Selby Wynn Schwartz seduces the mind of readers with compelling narrative and how | After Sappho Book Review

Selby Wynn Schwartz, in her debut, dares to envision the possibilities and chaotic selves of the twentieth-century women, sometimes queer. Honouring artists, writers, actors, role-players and dreamers Schwartz’s creation is emboldening. The piece depicts an ungainly yet rhythmic ensemble of pioneering females of the previous century but penned for the ones looking in the mirror today.

Long listed for the Booker, After Sappho is depicted in segments where characters unite to form a community, not akin to their cities and States. It is made of women who are sad but tirelessly optimistic. A sensual blend of words, naturally erotic, Schwartz successfully attempts to widen the identities of women in unrelenting, lasting and maybe the inevitable presence of men and their decisions.

Sappho of Lesbos was a poet in ancient Greece and some of her fragments of lyrics and work suggest that she was ‘lesbian’ or sapphic. Both signify female same-sex relationships. Regardless of sexual orientation, sometimes it denotes a woman’s relationship with their sexual identity or sexual behavior.

Against the backdrop of a miasma, coupled with Italian laws limiting a certain pair of chromosomes, only, Schwartz’s prose and the flow are rather compelling. Often decrying oppression and behavior, Wynn envisions their emancipation and the dire need to speak up.

‘It was what X was not.’

She writes on women’s fantasies and actions that didn’t desire young men or their ‘hot breaths’ at the time, contrariwise – associate and companion. Against ‘Articles of Italian’ law binding a daughter into a ‘wife at the word of her father’, Schwartz’s insight into the ordeal of a girl, who was raped at her father’s factory and married off to the man who ‘possessed’ her, is unruly.

The author justifies the absence of maternal instincts and why one was compelled to walk out on their son, who was born ‘amid laundry and bruises’ and the man who their father had ‘delivered her’ to.

And the one where they chose to ‘cease finally being a wife’, the one where she prefers women over wives.

No matter how strong though, they all returned to their art and expression as the last and only first resort. In absolute absence of lawmakers, heads, owners, owners of family, decision-makers, self-styled godmen and men, the author draws a parallel with incomings of politics, revolution, world war. Sometimes, one damage at a time, other times with half a step ahead.

Like the one where women are ‘allowed to sign’ as witnesses. They could now be recognized on papers. Behind an identity, however, acquired but the first.

Scwhartz has expanded boundaries that define a woman but blesses with hope for the present.

In a magnificent ensemble of characters – Sarah Bernhardt, Colette, Eleanor Duse, Lina Poletti, Josephine Baker, and divine Virginia Woolf as feminists, sapphists, painters, sinners and authors from the past, are reimagined and brought to life in After Sappho.

As each character fights for self, freedom, and mere say over their nights and days, they are aware of Sappho, a Lesbos-born Ancient Greek poet, frequently referred to as “the Poetess.”

She was dubbed the ninth Muse by Plato. Schwartz lays open a doorway to the queer women of the 20th century who ventured to speak, realize and perform as they saw. Furthermore, After Sappho depicts the concept of a sanctuary in senses uniting several intellects. Coining a fresh perspective on queer feminists in early 20th-century Europe, and a significant rewriting of history, Schwartz intends to create a place where they may be melancholic but openly.

She asks for a house, a home for sapphics, each of whom links into another. A fearless take on women who breathed to sketch a haven or an idea of ​​one.

Schwartz introduces her artists of the previous century with their interests and the acumen but doesn’t deprive you of words on the beauty of a girl. The ones where they fall in fetishes and in love with each other too.

It centers on the Italian poet Lina Poletti, who ‘has her own ways of escaping the century’, in the 1900 and covers her zeal to the inner lives of women artists. A poetic mosaic of literary pieces that, when put together, form a story about a lesbian family across generations.

One of the first publicly queer women in Europe, Poletti wore men’s clothing and was infamously prepossessed.

‘Then she rose to dress for dinner.’

Talking about Lina Poletti, the author says her previous name – Cordula ‘sounded anyway like a heap of hope’ while ‘Lina was sleek’. A free Lina was one who’d ‘read Sappho’, Wynn explains.

Wynn Schwartz exposes her characters turn by turn, fusing them and letting their sounds “wing their way through”, rising on our tongues.

Seducing the aroused minds of readers, Wynn includes Virginia Woolf to the narrative. By using the collective first-person voice “We”, Schwartz’s bold and compelling narrative takes an unconventional route which fails to shadow any known structure, yet ‘holding on to threads’ and showing the path ahead in ways uncountable.

Women, maybe rogue but mostly defiant, from distinct spheres, distinct minds and lives unite for dreams that are entrenched in identical roots. Affairs were dead, men forced themselves, offsprings and prodigy were left behind and, these women stood up for the vulnerable at the time of the war. Their voices rise up for the urgent liberation and to identify tyranny.

For the only thing they ‘feared was compromise’.

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