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The Murderess (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2010
"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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"...this chillingly beautiful work should win for Papadiamantis the new English readers he certainly deserves." --Arts & Book Review
“Certain poets like Constantine Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis have responded positively to his writings. They have especially expressed appreciation for his distinctive use of language, powers of simple narration and masterly blending of the cruel exigencies and exquisite natural surroundings of a way of life that resonates with folkways, myth and religious sensibility. With his place among Greece's modern writers now secure, Papadiamantis merits the attention of the larger audience that translation into English gives him. His novella, The Murderess…should be required readingR30;” -George Economou, The New York Times
“The narrative unfolds with a retrospective reticence that is stunning, and concludes with a passion whose dramatic simplicity is enthralling.”
“Promises a study of defeat in the Hardy tradition…” -Los Angeles Times
An “exquisite novelist…” -M.J. Politis, The New York Times
"the greatest Modern Greek prose writer” -Milan Kundera
"The 'saint' of modern Greek letters...Papadiamantis wrote with graphic realism and unequalled passion..." -Times Literary Supplement
“It is books such as The Murderess which remind us of the miraculous nature of prose fiction.” -Gabriel Josipovichi
"Papadiamantis's characters portray in miniature the eternal passions of man-jealousies, loves, ambitions, hatred, murders, and misfortunes-in an almost hieratic movement, like the rhythm of a chorus in tragedy, scarcely perceptible but sufficient to suggest the deeper, the pure nature of the world. Therein lies the magic of Papadiamantis." -Odysseus Elytis
“An excellent opportunity for those who do not read Greek to sample a novel from the pen of one of Greece's finest modern prose writers…a powerful and disturbing story which will haunt you.” -Greek Review International
“Alexandros Papadiamantis is Greece's foremost prose writer. In his novellas and stories he presents a universal picture through the microcosm of the tight-knit society of a Greek village on a remote island. Papadiamantis is a clear-eyed realist, but woven into his stories are village magic, vestiges of myth and ancient lore, and the dour superstitions that governed the daily life of the Greek peasant. His plots are at times touched by a magic realism reminiscent of Márquez.” -Peter Constantine, Conjunctions
About the Author
Peter Levi (1931–2000) was a poet, translator, novelist, and professor of classics at Oxford. Educated at Catholic schools, he was ordained as a priest in 1964 and remained one until 1977. He wrote more than twenty volumes of poetry, and from 1984 to 1989 held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford.
- Item Weight : 5.3 ounces
- Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1590173503
- ISBN-13 : 978-1590173503
- Product Dimensions : 5.04 x 0.32 x 8 inches
- Publisher : NYRB Classics; Main Edition (June 15, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #898,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is how I like characters in books: evil with good intentions, but is Old Hadoula really evil? Does she really have good intentions? I loved the nightmares and guilt that assailed Frankojannou, and how religion plays an important part in it, without being supportive or critical of it.
This is also how I like books: short and fluent. At 130 pages, this novella flows like the brooks of Skiathos, and the more you read, the more you don't want the story to come to an end. It's deep about issues like the point of life, without becoming an existentialist dissertarion.
"The Murderess" also includes my favorite topics in a novel: island life and scenery. The novella is set on the Greek island of Skiathos, where Papadiamantis was from. Without being didactic, it gives you insight into the life, culture and traditions of Greek islanders at the time. The landscape comes alive, as well the flora and geography, without interrupting the plot to make room for it.
It's a pity that this is Papadiamantis' only novella. All in all, a wonderful discovery and read.
The story is set in the Aegean island of Skiathos. The central character in the novel is Hadoula an old woman. Hadoula's entire life summed in her own thoughts was - "...she had never done anything but serve others. When she was a little girl, she served her parents. When she was mated, she became a slave to her husband, and at the same time, because of her strength and his weakness, she was his nurse. When she had children she became a slave to her children, and when they had children of their own, she was slave to her grandchildren."
