"Remarkable . . . A highly original and eloquent story."—Boston Globe
"The effect is haunting . . . bitter and beautiful."—New York Times
Set in an impoverished Greece at the cruel time of the German occupation during WWII, When the Tree Sings is a boy’s eye view of war’s terrible ways. The young narrator’s parents are dead, his paternal home destroyed; he lives with his aged grandmother. With barely enough to survive on, they struggle to avoid death—and we, the readers, are given the life of the village, filled with its vivid characters: Flisvos, the narrator’s one-eyed playmate; Lekas the Informer; Uncle Iasson, who is in love with Lekas’s red-haired mistress; Dando, who dies of fright; a mysterious figure known as the puppeteer. Mundane horrors mix with terrible cruelty and occasional hysterical levity. Our starving narrator is offered a chestnut from the soldiers’ fire—if he can hold it hot from the coals in his bare hand; a motorcycle engine runs to disguise the sounds of prisoners being tortured; an explosion kills all the fish in the bay and they wash up soaked in kerosene and inedible; the boys spend an afternoon plotting how to hang Grandmother’s only drawers from the enemy flagpole; a kitten named November is trained to fly in a basket tied to a paper kite. The wonder of this novel is how engaging the world is to the boy and, so, to readers who accompany him through the pages of this “modern classic.” (Los Angeles Times).
"[Haviaras] translates darkness into radiant light very nicely, and this gives his small-boned book an illusion of solidity that's enjoyable and affecting."—Kirkus Reviews
"Set in German-occupied Greece during the second world war, it's a coming-of-age novel, full of striking characters, but it is also about tyranny, collaboration, hope, desolation, and exile."—The Guardian
"At once exotic, stark, hard and familiar, this visionary little novel partakes of both myth and history with an enchanted ease that gives the feeling, at times, of the tale telling itself."—Baltimore Sun
"Some novelists try to make the ordinary appear extraordinary; others try to make the extraordinary appear ordinary. It seems to me that Stratis Haviaras has, in this short novel, done both at once, an achievement so dazzling it defies the reader to analyze just what is going on."—Ploughshares
"A lyrical first novel about the survival of the human spirit in Greece during World War II."—American Library Association
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Stratis Haviaras (1935 –2020) was born in a village in the Peloponnese and grew up in Athens during WWII and the ensuing Greek Civil War. At thirty-two, he came to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he worked at Harvard University for forty years—twenty-six as the Curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room. Founder of The Harvard Review, Haviaras published in Greek and English. His two famous English-language novels, When the Tree Sings and The Heroic Age, portray the lives of children as they struggle to survive the cruelty of war.