THE MURDERESS by Alexandros Papadiamantis


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Papadiamantis (1851-1911) is considered a master of modern Greek prose--and if this little book doesn't really convey a great sense of his style or tone to the English-speaking reader, it does seem to place him in the line of mythico-realists such as the great Italian Verga and (to a lesser extent) today's Garcia Marquez. The story is that of an old woman named Hadoula, mother of many and grandmother of more; she has seen so much suffering, experienced so much poverty, and felt the chafe of Greek life (the peasant dowry system, the harsh land, religious superstition) so acutely that she has come to the conclusion that ""grief was joy and death was life and everything was upside down."" So, when yet another grandchild is born, and struggles for life with acute, probably-fatal breathing problems, old Hadoula--sometimes also called Franko-jannou in the narrative (which is confusing)--strangles the child one night while everyone else in the room is asleep: it seems to her a mercy. Then, some time later, Hadoula also drowns two little girls who are playing near a cistern. Why two more murders, though? More revenge on life? And what she has done begins to haunt Hadoula. . . just as the authorities begin to put her and the murders together: eventually, hunted, she destroys herself. A tremendously stark, subtly cautionary tale, very redolent of the physical (the ruined island chapel, the sea, the cliffs)--but most contemporary US readers, without the necessary historical and cultural contexts, will find this an oblique and slightly bewildering introduction to the little-known Papadiamantis.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1983
ISBN: 1590173503
Publisher: Writers and Readers--dist. by Norton