Sappho

Nancy Freedman, Author St. Martin's Press $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-18660-9
Classical Greece comes rather luridly to life in Freedman's fictional biography of the Lesbian poet Sappho. Freedman (whose Mrs. Mike remains a classic) sets out to illuminate and humanize the mythical poet by setting the remnants of her corpus, poems and poem-fragments, into the context of her life on Lesbos. Like the Sappho of myth, Freedman's creation is a woman ruled and wrecked by her passions and vanity. Fickle and lustful, she seduces one student after another until, in middle age, she falls in lasting love with Phaon, the young man over whom she eventually kills herself. Laudably, Freedman refuses to judge Sappho or shape this proud, often cruel aristocrat in the image of a modern feminist. Yet one often stumbles over the archaized language of the book--Homer rendered awkwardly into pseudo-Victorian prose--which in overheated moments (""I worship at the very apex of the mound of Aphrodite"") slips into the language of the bodice-ripper. More successful than the novel's dialogue or narrative voice are Freedman's speculative reconstructions of Sappho's school and of the occasions that gave rise to her frequently obscure work. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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FORMATS
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-30388-4
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