The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis / ISBN 9781590173503 / 144-page paperback from New York Review of Books Classics
A remainder mark and light shelfwear, otherwise excellent.
The Murderess is a bone-chilling tale of crime and punishment with the dark beauty of a backwoods ballad. Set on the dirt-poor Aegean island of Skiathos, it is the story of Hadoula, an old woman living on the margins of society and at the outer limits of respectability. Hadoula knows about herbs and their hidden properties, and women come to her when they need help. She knows women’s secrets and she knows the misery of their lives, and as the book begins, she is trying to stop her new-born granddaughter from crying so that her daughter can at last get a little sleep. She rocks the baby and rocks her and then the terrible truth hits her: there’s nothing worse than being born a woman, and there’s something that she, Hadoula, can do about that.
Peter Levi’s matchless translation of Alexandros Papadiamantis’s astonishing novella captures the excitement and haunting poetry of the original Greek.
Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851–1911) was born and raised on the Aegean island of Skiathos, the setting not only of The Murderess but of many of his short stories, literary sketches, and novels. His mother was a descendent of an established local family and his father was a Greek Orthodox priest. As a young man, Papadiamantis spent seven months in a monastery and studied philosophy at the University of Athens before taking up a career as a journalist and translator. He enjoyed popular success as the author of historical adventure novels like The Gypsy Girl (1884), which were serialized in daily newspapers, but it was not until he turned to writing short stories and novellas that he gained critical recognition. Though a heavy drinker and smoker, Papadiamantis was devout, poor, and solitary, known as the saint of modern Greek literature. He lived in Athens rooming houses until 1908, when he returned to Skiathos. Two years later, he died of pneumonia.