My Desperate Search for Books in Athens

I mentioned a few days ago that I was struggling with the phase of culture shock where everything unfamiliar feels like a personal attack.  Nowhere did I feel this more strongly than in my search for books written in English.  I love to read, books are my happy place, when I see them my face goes all wistful, etc etc.  But everywhere I went, the titles were maddeningly indecipherable.

Duh, Tricia, you may be thinking.  You’re in Greece.

But you’ve forgotten – I’m incredibly privileged, and I expect everything to be available in my mother language!

Which is, you know, selfish.  But also true.  And anyway, it just felt like a slap to my face every time I saw a book and knew that it’s pages – MY PAGES, MY LOVE – were stories and words and phrases that I would never understand.  Street-side book sellers hosted tables full of familiar covers and unfamiliar titles.  The center where I volunteer had a bookcase full of Greek books; I pulled out the most basic books for children and wilted with my inability to translate more than one sentence.  In a desperate attempt to find normalcy, I returned to Omonia where I had once walked through a bookstore to get to a bathroom.  It was made of several rooms, but I found only two bookshelves with English books.  There was nothing worth reading, and I left really dejected.

I complained about this to Argyris on Sunday, and an hour later he exclaimed, “Oh!  There is a big building at Syntagma, next to the McDonald’s!  Public, it’s orange.  There are many books there.  I’m sure they have some in English.”

“You mean there’s been a bookstore right next to my metro stop, and I’ve ignored it for two weeks??”   Continue reading