In 1998, Mrs. Kanella Georgopoulou guided me over stone fences and through fields of donkey thistles to a dilapidated chapel below a small village in the Mani. Bleeding from scratches and parched by the heat of the high sun, we contemplated the face of the Virgin. Once found in the apse of the church, a section of the painting now lay shattered on the ground below. Gazing at the pieces of her village’s history, Mrs. Georgopoulou asked why no one was interested in the past. “When we are gone,” mused the octogenarian, “there will be no one left to tell the tale.” Mrs. Georgopoulou was one of the numerous elderly villagers in the Mani, Boeotia, and Crete who expressed to me the same concern — village life would soon disappear.
This week we focus on Sharon Gerstel’s book, shortlisted for this year’s award. From the book jacket: “This is the first book to examine the Late Byzantine peasantry through written, archaeological, ethnographic, and painted sources. […] The village is a micro-society, with its own social and economic hierarchies. This text reveals lesser-known individuals – such … Read more