Posts Tagged ‘Kassandra and the Wolf’

On Karapanou

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

This week brings two excellent online features on Margarita Karapanou and the newly released The Sleepwalker. First, a wonderful, in-depth review in the new issue of Words Without Borders:

“Originally published in 1985 after her harrowing fictional debut Kassandra and the Wolf, Karapanou’s second novel The Sleepwalker confirmed her reputation as one of Greece’s most talented postmodern writers and one of her most imaginative chroniclers of human alienation. Part dystopia part satire, this surreal tale of lost souls, and a dethroned deity, is not so much a murder mystery as it is a murderer’s mystery: the reader knows who is killing the islanders, but is left to wonder about the killer’s motives and real identity.”

Read the rest here.

And just up at the Quarterly Conversation: an online roundtable discussing Karapanou and her work. Writers, translators, and scholars Nick Germanacos, Karen Emmerich, Amanda Michalopoulou, Karen Van Dyck, and Angela Dimitrakaki talk about Karapanou’s ouevre in Greek and in English translation, her critical reception and place in Greek literature, her biography, and more, in a fascinating, wide-ranging, profoundly thought-provoking conversation. Some excerpts:

Amanda Michalopoulou: There are writers who make you want to go back into writing. Karapanou makes you want to go back into living your life. She also belongs to this rare community of writers who work beyond influence; they are on their own. When I was in my twenties I tried to imitate my favorite writers, but with Karapanou it never worked. Her voice was so unique and what I wished for was just to listen to her voice. Her atmosphere influenced some of my stories but at that young age I always felt that I failed to create an atmosphere as extraordinary and magical as hers. As she doesn’t belong to a group of writers, her influence within Greek literature is difficult to be measured. I am afraid Greek literature looks always for ethnic characteristics, for more “Greekness” and Karapanou goes beyond Greekness. She is not at all interested in that stuff. Her Hydra is primarily a psychological landscape.
Karen Van Dyck: I first understood the depth of Karapanou’s knowledge of English when I spent a week in Hydra with both her and her mother going over my translation of her mother’s novel The Straw Hats (which eventually came out under the English title Three Summers in 1995). Karapanou by this point was suffering much more obviously from the manic depression that had plagued her all her life. The drugs she was taking made her bloated and listless. I remember she would lie on the couch reading murder mysteries in the breezy open room overlooking the port while Liberaki and I argued over the meaning of words. But what repeatedly saved my translation were not so much these discussions, but the trenchant one-liners that Karapanou would interject every once and awhile with just the right American translation for the word we were hunting for. I emphasize American because if Karapanou wrote in English she would be an American writer not an English writer. Her short staccato sentences and the visual fireworks they set off are post Hemingway, pre Kurt Cobain.

Read in full here

Karapanou “basically perfect”

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

On HTMLGIANT, M Kitchell calls Karapanou’s Kassandra and the Wolf  “basically perfect” in his round-up of 2010 reading here. Happy Holidays from Clockroot, and — if you’re looking — a Karapanou collection makes a great New Year’s Gift!

Interview with Margarita Karapanou

Monday, November 15th, 2010

This isn’t new, and isn’t in English, but is a treasure worth sharing. Below is Margarita Karapanou’s famous television interview, given a few years before her death, in which she discusses her work, her struggle with mental illness, and her mother, the novelist Margarita Liberaki. (A summary I too must rely on, not able to understand for myself.) The whole interview is up on Youtube. If you don’t speak Greek, it’s a chance just to see and hear Margarita—

Writing as uncertainty & teaching writing as teaching uncertainty

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Sonya Chung has a nicely straightforward and—I want to say “warm and sane,” can I say that? Often sanity seems cold and bitter these days, or at least my attempts at it—essay over at the Millions on teaching writing:

“I think the single most defining characteristic of a writer” – I found myself saying to a friend the other day, when she asked my thoughts on the teaching of writing – “I mean the difference between a writer and someone who ‘wants to be a writer,’ is a high tolerance for uncertainty.”

I’m teaching my first undergraduate creative writing class this semester, and this week was thinking much about something like this issue, instead of “uncertainty” thinking of “curiosity & humility.” These virtues that perhaps describe all of our, and our students’, better instincts as students, as writers—when are we humble, curious, thrilled and inspired to discover ourselves uncertain; when are we merely defensive or worse, only seeking affirmation.  I thought of this as I taught Kassandra and the Wolf a few weeks ago, and considered that book again, and how I never feel I’m done coming to terms with it.  That novel is a gorgeous, all-in affair with uncertainty—its mysteries varied and many: like the dark breath in the back of the monster’s cave; like your mother’s locked jewelry box, where you know she keeps her letters.  When we discussed the novel in class, I found what I most wanted to discuss was its power to create uncertainty in us, to keep shifting, suggesting conflicting and multiple and difficult readings, even as it can feel in us that we want to just know.  What a brave book, to live so fully amid uncertainty for 140 pages, and bring so much back.  To uncertainty, then—


In which I show my age

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Last week in my undergraduate creative writing class, my friend David Bartone and I co-taught a “translation day” (in preparation for reading Kassandra and the Wolf this week…). It went like this: we selected two poems from the Center for the Art of Translation‘s Two Lines anthology “Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed,” in this case Andrej Glusgold’s “I Love Berlin” and “Elementary Particles,” translated by Donna Stonecipher.  First we distributed only the original German text.  We translated most of the first poem together as a class, using “gut” translations—no dictionaries, just everyone’s own ideas of what was meant, or should be meant, by such words as “Schlaf” and “Herpes,” etc. (success rate with the second was high).  Then we divided the class into small groups, half of which had dictionaries, half of which didn’t.  The half with dictionaries were to translate the second poem creatively, to make the best and most creative poem; the half without dictionaries were to translate it for accuracy.  At the end everyone could vote on each other’s, just to add a little competition.  All in all, it was an excellent day and really I should be able to offer here some of the great lines people came up with.

