Happy Birthday, Colette!

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” –New York World-Telegram and Sun (1961)

Colette.  Image from NYPL Digital Image Collection

Colette. Image from NYPL Digital Image Collection

I completely agree with Colette- if we’re going to do something foolish, relish the opportunity. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born on January 28, 1873 in the Burgundy area of France. Her life was an adventure of writing more than fifty novels, marrying three men, having numerous love affairs with men and women, enjoying the company of her cats, working as a chorusgirl, and enjoying life. She was the first woman to be given a state funeral in France. I became a fan of hers recently when I read Chéri and its sequel, The End of Chéri. The dialog is colorful and down-to-earth, and explores social conventions by turning them upside down. A woman of a certain takes a lover half her age. The story has the male character, Chéri, in the role we usually think of a female character with feminine needs and desires. She examines gender roles with humor and irony and her writing is wonderful.

Colette writer

Colette and Paul Géraldy, French writers, at a rehearsal of “Duo”. Paris, théâtre Saint-Georges, 1938. Image from Parisenimages © Boris Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet

Colette and Missy (Mathilde de Morny, Marchioness of Belbeuf), rue de Villejust. Paris, March 1910. © Maurice-Louis Branger / Roger-Viollet.

Colette and Missy (Mathilde de Morny, Marchioness of Belbeuf), rue de Villejust. Paris, March 1910. © Maurice-Louis Branger / Roger-Viollet.

Colette and husband

Colette with her husband Maurice Goudeket. Paris, about 1950.© Studio Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Photo from Parisenimages

Colette1

Colette © Studio Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Photo from Parisenimages

To celebrate Colette’s birthday, I started The Tender Shoot, one of her novels, and a biography, Secrets of the Flesh, by Judith Thurman. For a short biography, see the European Graduate School’s entry.

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4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Colette!

  1. I just looked back through my library list to find the Colette biography I read. Turns out it was the same book by Thurman, read back in 2004. Colette did lead an extraordinary life. I think she must have had great courage to live as she did.

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