Amanda Michalopoulou, one of Greece's leading authors, has written short stories, a children's series, and five other novels, along with her latest, How I Killed My Best Friend. And she'll be at The Book Club of California this Friday, doing a reading followed by a conversation with her translator, Karen Emmerich about this latest book, which Gary Shteyngart (author of Super Sad True Love Story and the memoir Little Failure,) called " flawlessly translated." He went on to say she uses the backdrop of "Greek politics, radical protests, and the art world to explore the dangers and joys that come with BFFs. Or, as the narrator puts it, 'odiodsamato,' which translates roughly as 'frienemies.'"
In How I Killed My Best Friend, Michalopoulou writes about, Maria, an African immigrant to Greece, who becomes friends with Anna, a transplant from Paris. The two girls navigate grade school in the '70s, in post-dictatorship Greece.
Growing up, Michalopoulou was influenced by the Canadian writers Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, who both write a lot about friendship and how women feel. She also wanted to write about friendship, which she sees as a major issue in everyone's life.
"It's a system of power," she said. "The first one we try on after our family. What we have experienced in our family, we might try on in friendship. For example, if we were oppressed by our parents, we might try and oppress other people. What's interesting to me is to explore friendship and how it works in our lives."
Michalopoulou connected with Emmerich through another translator, and they began communicating through email. Emmerich, a professor in comparative literature at the University of Oregon was enthusiastic about her work, the author says, and they got to spend some time together last November working on I'd Like, which led to Michalopoulou making some changes in the book.
"When you work with a translator on a book you've already written, you discover many strange things about the book -- how it works through time, and through language," Michalopoulou said. "The book is not something that stays immaculate in time."
Michalopoulou enjoys working with a translator. Coming from a fairly small linguistic community, it allows her to reach out to a larger readership, she says.
The author, who worked as a full-time journalist for many years, now writes columns about culture, gender and social life. She enjoys traveling and breaking up her routine, Michalopoulou says -- and it gives her ideas for new columns and short stories. And she likes being in a place where people don't know her work.
"People ask different questions," she said. "They're more direct, and it's like I can reinvent myself."
Two Lines Press, a program of the Center for the Art of Translation, hosts this free event at the Book Club (312 Sutter) at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 18. Complementary wine and beer will be served, and Michalopoulou and Emmerich will be available to sign books. Copies of How I Killed My Best Friend will also be available for sale.