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The Crack Magazine

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Want Modernism? Get Lesbians

Diana Souhami’s latest book ‘No Modernism Without Lesbians’ argues that, well, the clue is in the title…

This book is divided into four biographies of prominent 20th Century lesbians – their stories so interwoven that you could not tell one without the others. Within the stories of Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein, it delves into their complex social network of friends and lovers, truly capturing the codependency of modernist society in early 20th Century Paris. Perhaps most striking was how generous these women were, and how they dedicated their lives to furthering modernism and diversity. As the title states - without the support and funding of these and countless other lesbians, pre-war Paris would likely not have been the progressive cultural haven that it was. Their stories go far beyond their sexuality and relationships. There is complex discussion of gender throughout, particularly in Bryher’s story, as well as class and racial divides. Souhami artfully presents the rich tapestry of these four lives, from publishing controversial books to harbouring Jews under Nazi rule. Souhami magnificently captures the beauty of queer Parisian subculture, and how these four individuals did so much for women and the LGBT community everywhere. SW

No Modernism Without Lesbians is published by Head of Zeus.

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