Why I Killed My Best Friend

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Amanda Michalopoulou, one of Greece’s most popular writers, has written a new novel, WHY I KILLED MY BEST FRIEND, which just might attract a sizable audience in this country. As translated deftly by Karen Emmerich, the novel follows the fortunes of Maria and Anna, who meet in an Athenian grammar school in 1974, just after the collapse of the military regime in Greece.

Both of these precocious girls are outsiders, Maria having grown up in Nigeria, Anna in Paris. This creates a bond that survives the next two decades, decades filled with change and growth, the joys and agonies of young love, countless political and personal battles.

The power in this intense relationship lies with Anna, who is blonde and beautiful, headstrong and flamboyant. Maria might live in her shadow, but is too feisty and intelligent to be considered a mouse. She is a fighter and feminist in her own right, besides being an accomplished artist.

The give and take between Anna and Maria, the bickering and bitchiness, the love and hate, is skillfully orchestrated and dramatized by the author, who not only knows how to create complex and compelling characters, but to capture a tumultuous period of Greek history, especially the battle to preserve democratic values in a country under assault by the forces of reaction and corporatism.

Intensely alive, at times scabrously funny, and always moving and true, WHY I KILLED MY BEST FRIEND is an outstanding example of modern Greek fiction.

(Open Letters, $13.95 ppbk)