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Angela Carter, 2 October 1980

... Colette is possibly the only well-known woman writer of modern times who is universally referred to simply by her surname, tout court. Woolf hasn’t made it, even after all these years; Rhys without the Jean is incognito; Nin without the Anais looks like a typo. Colette, Madame Colette, remains, in this as much else, unique ...

Fearless Solipsist

Anita Brookner, 31 July 1997

by Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier.
Perrin, 439 pp., frs 139, April 1997, 2 262 01224 5
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... only tardily conceded by others. In the business of self-assessment – which was her business – Colette was never far from self-promotion. This endeavour sustained her through three marriages, numerous love affairs, and, more important in her own estimation, 49 volumes, some of them admittedly slight. She expressed admiration for George Sand, who could ...

Yes You, Sweetheart

Terry Castle: A Garland for Colette, 16 March 2000

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette 
by Judith Thurman.
Bloomsbury, 596 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 7475 4309 7
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... Who more omnivorous – not to mention lewd – than Colette, the frizzle-headed Cat Woman of 20th-century French writing? Shocking still the sheer salaciousness of the prose, even in the works of her apprenticeship, written in the days when ladies wore bustles and carried parasols. Take the following scene from the autobiographical Claudine à Paris (1901), in which the precocious yet virginal 17-year-old heroine, recently arrived in the capital with her dreamy widower father, is flirting with her ‘uncle’ Renaud, a handsome older friend of the family by whom (though she hasn’t realised it yet) she desperately wants to be fucked ...

Little Faun Face

Jenny Turner: There was Colette, 5 January 2023

‘Chéri’ and ‘The End of Chéri’ 
by Colette, translated by Paul Eprile.
NYRB, 236 pp., £13.99, November, 978 1 68137 670 7
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‘Chéri’ and ‘The End of Chéri’ 
by Colette, translated by Rachel Careau.
Norton, 336 pp., £21.99, May, 978 1 324 05205 0
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... please Louis XV’s favourite mistress and adviser. Both courtly and whorish connotations suffuse Colette’s Chéri novels of the 1920s – the French word rose is warmer, deeper, more ambiguous, in the way of floral perfumes, ‘corrompus, riches et triomphants’.The next American-in-Paris project was Gigi (1958) – with Maurice Chevalier in a boater ...


Brigid Brophy, 6 October 1983

Murasaki Shikibu: Her Diary and Poetic Memoirs, A Translation and Study 
by Richard Bowring.
Princeton, 290 pp., £21.70, August 1982, 0 691 06507 1
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by Fanny Burney.
Oxford, 421 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 19 281596 2
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The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney 
edited by Peter Hughes and Warren Derry.
Oxford, 624 pp., £37.50, September 1980, 0 19 812507 0
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by Joanna Richardson.
Methuen, 276 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 413 48780 6
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Letters from Colette 
translated by Robert Phelps.
Virago, 214 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 86068 252 8
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... most part he writes to her wholly in French. It was with a comparable linguistic chauvinism that Colette greeted a cat in the United States as, at last, someone who spoke French. Joanna Richardson maintains the myth of Colette’s sympathy with animals. It would be easier to swallow had ...

Audrey and Her Sisters

Wayne Koestenbaum, 18 September 1997

Audrey Hepburn 
by Barry Paris.
Weidenfeld, 454 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 297 81728 0
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... points that most fascinate me are relations between Hepburn and other female luminaries, including Colette, Edith Head, Deborah Kerr, Leslie Caron, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Marni Nixon, Julie Andrews, Mia Farrow, Jeanne Moreau, Merle Oberon, Capucine and Cher. I could advance a lesbian interpretation of Audrey Hepburn’s ...


Frank Kermode, 4 April 1996

Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 720 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 224 03026 4
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... with his own emotions, virtues, vices and the effect he has on other people’. The actress Colette O’Neil, wife of the actor Miles Malleson, wrote a novel à clef in which a character based on T.S. Eliot called Russell ‘a man exhausting other men by his intellect; exhausting women by his intensity; wearing out his friends, sucking them dry, passing ...


