by Bernard Epin in L' ECOLE ET LA NATION
Review for the first publication of Wildcat under glass in France (1973)
A masterpiece! Undoubtedly perfect, extremely moving. One should not always refrain from expressing one’s enthusiasm! This novel beautifully translated from the Greek, sums up all the essential qualities that one seeks in the children’s literature of our times. Through a sensitivity always alert, a freshness of the eye, a concrete vision that excludes all moralising prose, Alki Zei succeeds in keeping, from beginning to end, the “childish” tone of the narration in order to deal with overwhelming frankness with a subject of such grave consequence as Fascism, which for once we are not afraid to call by its name.
In Greece of 1936, a little girl tells us, in her own way, the story of her family and of those related to her, at the moment dictatorship takes over. There is her father ready for all the compromises that would allow him to keep his job, her mother sweet but slightly inconsistent, her sister who went through the horrible experience of joining the extreme right-wing youth brigade – a school for informing and stealing – her aunt always respectful of “law and order”, her grandfather raised with classical culture and a democratic tradition, the cook who knows everything and secretly leads her own struggle, her cousin a young student, a revolutionary, pursued by the police, whom the children help to hide and who finally joins the International Brigades. As well as many other ... children getting involved in frightening incidents that they experience both as an adventure and as a fairytale, with a mixture of innocence and lucidity.
One would need many pages to analyse what makes possible this perfect balance between the daring essence of the subject and the constant complicity of the writer with the children’s world. The result is the passionate involvement of the reader, regardless of his or her age.