After Sappho: A Novel by Selby Wynn Schwartz

After Sappho: A Novel
by Selby Wynn Schwartz

This is a deeply intellectual tale, one woven out of ancient and Italian history, imagination, and philosophies of Womanhood and queerness. The fiction in these pages reads as a reimagined history of real women, whose lives were lost to us because of the threat they posed (just by being) to European and Italian patriarchy. The tale unfolds as a kind of immortal telling of several lives, connected to a single soul. It is multigenerational and historical. There are several “Sapphos”.

As a historian, I deeply appreciated the embedded histories here: legal, social, cultural. There is a historiographical element to the book, an unfolding of a trajectory of thought as the book follows “Sappho” in her various guises and incarnations through time.

This is not an easy read. There is a required pre-existing understanding of Italian and European literature necessary to grasp its nuances. But, that said, the undercurrent of desire, rage, and feminist ambition is hard to miss. For that reason, After Sappho is worth both an initial and several re-reads.

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