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Kassandra and the Wolf [Paperback]

Margarita Karapanou

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2009
"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, New York Times

"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."
--Edna O'Brien

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Interlink Books (Oct. 1 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566567718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566567718
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #841,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read with "The Words to Say It" I cannot imagine surviving my youth without having found these books when I was 17. T June 27 2012
By Real Women Read - Published on Amazon.com
I was worried this book would seem dated when I suggested it (and another book called, "The Words to Say It," to my friends who is a child psychologist and psychology professor. He was doing some work with young women who had incest and body shame issues. The books helped me tremendously when I was a young woman. I would have thought the stories might have lost some value in that young people seem to know almost too much these days. As my psychologist friend said, these works of fiction are the REAL REALITY for young women and any woman suffering from child sexual abuse, incest, neglect, and body issues. The books are also fairy tales and puzzles. We cannot always find the words. We cannot always save ourselves from believing the wolf to be grandmother. These stories are short and simple in many ways. Yes, demented because the children in these stories have been injured by the very people meant to protect them. Somehow, like the most frightening of Grimm's fairy tales, the truth will be found through sacrifice. Who are we to know where sanity begins and ends. In the actor? Or in those who acted on him or her?
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kassandra and the wolf and ah, what? March 27 2012
By sid1gen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This long short story by late Greek author Karapanou could have been better, but in the end it was just pretentious and wanna-be-sinister, it didn't mean anything, it didn't say anything of importance, and it allowed its author to revel in a false sense of depth.

Karapanou writes for Kassandra, a child who may or may not be dreaming some or all of the time; who may or may not be mentally retarded; who may or may not be surrounded by monster-like adults; who may or may not be a monster herself, a psychopath in the bud. We accompany Kassandra as she kills a servant who uses her sexually, but later we find the servant alive; or maybe it's a play on the readers' concept of time. We go with the girl as she helps her uncle commit suicide, or perhaps she imagined the whole thing. Her family is upper class and the adult family members appear to have no feelings. Kassandra seems devoid of emotional attachments that cannot be explained through violence or the thought of violence. She tortures and kills a cat she loves; or maybe not: we don't know. Her grandfather ends up in an insane asylum, but perhaps not and it's a dream. Kassandra is sexually molested by Peter the servant, by a butcher, by the General, by some of Peter's friends, maybe also by her father, or the man she dreams is her father. We don't know because the narrative is "artistically" confused and confusing. The author doesn't know, either but, at least from Kassandra's perspective, almost every single male adult she meets uses her sexually at one time or another, which is statistically almost impossible, so the narrative isn't really deep and is not philosophical, because the repetitiousness of the incidents is such that the impact is lost.

Comparisons with Proust are cheap and meaningless. Other writers' laudatory comments on the back of my pb edition go for the "authentic voice of the child" vein, forgetting that a 28 year-old woman wrote the book, not a child: we simply get an adult woman's own ideas about a particular girl's childhood, and not written with much talent, either. There is nothing "authentic" regarding the voice of the little girl in this story, and there can't be. Dark literature with children as protagonists is not hard to find, starting with traditional fairy tales and proceeding with James's The Turn of the Screw (which Karapanou mentions in "Kassandra," but whose darkness and ambiguity is much better handled by a far better writer) and other dark tales, some better written than others. (See the truly original and terrifying "fairy tales" before our modern idea of childhood was manufactured and before Disney got those tales, so as to understand how children were seen before the 19th century and what adults expected of children. Also, "Centuries of Childhood" by Philippe Aries is an excellent place to start reading non-fiction about children.)

As I was reading I understood what a tremendous pulling of the leg these few pages were. Good for Karapanou, who started her literary career with this book. Bad for those of us who wasted one hour reading it.

Two stars because Kassandra does come out at times as an original voice. If only Karapanou had tried less hard at pretending that she could actually write what a child sees and feels, hers would have been a much better story.

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