(p. A11) Mr. Angelos, a former Journal correspondent, travels through Greece as a journalist first, and a native son second, to conduct a mostly unpleasant archaeology. By way of background, however, he first tackles the pervasive issues of disability and pension fraud, rampant tax evasion, and public worker job protections. These are the very problems that Greece’s European lenders sought to remedy through a series of supposedly helpful but also punitive and ineptly administered reforms. Mr. Angelos dismantles the facile narrative accepted by many in the eurozone, in which hardworking Germans must clean up a mess made by their lazy and “Oriental” southern neighbors. But he is equally tenacious when it comes to exposing the misconduct of Greek politicians, not to mention the country’s corrupt system of career tenure and its, well, truly Byzantine bureaucracy.
Mr. Angelos’s book allows us to see how these problems play out, sometimes farcically, in the lives of actual people. There’s a cranky grandmother on the island of Zakynthos who receives generous blindness benefits even though she can see perfectly well. There’s the arrogant former prime minister who accepted millions of euros in bribes to buy useless submarines on behalf of the Greek government.
. . .
. . . the book’s single most flattering portrait is of Yiannis Boutaris, the tattooed, wine-making, freethinking mayor of Thessaloniki, who courts Turkish tourism, refuses to kowtow to the church and publicly acknowledges the crucial role of Jews in the city’s history.
For the full review, see:
CHRISTOPHER BAKKEN. “BOOKSHELF; How Greece Got to ‘No’; On the island of Zakynthos, a grandmother receives generous blindness benefits–even though she can see perfectly well.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 7, 2015): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 6, 2015.)
The book under review, is:
Angelos, James. The Full Catastrophe: Travels among the New Greek Ruins. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015.