Theodor Kallifatides’ Latest Novel, The Siege of Troy

October 23, 2019

Homer’s epic The Iliad has long been a source of inspiration for writers and artists since ancient times. The huge cast of characters and the dramatic events of the bloody Trojan War fired the imagination of everyone from the ancient Greek dramatists to Greek writers of the diaspora in the present day including Theodor Kallifatides who makes his home in Sweden.

The Siege of Troy: A Novel, Kallifatides’ excellent retelling of perhaps the world’s first anti-war story offers impressive insights into Homer’s work and also into Greece during the World War II German occupation. The author weaves together a moving and thoughtful epic of his own, going back and forth between WWII Greece and a teacher’s recounting of Homer’s Iliad to her students. The result is poignant, beautiful, and powerful, highlighting the humanity of the mortal heroes as the teacher distracts her students from the bombs dropping on their village while also vividly bringing to life the characters and their experience of life in an occupied village in wartime.

The Iliad’s timeless themes, the senselessness of war and the constancy of human nature are clear in Kallifatides’ novel. The gods are not quite as central to Kallifatides’ retelling as they are in Homer’s epic which gives greater psychological depth to the characters battling each other for Troy.

Autobiographical elements offer a level of realism to the sections of the story set during WWII that only an eyewitness to the violence and brutality could capture. It may also surprise readers that the original novel was written in Swedish. Now available in a wonderful English translation by Marlaine Delargy, The Siege of Troy is a must read for fans of Homer’s Iliad and for those who have never ventured into reading the ancient epic, as well as fans of historical fiction and great writing in general.

As Kallifatides writes in the book’s Afterword, “ever since high school, The Iliad has touched my imagination and aroused my admiration. In my eyes, it is the strongest anti-war poem ever written.”

Of his retelling of the epic, he writes, “I had absolutely no intention of trying to replace Homer. I just wanted more people to get to know him.”

Kallifatides has published more than forty works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that have been translated around the world. He was born in the village of Molaoi, in Laconia, Greece, in 1938 to Dimitrios Kallifatides, a teacher originally from Pontus, and Antonia Kyriazakou from Molaoi. In 1946, the family moved to Athens where the young Kallifatides completed high school and then studied at the Karolos Koun Art Theatre Drama School. Kallifatides immigrated in 1964 to Sweden, studying philosophy at Stockholm University where he also lectured. He began his literary career in 1969, publishing a book of poetry, though he is perhaps best known for his novels. As a translator, he has brought August Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman to Greek readers, and Giannis Ritsos and Mikis Theodorakis to Swedish ones. In 1994, he began writing in Greek as well and continues to be one of the most celebrated contemporary authors in Sweden. He has received numerous awards for his work in both Greece and Sweden.

Kallifatides’ previous book, published last year in an English translation also by Delargy, Another Life: On Memory, Language, Love, and the Passage of Time, is a thoughtful essay on the writing life and an author’s place in a changing world.


February, though it is the shortest month, is ideal to catch up on your reading list.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


Fire Breaks Out at Apartment Building Near the Offices of TNH (Vid & Pics)

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY – A fire broke out in an apartment building about a block from the offices of The National Herald in Long Island City on February 21.

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump's legendary ability to raise massive sums of political cash may be on a collision course with a new and unpleasant reality.

HARTFORD - The state rested its case on the 25th day of the trial Michelle Troconis, the woman who allegedly conspired with her then-boyfriend Fotis Dulos to kill Jennifer Farber Dulos, his estranged wife, and helped to cover up the murder.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY – A fire broke out in an apartment building about a block from the offices of The National Herald in Long Island City on February 21.

NEWPORT NEWS, VA. - In downtown Newport News, a significant building with a long history, the former Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, established in 1949, is set for renovation according to a report by WAVY News 10.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.