nurtured imagination, spanning five generations, three continents, and countless journeys, both imagined and actual. The author's ultimate destination and narrative focus is Kasos, the remote Greek island in the Southeastern Aegean, birth place of his maternal and paternal grandparents, as well as four of his paternal uncles. Before actually reaching his journey's end, however, EK moves from London, England, his own birth place, to New York, his adopted home, back to mainland Greece and the Greek island of Syros, where his parents lived until emigrating first to England and then to North America, before he finally reaches the island of Kasos. Solitary and unadorned, yet shaped by the multiple influences of Phoenician, Hellenic, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Dodecanesian cultural production, Kasos seems also to function as EK's psychological homeland. This might explain why EK begins his richly descriptive account of Kasiot history with the introspective observation that "The island is like me, and the island's life is like my life." (p. 175). Yet the majority of the stories focus on the residents of Kasos across the centuries, and with great attention to detail the author depicts the sights, smells and sounds of lived human experience in a traditional Greek island community. For example, in the story "The Unknown God," the author tells a more lusty and earthbound version of the traditional island story that foregrounds female virtue and its miraculous rewards during the yearly summer feast days of Kleithona. In EK's story, we meet both an innocent and pious young Kasiot woman who follows prescribed island custom to the letter, as well as the less than innocent household maid whose illicit love affairs are discovered and dealt with summarily by a team of righteous old women. In another story, "The Hollow Crown," the author again creates a more spicy variation of a familiar theme, in this instance gently poking fun at the local custom of arranged marriage. In EK's story, a guileless young doctor, through a series of unwitting social blunders and comical miscommunications, finds himself betrothed to two local women, but due to his own ineptitude and his mother's meddling, ends up marrying neither. In addition to narrating a series of heart-warming and oftentimes amusing stories, EK is an excellent prose stylist whose skillful yet accessible style of writing makes this book appealing to a wide range of readers, in both academic and lay circles. In my case, after reading this book, which was recommended to me by a university professor, I decided to re-read it with high school juniors and seniors whom I teach at an American international secondary school in Greece. Many students in my class are like EK in that during the course of their lives, they have lived in and been shaped by a number of different linguistic and cultural communities and oftentimes express similar self-searching sentiments when contemplating issues of homeland and identity. The last time I used The Feasts of Memory with secondary students, I also asked them to use EK's work as a springboard for writing their own auto-ethnography, and the results were quite impressive. For example, one of my students, an ethnic Chinese, was born in Italy, attended local public schools in Italy and Spain, and now lives with his extended Chinese family in Greece, where he is attending an English language international secondary school. His essay, inspired by EK's book, presented an intimate description of what it is like to grow up in a traditional Chinese family in Greece while trying to socialize according to Greek norms and manage the academic expectations of an American-style international school. Another student, a young man from Spain whose parents work in the military, wrote about the constant moves to foreign (for him) countries and the heartaches as well as the privileges that such a lifestyle offers. Other students have responded to the humor in the book, using it as a model for their own stories of misunderstanding and reconciliation. In sum, the stories in The Feasts of Memory are extremely well written and deeply moving. I recommend this book very strongly, to all those who have ever crossed a boundary, be it national, cultural, or social, and also to those who haven't but might want to trace the steps of a seasoned traveller who has.