Saturday, August 20, 2011

Peter Aspden: The Zorba syndrome (a column)

Peter Aspden: "The Zorba syndrome". A column in Financial Times, 20 Aug 2011.

Living in an era of turbulence in the world economy, much of my reading consists of business newspapers and magazines such as Financial Times and The Economist, and Kauppalehti and Talouselämä in our country. Helsingin Sanomat also has a good business section. Refreshingly, business papers have strong cultural sections, in a time when there is a trend in Nordic newspapers to abolish theirs. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. But in Financial Times, there is a splendid long essay by Martin Amis on Philip Larkin, and Charles Clover has written a surprising backstory about the end of the USSR, about what really went on with Yeltsin and Gorbachev.

Today's wittiest reading comes from Peter Aspden, who refers in his column to the international hit film Zorba the Greek (US/GB/GR 1964) directed by Michael Cacoyannis (1922-2011), based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, and composed by Mikis Theodorakis:

"Zorba was great for the balance of payments, but could the Greeks themselves have become rather too infatuated with him? With the roguish charm, the charisma, the terminal irresponsibility? With the devil-may-care attitude towards economic planning?"

"Well, the devil does care. And so does the rest of the world. It was the abiding achievement of Athenian classicism that it understood this precarious balance, between the forces of order and chaos, that made for peace and prosperity. The perfect proportions of the Parthenon symbolized the attainment of that equilibrium. But it was no more than an evanescent moment. War and destruction were around the corner."

"Being of half-Greek parentage, I naturally wish Greece well in its efforts to find a way out of its current predicament. But please, enough with Zorba. He was a fool. It's good to be uptight about the budget deficit. And some troubles just can't be danced away."

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