Lilika Nakos Stephen Stepanchev - Essay

Stephen Stepanchev

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There are pictures [in The Children's Inferno] of pale, ragged children falling of hunger in the shadow of the Acropolis, of children walking about armless as a result of beastly tortures, of children living in filthy, vermin-infested caves where they plan robberies and assaults on the better-fed citizenry, of children bewildered and weeping, looking for affection wherever they can find it. The plight of these youngsters is always played against their hopes and dreams. One boy lives by a mouth organ that reminds him of a kindly godfather; another is fond of a mangy dog that follows him everywhere and licks his running sores; still another loves a cat so intensely that he develops a fever when he learns that it has been killed and eaten. One child is devoted to a lost Englishman, another to an Italian soldier who smiles. All of them dream of better times to come, usually in heaven.

From these stories one gets an overwhelming sense of the despair and misery that must have been the lot of the average Athenian during the war. In their particularities these pieces are as raw and real as documentary photographs. For that very reason, however, they are unsuccessful as short stories. They bear too close a relationship to Miss Nakos's observed expe-rience; the reality has not been transmuted by a selective, universalizing imagination. The best of the stories is the one called "The Madwoman," in which, with admirable detachment, Miss Nakos tells of the effects of a woman's insanity on her husband and little girl.

Stephen Stepanchev, "Bitter Truth," in New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review, December 1, 1946, p. 40.