Gifted Greek is a character study of the Greece's first socialist prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, whose transformation from affable American economist to stormy, anti-American Greek was witnessed by the author over 30-year period as a neighbor, friend, and colleague. Also a reflection on the Cold War era's impact on Greece's domestic and foreign affairs, the unresolved dispute over how and by whom Greece should be governed provides the backdrop to the equally unresolved issues between Papandreou and his estranged father, George. Andreas, who had left Greece in 1940, was a naturalized American citizen and twenty-year resident in the United States.
In contrast, his father, George, was thoroughly Greek: a flamboyant, republican-leaning politician, a one-time prime minister, and perennial leader of Greece's Liberal Party. The author arrived in Athens in early 1958, in the thick of Greece's political turmoil. Over the next five years, by virtue of his assignment to cover developments in the Liberal Party, he would become the elder Papandreou's principal contact with the American embassy - and soon a conduit to his son, when Andreas returned to Greece in 1959.
By coincidence, the author and his wife, Toni, lived on the same suburban Athens street as the Papandreous and saw much of them during Andreas Papandreou's first year in Greece, who was on an academic sabbatical. As neighbors, fellow Americans, and like-minded critics of the economic, political, and social problems still afflicting postwar Greece, they quickly established a warm friendship. Over the decades, however, that friendship would be tested and frayed after Andreas's fateful decision to give up his American citizenship and run for political office in Greece, first as his father's ally and soon as his bitter rival.
The psychological and political dramas that ensued, as he wrestled with his half-Greek, half-American instincts and identity, long fascinated the author and led to this account of their entwined professional and personal lives.