Sophrosyne by Marianne Apostolides

Sophrosyne by Marianne Apostolides

Literary Fiction
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
176 pages
8 x 5 inches
ISBN 9781771660501

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Because fear can transform into confidence, recklessness, the kind of power you can't imagine until you're inside it. And then, once you've felt it, you can't feel alive when it's gone. Sophrosyne. You understood this feeling. I know you did, though you never said it. I saw it, instead, on your face when you danced.

Sophrosyne is one of only four virtues identified by Socrates—four traits which, if lived deeply, define who we are as human beings. But sophrosyne is a concept our culture has long forgotten. 'Self-restraint,' 'self-control,' 'modesty,' 'temperance'—none of these terms expresses the essence of the word.

In this provocative new novel about desire and restraint in a digital age by acclaimed author Marianne Apostolides, 21-year-old Alex is consumed by the elusive problem of sophrosyne for reasons he cannot share with others. While Alex's philosophy professor believes studying it will help shed light on the malaise of our era, Alex hopes it will release him from his darkly disturbing relationship with his mother. As he attempts to uncover his mother's truth, Alex is drawn inside an amorphous, indefinable undercurrent of love and violation. Only through his lover, Meiko, does Alex open into a new understanding of sophrosyne, with all its implications.

Reminiscent of Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, Sophrosyne asks readers to surrender themselves to the book's logic and language. Infused with a sensuality balanced by its intellect, Sophrosyne reads like “the music's rhythm… soft like wax and supple, warm,” pulsing through your veins.

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“Remarkable, one of the most sensual & esoteric books I’ve ever read.” —Corey Redekop

“So the book is incredible. It is difficult and heavy and it hurts sometimes, but it’s spectacular to be a part of… You also get to watch Marianne Apostolides blow almost every other contemporary Canadian writer our of the water with her fearless approach to language, syntax and subject matter.” —Nicole Brewer for (parenthetical)

“Sophrosyne is powerful, stimulating, expressive, and introspective. I found myself reading and rereading several passages-pages, even- as I coursed through the book. I was able to lose myself while reading out loud in a crowded space, as if speaking to her characters and Marianne Apostolides herself.” —James Bonner for Nomadic Press

“The payoff is a deeply sensual and profoundly unsettling experience that engages the reader with Socrates’s most basic, vital question: the question of how to live.” —Atticus Review

“This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s unsettling, it’s contemplative, and it’s vast.” — Jaaron Collins for Worn Pages and Ink

“Apostolides spins a compelling fictional world that draws us into its pulsive rhythms and sensual imagery, and opens up brave and involving ambiguities—insisting we use fiction as a place of touching the dangerous.” —Margaret Christakos for  All Lit Up


Interview with Marianne Apostolides about Sophrosyne —Vancouver Sun

On Writing, with Marianne Apostolides —Open Book Toronto

Self Control: An Interview with Marianne Apostolides by Malcolm Sutton —Puritan Magazine

Interview of Marianne Apostolides, author of the novel Sophrosyne by Rick Meier —Matrix

“Stillness Before Any Action”: Marianne Apostolides talks Greek Philosophy, Post-Humanism, and Sophrosyne —Whether Magazine


Marianne Apostolides is the author of five books and one play. She’s a recent recipient of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship; her previous book, Voluptuous Pleasure: The Truth About the Writing Life, was listed among the Top 100 Books of 2012 by Toronto’s Globe & Mail. She lives in Toronto with her two children.  You can visit her at

Additional information

Weight .25 kg
Dimensions 9 × 7 × .25 in