WHEN THE TREE SINGS by Stratis Haviaras
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This first novel shares resonances with Fellini's wonderful film Amarcord: childhood remembered at strange and perfect visual angles. The boyhood narrator here, though, is living in dark times; the Germans occupy his Greek town, the people are starving, and the small human light inside everyone can only be stoked by poetic stories--like the One about death which the title refers to. Hunger is widespread, people tell tales to each other as much to take their minds off their stomachs as to exercise the imagination. The partisans--""Mountain Fighters""--come down secretly one day with a job for the village boys: build the largest kite they can, row it out in the bay, and attach it to one of the floats that mark the underground mines planted to protect the German off-shore storage depots. The kite pulls the string of mines to the floating depots and destroys them. Scenes like this and others are so graphic they vibrate; Haviaras, a Greek poet whose first fiction in English this is, translates darkness into radiant light very nicely, and this gives his small-boned book an illusion of solidity that's enjoyable and affecting.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster