Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs

Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs includes The Songs of Bilitis, which I have already reviewed, and Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the story of Demetrios and Chrysis. Chrysis is a famous courtesan in Alexendria; Demetrios the famous sculptor and lover of the queen. During a chance meeting between the two Demetrios falls in love with Chrysis. But she is disdainful and says she will only bestow her favors upon him if he gets her three gifts. Demetrios must steal a silver mirror from Rhodopis, another famous courtesan; an ivory comb from the wife of the high priest of Alexandria; and the pearl necklace from around the neck of the statue of Aphrodite in the temple. All three are bold crimes which Demetrios commits. After the crimes Demetrios finds that he is indifferent to Chrysis, but she, convinced that his crimes means he loves her, has fallen in love with him. When Demetrios tells Chrysis where he has hidden the three gifts he rejects her loving advances and demands that she put all three gifts on and walk through the middle of Alexandria wearing them. Chrysis, her passion for Demetrios driving her on, does so. She is arrested and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. Demetrios, however, escapes punishment.

Louÿs' poetic language made it a treat to read Aphrodite and The Songs of Bilitis. Aphrodite has more of a narrative; The Songs of Bilitis is a series of prose poems with a looser narrative arc. I really like the plot of Aphrodite. The crimes and their consequences, while horrifying, were riveting. Demetrios' eventual rejection of Chrysis followed by her execution lend the story a sense of tragedy. Aphrodite is a great story, but with its erotic themes, it is not for everyone.


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