Elaine Showalter, 2 October 1997

Impossible Saints 
by Michèle Roberts.
Little, Brown, 308 pp., £14.99, May 1997, 0 316 63957 5
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... writer’s block and fulfil her ambition to produce a collection of stories ‘rivalling those of Colette and Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys all put together’. Angèle passes on advice from her brother Jim, a painter: ‘You have to make the problem part of the subject. So, obviously what you should do is write a story about writer’s block.’ In the ...

Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90

August Kleinzahler, 16 July 2020

... light to speak of or any artist’srendering.Am I being unkind? Surely. Please forgive me. Whither Colette? With her catsin that secluded garden, the great lady, no longer young (his age) suffering stillthrough those overmastering bouts of passion … – The cats will spring sideways at themoths when by ten the air is blue as a morning glory. – After ...

Short Cuts

Elisabeth Ladenson: Autofriction, 20 September 2007

... is why it was initially criticised for its strange hybrid nature). Céline, Henry Miller, Colette and Jean Genet followed; and autofiction has gained something of a stranglehold on French literature in the decades since Doubrovsky named it. Over the past decade or two this trend has given rise to many works of remarkable intimacy, at times to great ...

Short Cuts

James Francken: The big book prizes, 3 January 2002

... certainty. The narrative heads away from Janus’s story, becoming the story of Janus’s mother, Colette, and her glue sniffing. In a review in Time Out, Brian Case – one of the Whitbread judges this year – described August as ‘simply one of the finest books about the pains and joys of family life that I have ever read.’ That’s going a bit ...

Love-of-One’s-Life Department

Terry Castle: The lesbian scarcity economy, 21 October 2004

Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks 
by Diana Souhami.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 9780297643869
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... dachshunds) in male drag and monocle? Take it away, Madame, tout de suite! The droll photograph of Colette on the jungle gym with her girlfriend ‘Max’, the portly Marquise de Belboeuf? It no longer gives me a frisson. I’m even getting a little bored by Berenice Abbott’s brilliant 1928 photos of Flanner – the androgynous New Yorker writer – in suave ...

Ivy’s Feelings

Gabriele Annan, 1 March 1984

The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov 
by John Carswell.
Faber, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13135 2
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... lonely: they develop a solidarity compounded of understood hostility, compassion and complicity. Colette might have recognised it as ‘l’amer bonheur de se sentir pareilles, infimes, oubliés’. Some of the stories are told through the consciousness of a very old woman living hazily on the edge of her family, isolated by her failing senses. This ...

At the Hayward

Brian Dillon: ‘Invisible’, 2 August 2012

... of that title, though he only attached the word ‘void’ to the third. For the first, at Galerie Colette Allendy in May 1957, he painted the whole interior white so as to create ‘an ambience, a genuine pictorial climate and, therefore, an invisible one’. In a brief snatch of film, Klein hams up the suggestion that paintings have fled, leaving only their ...

Can a rabbit talk to a cat?

Julian Barnes: Lartigue takes a leap, 7 April 2022

Lartigue: The Boy and the Belle Époque 
by Louise Baring.
Thames and Hudson, 192 pp., £28, April 2020, 978 0 500 02130 9
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Jacques Henri Lartigue: The Invention of Happiness 
by Denis Curti, Marion Perceval and Charles-Antoine Revol.
Marsilio, 208 pp., £40, July 2020, 978 88 297 0527 6
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... cable snaking about in the air.The world he took part in and portrayed was one where Zola ran into Colette, where Nana met Gigi. And the names – or rather, the nicknames – are part of its sonic environment. Lartigue is surrounded by them: his brother Zissou; his cat Zizi; his nanny Dudu; his aunt Yéyé; his pals Dédé and Oléo and Rico and Biclo and ...

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