Kassandra and the Wolf
Margarita Karapanou; translated by N.C. Germanacos
published 2009 • 5 ½” x 7 ¾” • 192 pages
ISBN 9781566567718 • paperback • $15.00 •
“To read these two experimental works is to realize the magnitude of the loss when Greek novelist Margarita Karapanou died quite suddenly in 2008. "Kassandra" offers a disturbing portrait of childhood. A six year old girl, a stutterer, is victimized by sexual abuse she cannot begin to fathom, her vocabulary drawn from the lurid imagery of fairy tales (the wolf). So brutalized, Kassandra cannot express emotions: given a doll to love, she cuts off its legs and arms; given a kitten to tend, she beats it, drowns it, and then lovingly wraps it in a blanket. The novel disquiets, un-eases, disturbs, but intrigues. There is a coolness to its execution, Karapanou’s testing of the limited perceptions of an emotionally damaged child who cannot speak for herself compels focus less on harrowing events and more on their translation into lyric story. The same is true of the later work, "Rien ne va plus". Karapanou executes a deft experiment that suspends events between experience and their redesign into fiction. ”
—Review of Contemporary Fiction, Joseph Dewey
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“No retelling of Kassandra and the Wolf can explain its charm, or its riddles. … [It] is one of those rare creations that come alive mysteriously, without any antecedents. The book is original, terrifying, complete. It invents its own history, eases in and out of nightmare as it mingles dream and fact. Kassandra and the Wolf is a short, muscular novel with an absolute sense of craft. … The language throughout is merciless and crisp. … [A] stunning achievement: a lovely, sinister book.”
—Jerome Charyn, The New York Times
Margarita Karapanou’s Kassandra and the Wolf was first published in 1974, and went on to become a contemporary classic in Greece, receive international acclaim, and establish its 28-year-old author as an intensely original new talent, who garnered comparisons to Proust and Schulz.
Six-year-old Kassandra is given a doll: “I put her to sleep in her box, but first I cut off her legs and arms so she’d fit,” she tells us, “Later, I cut her head off too, so she wouldn’t be so heavy. Now I love her very much.” Kassandra is an unforgettable narrator, a perfect, brutal guide to childhood as we’ve never seen it—a journey that passes through the looking glass but finds the darkest corners of the real world.
This edition brings Kassandra and the Wolf back into print at last—a tour de force and, as Karapanou liked to call it, a scary monster of a book.
Margarita Karapanou was born in Athens in 1946 and raised in Athens and Paris. One of Greece’s most beloved authors, she was the author of five novels. Her first novel, Kassandra and the Wolf, was translated into four languages, and was originally published in English by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1974. The Sleepwalker has likewise been translated into four languages, and Karapanou’s own French translation of the book, Le Somnambule (Paris: Gallimard, 1987), won the French national prize for the best foreign novel, an honor previously awarded to Lawrence Durrell, Jorge Luis Borges, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She died in 2008.
NC Germanacos is a Briton of Greek descent, who settled in Greece in 1965. He has translated leading Greek poets and prose writers and written his own poetry. For thirty-three years, in collaboration with his wife, the writer Anne Germanacos, he ran a school he founded for American students on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete. He now shares his time between his home in Crete, where he farms, reads, and writes, and San Francisco, his wife’s home town.
“Karapanou… write[s] of childhood with such lyric ferocity; her 'Kassandra and the Wolf' has [a] jagged fantastic substance… with a vicious pre-pubescent sexual element chillingly added.”
—John Updike, New York Times
“A frank, poetic, uncluttered graph of the state of childhood.”
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