Margaríta Karapánou Jerome Charyn - Essay

Jerome Charyn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

No retelling of "Kassandra and the Wolf" can explain its charm, or its riddles. A first novel by Margarita Karapanou,… "Kassandra and the Wolf" 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. It is never sentimental, pretty or overblown. Margarita Karapanou understands that a story is nothing more than detail, detail, detail; we can howl about meaning, mutter little truths about character and development, but it is the placement of words in a particular order that makes a landscape credible, that forces us to believe in Kassandra, her grandmother, and Fani…. The language throughout is merciless and crisp. Wherever Margarita Karapanou has come from, wherever she goes, "Kassandra and the Wolf" remains a stunning achievement: a lovely, sinister book. (pp. 14, 18)

Jerome Charyn, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 25, 1976.

[In "Kassandra and the Wolf," the] adult world, or that part of it which is sexual and violent, [is] seen through the eyes of a precocious (to put it mildly) six-year-old girl named Kassandra. Miss Karapanou's first novel, which is fairly arresting at first because of the shock of reading about a small child's absorption with violence and sex, is really a collection of surreal vignettes about the child's relatives, servants, and playmates in Athens. All the vignettes are quite short—rarely longer than one or two pages—and all exemplify what the publisher calls Kassandra's "pristine sadomasochism."…

[It] all becomes terribly repetitive and boring, and even the violent sadomasochism takes on an unpleasant fashion-magazine chichi. (p. 79)

The New Yorker (© 1976 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), August 2, 1976.