cover image The Siege of Troy

The Siege of Troy

Theodor Kallifatides, trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. Other, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59051-971-4

This layered retelling of the Trojan War from Kallifatides (Another Life) is filtered through the perspectives of a nurturing schoolteacher and her adoring student during WWII. The setting is a Greek village under attack during the war. The young teacher, identified as “Miss,” takes her students into a cave as bombs fall, and diverts them with her version of the Greek myth, which takes up the bulk of the text. Each chapter of the book (and the yarn spinning) is bracketed by a brief passages from the point-of-view of the unnamed 15-year-old narrator, including details about his life outside the cave, his strong friendship with classmate Dimitra, and his infatuation with Miss (when Miss acquired a lover, he’s devastated). Miss’s version of the myth is florid, violent, and poetic, with memorable psychological depth—both Hector and Achilles are complex; Nestor and Patroclus have additional dimension, as well. The central relationship is the deep friendship between Achilles and Patroclus. As Greek resistance falters and the Germans take over the village, the narrator witnesses the violence of war firsthand. Kallifatides’s reworking of Homer’s epic provides an intriguing take on the human dimension of the myth and strikes a rich, resonant note. (Sept.)