There’s apparently an aggressive divide between people who love The Colossus of Maroussi and people who hate it. The praise focuses on his insightful self-discovery and portrait of Greece on the eve of WWII, and the hatred complains about these very same things, but calls Miller self-indulgent and the portrait of Greece more an idealization of impoverished people struggling in the face of wartime horror.
Neither side is wrong. A travel narrative/memoir is by nature a bit self-indulgent. It takes a bit of self-indulgence to believe that anyone would want to read about your life, no matter how remarkable you think it may be. And memoirs are by nature biased; the author could only see it the way he saw it, and Miller loved what he loved about Greece. He put it in writing and if you pick up a travel memoir expecting something other than a man’s personal reflections about his personal experience in a new location, you’re reading the wrong book.
That said, Miller’s portrait of himself and Greece through his eyes is moving, engrossing, and intriguing. The Miller that entered Greece is not the same Miller who left, and his recounting of his journey takes us on that transformation with him. Greece and her people leave a lasting imprint on Miller and he wants the reader to see it. He does occasionally depart from the story for some ramblings not exactly related to Greece, and his vehement hatred of the US can be distracting, but this train-of-thought style was, I suspect, much how Miller honestly thought to himself, and probably similar to how conversations with him went. This book is as much an honest snapshot of a man at a certain period of his life as you can really hope to achieve, despite his claim that the book was named for and written about a man named Katsimbalis.
If you enjoy memoirs and travel stories, The Colossus of Maroussi book is for you. If you think writing about yourself is indulgent and awful, pick something else.
(This review was originally posted in full on my Goodreads account. Sorry y’all, I got emotional reading everyone hating on this book which I genuinely deeply loved.)