The Siege of Troy

Written by Marlaine Delargy (trans.) Theodor Kallifatides
Review by Ann Chamberlin

During the Second World War, a boy whom we may assume is the author in memoir recounts events. Germans occupy the town, his father has been arrested and gone missing. The boy and his classmates must frequently take shelter in a nearby cave when there are Allied air strikes. Here their teacher regales them with a retelling of the Iliad to while away the time and to impress upon them the glories of their native language and history. Our narrator has a boyhood crush on the teacher; a girl of about his own age is presented as the one he should eventually end up with.

The retelling may dwell a little longer on the plight of the women in the ancient epic. The senselessness of war is played up as things grind on in Asia Minor and on the Hellenic Peninsula, but it is a telling rather than a showing; others have approached the material in a more compelling way. The fact that we have an ancient and more modern parallel with Helen and “Miss,” a woman caught between her home and heart, is interesting. Though, more could have been made of this. The book is short and sweet and may be especially attractive to those who want an introduction to the more difficult of Homer’s works.