Author(s): Ali Smith
Another internationally acclaimed writer contributes a fascinating, compelling reinterpretation of a myth that resonates deeply today.
Ligdus and Telethusa are having a child, but they cannot afford to have a girl. Ligdus informs Telethusa that she had better hope for a boy. While this decision makes them both sad, Telethusa "must/obey." She prays to Isis, but births a girl and names her Iphis, a name that "suited male or female-/a neutral name." She convinces everyone, including Ligdus, that Iphis is a boy.
Iphis matures and falls in love with another girl, Ianthe, and is engaged for marriage, yet s/he is ruled by the sexual norms of the time: " P]ossessed by love so strange . . . no female wants/a female " but "no learned art-can ever make of me/a boy." She attempts to reconcile her love for Ianthe against the pressures of "nature." The wedding day is near, Telethusa is desperate, and prays again to Isis. Iphis is transformed, looking like a boy.
Is Ovid suggesting that what we think is nature is attitude? Does Iphis grow a penis? Or does Iphis, adopting the characteristics of a boy, remain a girl married to a girl, undermining traditional values?
From the Hardcover edition.
Short-listed for The Clare Maclean Prize for Scottish Fiction 2007.
ALI SMITH's works of fiction include the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Her story collections include Free Love, which won a Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award, The Whole Story and Other Stories, and How to be Both, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2015. Born in Inverness, Scotland, Smith lives in Cambridge, England.