So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aphrodite Book 2 by Pierre Louys

Aphrodite Book 2 by Pierre Louys

This book is beautiful in many ways, but is disappointing at times. The combination of Louys' text and Manara's art in volume 1 is a sure winner. Originally published in France with the original French text, this English version chooses an anonymous, but wonderful, translation from the 1920's. Following a long tradition of publishing this work with sensuous illustrations, Humanoids, a French publisher, took a 19th century erotic novel by Pierre Louys and divided it into four hardbound books, each illustrated by a different artist. This first volume contained 15 full-page watercolors by Milo Manara, an artist better known for his adult comics. Those expecting Manara to have converted Louys' sensual story into a graphic novel may be surprised that this is not the case. Where Manara shines as a comic artist, his watercolors are uneven. While some are outstanding, the painting of the statue of Aphrodite is a disappointment. The illustrated binding and layout is sumptuous. In Book One Demetrios, a famous sculptor of ancient Alexandria, met and was smitten by Chrysis, a temple prostitute he met. She challenges him to commit three specific crimes to win her love. As he ponders the situation the next day, we see him struggle between his emotions and his reason as he faces his challenging tasks. The overpowering desire is strong and he seeks to understand its hold over him. In Book Two the illustrator is Georges Bess. He is an excellent choice and his eighteen full-page color illustrations are exceptional at setting the mood for the sensual nature of the text. All are of women in various stages of arousal and done in shades of red and saffron. Unlike Manara's illustrations for Book One most of these do not illustrate particular scenes in the book, but rather illustrate the time period and the costume of ancient Alexandria. The Bess illustrations compliment the text and make this volume of the series a success. Louys' writing in this English translation from the 1920s captures well the pagan sensuality he wanted to portray. This promised to be a beautiful set with Claire Wendling slated to illustrate volume 3. It is wonderful to see Louys' work getting this lavish treatment. The text is still vibrant enough to take on the sensual artwork of these modern artists.

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