About this book
Mermaids and Ikons
A Greek Summer
Gwendolyn MacEwen • Rosemary Sullivan
The island is shy and exuberant, savage and fair, bold yet self-effacing. It is a woman in heat, a man in despair, a blonde horse at sunset, a riot of fig trees, a flaking white salt bed, an arid garden of thyme and oregano, a hundred clotheslines full of octopi hung up to dry, a warm night of fireflies and tiny shrimps with burning eyes.
In her first work of nonfiction, Mermaids and Ikons: A Greek Summer, originally published in 1978, beloved poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen explores her strongly personal responses to a complex civilization. Partly written during a trip to Greece in 1971, MacEwen moves from the urban tumult of Athens to the radiant simplicity of an island in the Aegean.
In this intimate and exquisitely written travel diary, she evokes the very spirit of Greece — the exuberance of the people, the sun-drenched landscape, and the shaping power of ancient traditions and myths in modern Mediterranean life.
This edition features a new introduction by the award-winning biographer Rosemary Sullivan.
The windows of the night train revealed a landscape almost lunar in its starkness. The trail hugged a wall of rock made steel blue by midnight; the mountainside had the consistency of quicksilver. When we passed over the bridge at the great canal of Corinth, we seemed to be suspended in a hunk of purple midnight space. Everything dwarfed us. We were on our way to Mycenae.
The next morning, rainwater turned red as blood in the hollows of the stones in Corinth. Nikos and I stood in the ancient agora and gazed up at the mountain where holy whores once had their temple; a Byzantine castle now clings precariously to the summit. Everything’s so big in this country, I thought. What is it? Everything’s stretching and reaching and gasping for more and more space. The infamous light seems to yank things out of their contexts and present them naked and fullblown to the eye. Everything demands attention; there is nothing subtle about Greece.