Project Description

Why I Killed My Best Friend

Why I Killed My best Friend book cover

published by
Open Letter

in May 2014

Translated by
Karen Emmerich

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About the book:

In Amanda Michalopoulou’s Why I Killed My Best Friend, a young girl named Maria is lifted from her beloved Africa and relocated to her native Greece. She struggles with the transition, hating everything about Athens: the food, the air, the school, her classmates, the language. Just as she resigns herself to misery, Anna arrives. Though Anna’s refined, Parisian upbringing is the exact opposite of Maria’s, the two girls instantly bond over their common foreignness, becoming inseperable in their relationship as each other’s best friend, but also as each other’s fiercest competition—be it in relation to boys, talents, future aspirations, or political beliefs.

From Maria and Anna’s grade school days in ’70s, post-dictatorship Greece, to their adult lives in the present, Michalopoulou charts the ups, downs, and fallings-out of the powerful self-destructive bond only true best friends can have. Simply and beautifully written, Why I Killed My Best Friend is a novel that ultimately compares and explores friendship as a political system of totalitarianism and democracy.

Anna lectures me about how the Socialist Party in Sweden lost power after forty-four years and how the Workers’ Party in Great Britain is weaker than ever before, as if I were to blame. She tells me that in Paris she made some important decisions, when she grows up she wants to be like Gisèle Halimi, Sartre, and de Beauvoir’s lawyer who risked imprisonment for supporting the Algerian National Liberation Front. I understand barely half of what she says, but I keep nodding my head. She’s determined to bring me back to the proper path, and tells me about Patty Hearst, who disowned her rich father and started robbing banks, and sixteen-year-old Nadia Coma˘neci, the human rubber band from the Montreal Olympics. We braid our hair to look like Coma˘neci, put on our gym clothes, roll aside the portable table in the living room and practice our splits. Next is modern dance. Anna always chooses the theme. Our choreographies have names like “Long Live the Revolution” or “The Students” or “A Carnation on the Polytechnic Memorial.” The dances are full of pas de chat and when we start to sweat, we lie down on the rug and stare at the ceiling.

“A perfect score!” Anna tells me. “You’re not dumb anymore.”

I hug her and we roll like barrels into the hall, splitting our sides with laughter. 

More about Why I Killed My Best Friend

Read an excerpt at Open Letter Books

Much like the exquisitely rendered friendship of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy, set during a similar time period in Italy, here is a portrait of what it means to use and be used by the people you love most, to see the best and worst of yourself in a face not your own. And it’s a sign of incredible maturity and wisdom for this fine, prolific, and audacious young writer to fearlessly embrace the challenge of brining that uncomfortable internal conflict to the page. – Jennifer Kurdyla
Read the full
review at Music & Literature

Why I Killed My Best Friend is really about a destructive, all-consuming friendship that one can’t disentangle oneself from but within this friendship, both of its “foreign” main characters influence leftist politics in Greece. – Maria Eliades
Read the full review at Ploughshares

Another fine entry in the University of Rochester’s Open Letter series of literary translations, this cerebral novel by prizewinning novelist Michalopoulou (I’d Like, 2008, etc.) recounts a friendship of the kind that marks us for life. 
Read the full review at Kirkus

Watch a trailer of the theatrical adaptation of the novel presented at 104 Theater