Hadoula, was born poor and lived on the margins of society. She had a harsh life. Beginning with her chidlhood with a jealous mother; a raw deal in dowry; the struggle to bring up her six children; two sons who grew up and ran away to America ;the third son attacked her daughter and later ended up in a jail despite her efforts to save him; how she worked hard to save for dowries for her three daughters. She steals, tells lies, manipulates. But, Hadoula is no ordinary woman. She is well known for her medicinal skills. She helps people with her remedies from the local herbs and plants and at times gives discreet medical help to women.
Hadoula has to nurse her daughter's new born girl who is born ill. Her own daughter is till recovering from the child birth. Hadoula spends sleepless nights as she looks after the child. Hadoula, thinks of the fate of girls. 'O God, why should another one come into the world?' . How they must be "set up" and be given dowries. The cycle repeats itself when the daughter has a daughter of her own. Thoughts such as these start to cross her mind as she nurses the sick child " Girls have seven lives....Not much makes them ill and they seldom die. Should we as good Christians not help the work of the angels?..... The only ones with seven lives are the girl children of the lowest class! They seem to have multiplied on purpose, to punish their parents with a foretaste of hell in this world..." The sleepless nights, her harsh life, its futilities, the suffering child all start to wrok on her and her brain begins to go in smoke and she suffocates the child to death. Thus begins her unusual remedy and she starts to kill the young girls whenever she has an occasion. She does so in the firm belief that she is helping the girls by alleviating their sufferings and saving them of a bleak future and their parents of a burden. She also believes she is providing the girls of a good life in heaven.
However, the law catches up with her and she is on the run. She flees her home and runs into the moutains going from one part of the valley to another. She hides in the forest, seeks refuge with the shepherds and those who she treated in the past. Still uses her unusual remedy on a newborn sick girl child. In her flight she is tough and the weatherbeaten woman uses all her survival skills to negotiate various challenges till the very end. Hadoula's is able to flee from the law but when she is alone in the lap of nature can she flee from the torment of her acts? How does this all come to an end?
The life of Hadoula, in the early part of the novella, in and around her home bring out the misery, suffering and the plight of women. In later part, as she flees away the raw beauty of the island, the simplicity of the people who live in the mountains is vividly captured.
What makes this nouvella of such dark acts so engaging? Its simplicity, its lifelike quality, its ability to lay bare the true face of life in poverty, suffering and misery. Above all the impassioned telling the story of old Hadoula, her life , her acts and times. The author passes no judgement nor does he take sides with Hadoula. The terse and lyrical quality of the nouvella add to its appeal.
Even after about hundred years after it was written the novel will still strike chord in today's world where women still suffer because they are women.
It is an unusual novel and a delicate piece of art to be read and treasured.
But Hadoula's logic means she keeps going, seeking to 'help' other families cursed with daughters, culminating in an exciting and beautifully written tale. Bringing the scenery of the Greek Islands to life (the author was a native of Skiathos), this is simply written but most compelling.
Top reviews from other countries
It is translated from the original Greek by Peter Levi and it retains the rustic feel of Papadiamantis's other stories. Skiathos is small and in such early times few locals ventured far so such limitations have a profound effect on locally based contemporary stories. Frankojannou, the centre of the dark tale, is a complex being of many moods. Her fate is to become a murderess, driven by the traditional burden of the dowry required to marry off daughters. In such a patriarchal world too many daughters could be deemed a curse and in Frankojannou's twisted mind a grim logic grows and drives her through the remaining days of her life to a finale where reality catches up and justice is served.
The Murderess is created with unpretentious prose, short sentences and a necessary tautology. Local social history is well painted and any lack of long journeys in such a small world is more than compensated for by the long path of Frankojannou's twisted logic to her fate - papadiamanti's holds nothing back. The Murderess is not a glass of Champaign, but a draught of country wine with rough bread and cheese. It is superb. Read it and keep it as an example of good craft.