by Alexandros Papadiamantis, translated from the Greek and with an introduction by Peter Levi
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.
The greatest Modern Greek prose writer.
Certain poets like Constantine Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis have...expressed appreciation for [Papadiamantis's] 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.
—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.
It is books such as The Murderess which remind us of the miraculous nature of prose fiction.
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.
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