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After Sappho
After Sappho

After Sappho

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It's 1895. Aamid Laundry and bruises, Rina Pierangeli Faccio gives birth to the child of a man who raped her - and who she has also been forced to marry. Unbroken, she determines to change her name; and her life, alongside it.

After Sappho, by Selby Wynn Schwartz 

The problems of Albertine are
(from the narrator’s point of view)
a) lying
b) lesbianism,
and (from Albertine’s point of view)
a) being imprisoned in the narrator’s house.

                        —Anne Carson, The Albertine Workout

Published by Galley Beggar Press and Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022.


Sappho, Fragments 105a and 105b

Sappho writes of many girls: those who are pliant and bind up their hair modestly, those who are golden and go willingly into the bridal chamber, and those like the hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd men/with their feet trample down. An entire book of Sappho is made of wedding songs; like the hyacinth in the mountains, none have survived.

For the girl who wishes to avoid being trampled down by the feet of men, Sappho recommends the farthermost branch of the highest tree. There are always those rare few, Sappho notes, that the applepickers forgot—/no, not forgot: were unable to reach.

Lina’s father made his living selling earthenware pots. With four daughters to maintain, he saw the necessity of their marriages like the exchange of dry goods. A line of daughters was already a liability, and there was no market for girls who were not pliant.

Whenever Lina’s mother called her, Cordula, Cordula!, to embroider the trousseau of linens for her dowry, Lina was already elsewhere. She was at the very end of the Greek primer, she was ensconced in a far corner of the Biblioteca Classense, she had gone out the back window and into the pine tree to read poems from a century less muffled in fabric.

We could picture Lina in those years: her high buttoned boots, her erudite citations. Above her boots she seemed hardly to be wearing skirts. Lina Poletti was like that, she could make visible things seem scant and unremarkable. She had her own ways of escaping the century."