But also… One student showed me that on his iPhone he could take a picture of the German poem, and Google could read the text out of the image and translate it for him instantly.  I was agog.  And annoyed.  And (in the cliched mode of fiction writers?) was thinking that what I think of as my best ideas may no longer be a match for the world…


Margarita Karapanou: “Brutal event into elegant design”

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

The spring 2010 Review of Contemporary Fiction on Kassandra and the Wolf and Rien ne va plus:

“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. A passionate woman marries a gay veterinarian, falls precipitously out of love with him, samples the ‘exotic’ spell of a lesbian relationship, and ultimately returns to her husband only to abort the child they conceive—well, maybe. Karapanou also works in, in an intriguing contrapuntal fashion, the story of a woman, a novelist, finishing a manuscript that renegotiates the reality of her own failed marriage by conceiving it as the freighted allegory of a woman who marries a gay vet, who falls precipitously out of love with him, etc. Which story is ‘the’ story—the creation of a soon-to-be-published manuscript or the collapse of a relationship? Like Kassandra, the narrative is harrowing in its implications but cool to the touch, audacious in its uncompromising commitment to test the integrity of narrative itself. The title—the last call at a roulette table signaling the players are ready to hand their fortunes over to fate—reminds Karapanou’s reader of the privilege of narrative: rendering brutal event into elegant design.” —Review of Contemporary Fiction, Joseph Dewey

“Karapanou today remains a unique writer”—new review in Rain Taxi

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

In Rain Taxi‘s spring online edition, check out the review of Margarita Karapanou‘s Kassandra and the Wolf and Rien ne va plus.

… [R]eaders will also be delighted by what grounds Kassandra and the Wolf: Karapanou’s language. The word-pictures kaleidoscope—at times literally, as dinner becomes after-dinner games becomes Kassandra running down the stairs to demand of the housekeeper stories from the Greek Civil War—and at other times metaphorically (“A word like a snake stares at me: there’s a pot like Grandmother’s chamber pot, a mouth in the middle, and next to a nail scissors. . . . At the tail there’s a ladder. I count the scribbles, examine them closely. I like this word.”) In still more places, Karapanou pulls off being both literal and metaphorical at once: “I’m alone again. I stick my tongue out vaguely at Miss Benbridge because she’s driven away my friends and lovely pictures. I act the ape at her, the Chinaman, and then the frog. In a picture, I cover her in dung, turn her into a horsefly and a cockroach, and, finally, I turn her into a water glass, which I throw out of the window.”

Read in full here

This week at Clockroot: Two readings by Ersi Sotiropoulos and Karen Emmerich, and one art opening

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Please join us!

On Tuesday, February 9th, Ersi Sotiropoulos will read from Landscape with Dog and Other Stories with translator Karen Emmerich, at the Gallatin School at NYU. The reading is at 6, reception and signing at 7. For more information and location, see here.

On Thursday, February 11th, Book Culture and Columbia University’s Hellenic studies program will host a reading and discussion with Karen, Ersi, and professor Karen Van Dyck, celebrating Clockroot’s three new translations from the Greek: Landscape with Dog, and Margarita Karapanou‘s Rien ne va plus and Kassandra and the Wolf. 6:30 pm, at 536 West 112th St (between Broadway & Amsterdam), NYC—see here.

And up in our neck of the woods, artist Ihrie Means—whose fantastic paintings are the cover art for Kassandra and the Wolf and Rien ne va plus—has an opening at the Cummington Community House, Saturday, February 13, 6 to 9 pm.

Margarita Karapanou at the Critical Flame

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The January issue of the exciting new review venue Critical Flame brings George Fragopoulos’s fascinating essay on Margarita Karapanou, considering Kassandra and the Wolf, Rien ne va plus, and (forthcoming next fall from Clockroot!) The Sleepwalker.

Karapanou’s work then gives the impression of being constantly in motion, an active critique, perhaps, of Nietzsche’s claim that we need to read slower. When reading Karapanou one cannot read quickly enough. There is a velocity to her texts, both in the obvious sense of their structure and pacing as well as a visceral sense akin to vertigo. They seem always to be spinning wildly and recklessly towards unknown destinations (often that destination is death) or, rather, they seem to emphatically evade any firm lodging or easy comfort. Rien ne va Plus is a prime example, a novel that asks us, after a certain point, to return to its beginning and to question everything we have just read. Karapanou knew, as Deleuze did, that flight was by no means a passive activity, but rather the complete antithesis of passivity; that, in the wake of escaping, art could follow.

Read the full here