This novel of “ancient manners”, whose theater is Alexandria, tale history of the Chrysis courtesan, and Démétrios, a sculptor. Beautiful like Aphrodite, Chrysis dreams of extraordinary loves, but, for lack of a god, it is given to all. Démétrios, is to him the object of a true worship among the women of the city, but he wearies himself of their love. He prefers his work with the women and his statue of Aphrodite to the queen of which he is the lover. Chrysis is the only one not to succumb to the charms of the sculptor. Made in love by resistance with Chrysis, Démétrios agrees to steal and make a murder to get the 3 objects to him which it requires in payment of its charms: a comb, a mirror and the collar of Aphrodite. After the achievement of his misdeeds, the sculptor makes a dream in which Chrysis offers the night of love to him which it wished. Chrysis comes from there to love the man who went until the crime for it, but Démétrios rejects it, its dream is enough for him. It makes him swear to show itself with the stolen objects. While carrying the collar of Aphrodite, it carries out her dream, but its life pays it. Stopped and condemned to death, Chrysis drinks the fatal conium. Démétrios, indifferent, makes use of the body of dead like model, to carve a statue entitled “eternal Life”.
Aphrodite was at her exit such a success that it launched the editions of the Mercure de France. This success is due partly in a louangeux article of François Coppée, and undoubtedly to the scenes libertines which enamel the novel. Pierre Louÿs (1870 - 1925) had published before only plates (volumes low thickness, generally stitched) with restricted pulling. Its ideal was to write for an elite made up of some friends such as Mallarmé, Régnier, Gide and Valéry.
It is in “Athenian”, for whom “it more crowned there nothing than the physical love, nothing more beautiful than the human body”, than Louÿs written Aphrodite . In Alexandria where the love holds the first place (the loves of Chrysis, the orgy of the banquet, love saphic of the two musicians, festivals of Aphrodite), only Démétrios conceives an ideal. He fears “the attitude of the love which is the lengthening of the tomb”, and the woman who moves away “from the sword, the chisel or the brush”.
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