There are two main narrators for this book by Marguerite Yourcenar. The first is whoever is telling the stories in the vignettes and monologues and minor narratives about the mythic figures. The second is the author herself, experiencing a personal crisis, that seems to result from a disastrous love affair, which has led her to consider suicide.
But the idea of the suicide perhaps takes on a kind of Greek/mythopoetic form of dramatic and mythical suicide. The kind of suicide open to heroes, Gods, and legends.
But also, there’s real pain here.
The novel or whatever you want to call it takes place over nine musings over love and death and then nine longer narratives by or about mythics figures like Achilles, Phaedra, and Clytemnestra, authors like Sappho, and Biblical figures like Mary Magdalene.
The result is a book of mixed media circulating around the concept of romantic (and erotic) love intermixed with Queer identity, storytelling, and myth and values.
I found this book to be really interesting and very very different from the other Yourcenar book I’ve read; Memoirs of Hadrian, which is dreamlike at times, but overtly dense in writing and subject matter. This book has heavy tones, but light-touch writing.
The book mostly reminds me of books that are more popular now by writers like Maggie Nelson (Argonauts particularly), Anne Carson, Margaret Atwood, Djuna Barnes, and other writers. These books are a mix between fiction, poetry, personal essay, and other intimate forms in which the fictive and nonfictive concerns of the writer and the subject are both present, without a clearly drawn border in between.