The Corner

Re: Mary Renault

A reader passes on an anecdote from David Sweetman’s biography of Mary

Renault (which I not only have not read, but didn’t know existed):

“There was lots of talk of a film of The Persian Boy. [Note from Derb:

This novel is narrated by Bagoas, Alexander the Great’s Persian catamite,

who had been castrated at an early age to enhance his femininity — a common

practice in parts of the ancient world.] Very pretty lads casting an eye on

fame made the pilgrimage to [Mary Renault’s] home in Cape Town to offer

themselves for the eponymous role. One sweet young thing made it clear that,

were he to win the role, he would even, for the sake of authenticity,

undergo ‘the operation.’ ‘Oh, please don’t,’ she said. ‘That would be

gelding the lily.’”

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