PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Sappho is set in the permissive world of artistic, bohemian fin-de-siècle Paris, and was inspired in part by Daudet’s affair as a young man with the model Marie Rieu.
A handsome young student, Jean Gaussin, arrives in the capital from Provence and is smitten with a beautiful older woman. Fanny Legrand is a poet’s muse, a model and a courtesan. The calculating, worldly-wise woman has seen and done it all in the twenty years since her first lover, Caoudal, cast in bronze the girl from the Paris gutter and named her Sappho. Despite continual outbreaks of rage and jealousy, Jean is gradually able to live with Fanny’s disgraceful past, finding an element of pleasure in the degraded domesticity of their life together, and he is proud of his new connections with famous men.
Published thirty years before Colette’s Chéri, the novel captures the paradoxical atmosphere of passionate first lust and maternal passion.