The Murderess

Author: Alexandros Papadiamantis
Translator: Peter Levi
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Main edition: 14 September 2010
Language: English

“This little classic, set on the Greek island of Skiathos, is an absolute gem. A perfect introduction to Greek literature, and a chilling portrait of what it is to be female in a particular time and place in history – it (obvious point alert) just the more sung about periods that have their injustices. Short, exciting and chilling. Great piece of fiction.”

Renowned as the inventor of modern Greek fiction, Alexandros Papadiamantis is a magical mythmaker and unflinching realist whose work looks forward to that of Gabriel García Márquez. The Murderess is a bone-chilling book with the force of an Appalachian backwoods ballad. The Murderess is the story of old Hadoula, a peasant woman from the island of Skiathos-in the nineteenth century, when the story is set, as bitterly poor a place as anywhere on earth. Old Hadoula knows the burdens of women’s lives and she knows the herbs that can remedy them; over the years many women have come to her in secret for help. She is both an outcast and a fixture of the community, and as the book begins she is trying to get her newborn granddaughter to stop crying so that her daughter can get some sleep. That’s when it hits her: there’s nothing worse than being born a woman-and she strangles the baby. This first killing is not the last, as old Hadoula unleashes the pentup fury and pity of a life in this.