The Daughter (or The Dog’s Mother) is a novel set in Greece during the German Occupation years and later on during Greece’s turbulent post-war period. The story is told through the eyes of Raraou, “the great star of theatrical revue” as she features herself, and follows her from her childhood years in a war-torn country, through her early adulthood into her old age in post-war Athens. Pavlos Matesis brings his dark humor into play in an exquisite sketch of his characters in their everyday struggles for survival; he carries the readers through the tough predicaments of his anti-heroines, little Raraou and her mother Asimina, who is sleeping with an Italian soldier to feed her children in a place ravaged by hunger and fear. One of the most critical scenes from the novel, one to be imprinted in a reader’s memory, is set in the fictitious ‘’Rampartville’’ during the Liberation; Raraou witnesses an ugly carnival: crowds of villagers previously shattered by the atrocities of war committed by the Nazis, now themselves inflicting a punishment on her mother, amongst other women, with an almost dionysiac frenzy. Raraou starts to bark at the crowd…
If Raraou has eventually become a renowned actress as she purports to be during her post-war years in the second part of the novel, we will never know for certain. Raraou’s frivolous, often childishly cunning and apparently simplistic sketch of a character in search of a chimera, becomes a reflection of a country unable to heal its deep wounds inflicted by consecutive wars: World War II, occupation resistance and Civil War – still numb by grief and unable to re-invent itself.
Pavlos Matesis is a prominent Greek novelist and playwright who has courageously deconstructed national stereotypes and taboos through his refined as much as unsettling use of caricature, parody, and the absurd, in order to shed light upon the paradoxes and intricacies of human nature. Subtle nuances of dark comedy are inevitably lost in the translated version, but nevertheless The Daughter still manages to communicate its profound secular humanism, as intended by its author.
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