THE HEROIC AGE by Stratis Haviaras
Kirkus Star


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The delicate yet pictorially vivid quality of Haviaras' first novel, When the Tree Sings, is broadened here--as the story of Greek boys fighting the Nazis turns to the postwar civil strife: sides taken and indignities suffered, magical independencies of personality strengthened. The five boys of the book, including narrator Panagris, are orphans, ranging in age from seven to fifteen; they fight in sympathy with the leftist Andartes when they must; they even go so far as besieging Mt. Grammos and surviving mass death in those caves as the Nationalist forces decimate them. But mostly the boys wander at night, in the company of a Gypsy girl named Zephira. And, as a band, they make up the world as they go, fabulating an innocence which they don't truly have anymore. Haviaras' writing of this odyssey is dynamic, as in this description of an attack by a cloud of insects: ""It was as though the air had taken a visible body and was eager to show its pulse and its muscle, its twisting-limbs at each point of severance, and its furious power of regeneration. It could strangle us, suffocate us, bite and sting us to death, devour us whole."" And while the boys suffer one trial after another--capture, detention in various island concentration camps, finally a kind of half-indentured servitude on the island of Kalamos--Haviaras calls on an impressive array of lyrical narrative devices to convey these children's lack of all illusion. . . in combination with a startlingly willful innocence. True, the book's second half, largely about imprisonment, lacks the strange obliqueness of the first, and is a bit slow. But Haviaras never relinquishes his hold on the reader--through this strenuous, poetic, strong-minded novel.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster