Id Leavitt in his introduction to the book Wescott created one of literature s most unlikely heroines in Mrs Helianos possessed of a resilience a resourcefulness and a courage that surprise even her She completes Apartment in Athens making it one of the most thought provoking and disturbing war novels ever to have been written During the Nazi occupation of Greece the Helianos family a middle class Athenian family of four is forced to house a German officer in their midst After a ear and a half of an humiliating and at times brutal relationship the officer has a two weeks license in Germany and returns apparently changed That the change was not as through as Mr Helianos came to believe he found out at his peril in a rather unexpected way I found this book to be an extremely beautiful work where the violence and inhumanity of war not exactly the battles but the humiliation that comes with occupation by foreign forces with unchecked power is treated with an utmost restrain but maybe exactly because of that with an incredible effectiveness The claustrophobic and difficult life of the Helianos couple and the way Mrs Helianos reacts to the disgrace that befalls upon her after her husband arrest is a moving portrait of the extraordinary ways people can surpass their limitations and fears when faced with extraordinary circumstances Originally published in 1945 An Apartment in Athens is a book that stood the test of time and has become a minor classic that should be much widely read Sublime large portions of this book are sheer brilliance Esp fascinating to me was the meditation on the lyrical aspects of the Nazi self consciousness in Ch 9 Though often criticized for having written so little a life that produced this book and Pilgram Hawk surely was not wasted Wescott was a craftsman of the highest order and the effort may simply have tired him outAt any rate a real gem I had mixed feelings about this novel about the Greek resistance during WWII NYRB has published two titles with Glenway Westcott as the writer the first one was The Pilgrim Hawk which in my opinion is a masterpiece and one of the perfect examples of the American novella Even though this one was uite enjoyable it seemed to me that some of the writing styles that had dazzled the readers of the other book had fallen short of expectations in this one The story tells of the plight of the Greeks during the German occupation of Athens and is in particular about the trials and tribulations of the Helianos family who were actively involved in the resistance The first part of the story deals with the family living together with the enemy as a part of their house was let out to a German major who later on commits suicide owing to personal tragedy It depicts the small family and the enemy spending their lives toget This is well writtenit s Glenway Wescott who is fairly incapable of writing poorly But everything about the story made me uncomfortable anxious agitated disturbed and depressed and I couldn t wait for it to end I m sure I was just reading it at the wrong moment for me I heartily recommend it to others First of all an absolutely elegant writer The book was somehow published in 1944 It concerns a family in Athens subjected to all the humiliations of the Nazi occupation Helianos and his wife and two children are forced to billet Captain Kalter later Major Kalter He starts out a tyrant then softens The softening is due to the death of his two sons and his wife in the war Helianos who has also lost a son in the war in a late night heart to heart with the stricken Kalter states his hatred of Hitler and Mussolini for bringing such misery on the world Our softened Kalter immediately has him arrested Kalter then kills himself but even in death he does all he can to bring misery on Helianos and his family Never trust Greeks bearing gifts is translated to Never trust Germans ever Helianos is executed His wife then works to get Alex her small and somewhat defective child into the resistance There is no compromise no half measures with Nazi Germany One of the best books I ve read in ears I plan to read by Wescott. Officer Wescott stages a drama of accommodation and rejection resistance and compulsio.
T there I am reminded of the German occupation The Germans looted and robbed Athenians as well as much of the rest of Greece and sent what they could to Germany on trains and trucks Hitler had praised the bravery and fighting ability of Greeks but when his invasion of Russia started to cause reversals in his plans and the possibility even probability of an Allied attack on his southern flank he decided to take Albania and Greece with the weak support of Mussolini who had already invaded GreeceThe Occupation is what this novel is about and it really gives ou what life for an Athenian family was like during those cruel Un monstre dans les céréales years Beforeou visit Athens next time ou might want to read Apartment in Athens Apartment in Athens is extraordinary Glenway Wescott narrates the story of a Greek family forced to billet a dictatorial German uartermaster officer and pseudo intellectual after the Nazi occupation of Greece Compelled to dote on this ostentatious German named Kalter the once respectable family Nikolas Helianos his wife and their two children find themselves enslaved in their own small apartment in the middle of Athens which uickly becomes the only world they can identify with and understand With its heady treatment of the complicated dynamic between Kalter Helianos and his wife the expressive prose of Glenway Wescott at once both stifles ou like thick noxious smoke and touches Painting Landscapes from Your Imagination you kindly with its keen sense of human emotion Wescott is a masterful writer with a remarkable ability to convey the pressures and anxieties of absolute physical and emotional domination complete with the utter humiliation and sense of brokenness suffered by those who are forced to endure it He never shrinks from the horrific realities of life in Athens under the Nazis with vivid scenes of emaciated children mass murder and starvation peppered in between the everyday stressors and fears suffered by the Helianos family Still despite briefet provocative references to the German occupation of Greece in broad historical terms Wescott is primarily concerned with the small unimportant lives of the tormented Helianoses and their uncertain relationship with Captain Kalter who casts a spell and a snare onto his Greek hosts The Helianoses are at times morbidly fascinated with the man and after his metamorphosis into a relatively kind and even tempered fellow after his return from a two week leave in Germany he and Helianos even converse as amicable acuaintances for a short time before Helianos fatal conversational error Still while Wescott zooms in on this unlikely uintet in an overcrowded apartment Athens as the backdrop for his drama is not unimportant Mrs Helianos relationship with the Parthenon in particular plays a critical role in her comprehension of her own fortitude and resilience in response to Kalter in her home The Parthenon with no nerves and no flesh on its bones no soft venerable bosom and no veins or arteries the worst having happened to it for centuries still there it stood It was a small comfort but Mrs Helianos took comfort in it Later toward the very end of the novel and with Kalter gone for good the archaeological remains evoke a different response Then if she had cared to she might have taken another look at the Acropolis the temple in a blur the hill in a black veil her great reminder her worst keepsake She consciously kept her back turned to the window Despite Helianos dominant role in the first half of the novel by the end of Apartment in Athens his wife has become its real heroine evident by her transformation from a passive unreflective housewife into an introspective self confident head of the family who refuses to kowtow to the severe demands of the men in her life While her evolution is by no means complete we leave her with unrealized romantic notions about her son Alex and hopeful for a far fetched encounter with her cousin in law Petros she has nevertheless endured what even she herself never thought possible Thus she saw herself lifted up above who she was and what she was in the increase of drama in her life and it was as proud as a mystic vision In the words of Dav. Reek couple in Nazi occupied Athens who are forced to share their uarters with a German.
I don t know why I read this book from midnight until 2 am last night at every chapter break thinking with cold nausea about everything I have to get done before Friday and then resolutely plunging into another chapter But it s an astonishing little exercise deceptively expository and actually scary as hell Nelson Algren is in here also Paul Bowles I liked it a lot What happened to Glenway Wescott s literary reputation It is a mysteryETA Oh so here s what happened Whilst this story was extremely well written and I was intrigued by the premise of the novel I have to say that overall it wasn t an enjoyable read There was an overpowering feel of opression and claustrophobia within this story without any uplifting moments to alleviate the unrelenting grimness I found it very difficult to appreciate the major characters here because I didn t appreciate them and I found it difficult empathise with themWhat was most interesting to this reader was the insight into the German psyche Whilst I could appreciate the author s skill in presenting the story I would find it difficult to recommend with any euanimity I am a religious woman I pray every day for my little children doomed to die she had said turning around and addressing Mrs Helianos I pray for them to die fasterWestcott s writing is stark urgent and brutal The inhumanity of the circumstance of the novel the Nazi occupation of Greece is reflected in his economy of languageIt is true that in all our human attachments based on nothing but blood relationship there are strict limitations inherent disappointmentsI found myself underlining passages on almost every other page a sentence construction or articulated consideration that I wanted to return to and marvel over again and againFor he felt that it was a great decision this forgiveness not at all forced or against his will but simply against his every instinct It is a grave decision when Lippenbekenntnisse you take the good will for the deed whenou Chasing McCree Chasing McCree yield to the mistaken inhuman brain or the harmful tongue because there is a kind heart behind it accepting things thatou hate with nothing to make them acceptable except that riddle of the spirit which has prompted them contenting Impossible Things yourself with good intentions whether they are according toour mortality or not whether they are to our advantage or notThere is so much within an Apartment in Athens that is stirring It is a uiet horror story claustrophobic doomed devastating Yet at the same time Westcott has imbued his tale with a fearless optimism that carries the reader through the foreboding to each fresh injury to each clear and striking observationI do not suppose that the Americans are indifferent to their fate and danger I think that their worst mistake must lie in their hope of getting peace established for all time as if it were a natural law needing no enforcement so that they can relax and be frivolous and forget it When they see that this is not possible then they lose hope altogether They give it all up as a bad job and ield to their cynicism and fatalism It is what happened after the other war What on earth do they mean when they speak of peace forever Naturally it can only be a little at a time with good luck and with an effort and great vigilance and good management day by day Wachten op Apollo year afterear Life is like that everything on earth is like that have the Americans and the British forgotten Tell Petros whenever he hears foolish political men babbling about permanent peace to ask them what about permanent life Do they believe in that too What about permanent love permanent health permanent talent When we are sick and we go to see a doctor do we expect him to promise us immortality When he prescribes some medicine do we have to be persuaded that it is a panacea an elixir before we take any of it Glenway Wescott is one of those high uality writers that few people know about I think This might be his best novel I tried another one Grandmothers which I did not appreciate much but Apartment in Athens I thought is a masterpiece about the Nazi occupation of Athens When I lived in Athens in the 1960s 70s and until now whenever I visi. Apartment in Athens concerns an unusual triangular relationship In this story about a
Glenway Wescott grew up in Wisconsin and briefly attended the University of Chicago where he met in 1919 his longtime partner Monroe Wheeler In 1925 he and Wheeler moved to France where they mingled with Gertrude Stein and other American expatriates notably Ernest Hemingway who created an unflattering portrait of Wescott in the character of Robert Prentiss in The Sun Also Rises Eventually We