Picks and Pans Review: The Heroic Age

updated 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Stratis Haviaras

"Aunt Evanthia was my last relative. When she flew off, joining the birds and the shadows, I made the decision to join the next group of kids who were leaving town." The protagonist of this novel is a small boy in a Greek village during the Civil War in the late 1940s. Gangs of orphaned children roam the countryside, foraging for food at night, moving to keep warm, sleeping among the mountain rocks during the day, avoiding the Nationalists' tanks and planes. Haviaras is a Greek-born poet and author of When the Tree Sings. His hero—who is truly heroic—calls himself Panagis, and in his travels he comes to love a young gypsy girl with beautiful eyes. His companions suffer frostbite, violence, death, and Panagis' side loses the war. Yet he survives. At the end he can say, "I was almost 15 and the heroic age for me was over." The writing is simple, direct and suffused with a kind of mythic power. This is a harsh, deeply moving, beautiful book. (Simon and Schuster, $15.95)

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