A song to life, by Julio Llamazares


During the confinement of the first wave of the pandemic, two years ago, he accompanied me, among others a book that has already become part of me like everything that moves us, teaches us or makes us think. The book—a novel—is by a Greek writer who lives in Sweden, where he emigrated in the 1960s and from where he writes as if he had never left his country. Theodor Kallifatides is his name and he has been in Spain these days presenting his latest book translated into Spanish, ‘Timandra‘.

On ‘the siege of troy, the novel I read in those days of the pandemic, Kallifatides tells a story that in light of what was happening in the world then or what is happening in Ukraine today takes on its full meaning. A teacher from a Greek village occupied by the Germans during World War II read to his studentsIliad’ for them to escape of what is happening in his town and so that, by comparison, they relativize it, something that he achieves only while the reading lasts, because when the students leave school they face reality again.

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And the reality is that the Germans rule the town, mistreating their parents and neighbors, even killing 10 of them in a macabre public lottery in revenge because one of their own died in an ambush by the resistance. The teacher, day after day, reads the ‘Iliad’ to her students without sparing them the most ferocious scenes, those in which human cruelty is manifested in all its crudeness, which in Homer’s story are numerous, and whose side that of the Germans seems almost bearable. Covering one tragedy with another is a remedy for anguish and that is what ‘The Siege of Troy’ tells, which helped me to forget about mine in those terrible days of the pandemic that today seem very far away.

‘Another life to live’, like the story ‘Mothers and children’, Kallifatides’s tribute to his mother, or ‘The past is not a dream’, a reminder of the journey he made with his grandfather from his village in the Peloponnese to Athens in search of his parents and of which he would never return to that one, delves into the dispossession that the author has lived since he emigrated to Sweden and that he tells us with great simplicity. And it also serves as teaching for these times and in which concern begins to make a dent in many people, fed up with the succession of misfortunes that devastate us and that it seems will never end. Thinking that a new life will be left for us to live when everything is finally over (the pandemic, the war, the induced economic crisis & mldr;) can help us cope as Kallifatides did with his cultural exile. At 84, the Greek-Swedish writer has just published one last novel, ‘Timandra’, which is quite a declaration of intent, since “the splendid ether that lived with the hero Alcibiades and collected his ashes & rdquor ;, the woman of exceptional beauty who brought together in her house the most distinguished of classical Greece, from Euripides to Socrates, according to tell the story, It is a symbol of the song to life, to the past and to the one that we still have to live, which will be better or worse than that of recent years, but which is what awaits us and which we must not miss. Because it is the only one we will have.


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