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Cassandra (novel)Cassandra (German: Kassandra) is a 1983 novel by the German author Christa Wolf. It has since been translated into a number of languages. Swiss composer Michael Jarrell has adapted the novel for speaker and instrumental ensemble, and his piece has been performed frequently.

Cassandra's narrative begins by describing her youth, when she was Priam's favorite daughter and loved to sit with him as he discussed politics and matters of state. Her relationship with her mother, Hecuba, however, was never as intimate, since Hecuba recognized Cassandra's independence. At times their interactions are tense or even cold, notably when Hecuba does not sympathize with Cassandra's fear of the god Apollo's gift of prophecy or her reluctance to accept his love. When she ultimately refuses him, he curses her so that no one will believe what she prophesies.

When Cassandra is presented among the city's virgins for deflowering, she is chosen by Aeneas, who makes love to her only later. Nonetheless, she falls in love with him, and is devoted to him despite her liaisons with others, including Panthous — indeed, she imagines Aeneas whenever she is with anyone else.

It is Aeneas' father Anchises who tells Cassandra of the mission to bring Hesione, Priam's sister who was taken as a prize by Telamon during the first Trojan War, back from Sparta. Not only do the Trojans fail to secure Hesione, they also lose the seer Calchas during the voyage, who later aids the Greeks during the war.

When Menelaus visits Troy to offer a sacrifice, he rebukes impertinence of Cassandra's brother Paris, who has recently returned to Troy and been reclaimed as Priam and Hecuba's son, though as a child he was abandoned because of a prophecy. His words provoke Paris, who insists that he will travel to Sparta, and if Hesione is not returned to him, he will take Helen. The tension increases when Cassandra experiences a sort of fit and collapses, having foreseen the war and fall of Troy. By the time she recovers, Paris has sailed to Sparta and returned, bringing Helen, who wears a veil.

Cassandra soon begins to suspect—but does not want to believe—that Helen is not in Troy, after all. No one is permitted to see her, and Cassandra has seen Paris' former wife Oenone leaving his room. However, she is unable to accept that Troy—that her father—would continue to prepare for a war if its premise were false. When Paris finally tells her explicitly what she already knows, she protests to her father, but he rejects her plea to negotiate peace and orders her to be silent. Thus Cassandra's traditional role—as the seeress who tells the truth but is not believed—is reinterpreted. She knows the truth, but Priam knows it too; she cannot persuade anyone of the truth, but only because she is forbidden to speak of it. Although she feels miserable, she still loves and trusts Priam and cannot betray his secret.

Although Priam's political motives ostensibly drive Troy to war, the palace guard Eumelos is the true force behind the conflict. He manipulates Priam and the public until they believe the war is necessary and forget that the stakes are nothing but Helen. Gradually he increases the pressure on the Trojan population, including Cassandra. Anchises explains that Eumelos, by convincing the Trojans that the Greeks were enemies and inciting them to fight, made his own military state necessary and was thus able to rise to power.

One of Eumelos' guards, Andron, becomes Polyxena's lover, but when Achilles demands her in exchange for Hector's body, Andron does not object—rather, he offers her to Achilles without remorse. Later Eumelos plans to lure Achilles into a trap by stationing Polyxena in the temple, and for Polyxena's sake Cassandra refuses to comply with his scheme, threatening to reveal it. Priam promptly has her imprisoned in the heroes' graveyard. Eumelos executes his plan after all, and Achilles is killed, requesting as he dies that Odysseus sacrifice Polyxena at his grave for her betrayal. Later when the Greeks come to take her away, Polyxena asks Cassandra to kill her, but Cassandra has discarded her dagger and cannot spare her sister.

When the defeat is imminent, Cassandra meets Aeneas for the last time, and he asks her to leave Troy with him. She refuses because she knows that he will be forced to become a hero, and she cannot love a hero.

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