Friend Colette is 150 years old

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The writer Colette at her work table, in Paris, in June 1922.

“Colette”, edited by Gérard Bonal and Frédéric Maget, “Cahier de l’Herne”, 256 p., €33, digital €27.

” Paris I love you ! and other texts”, by Colette, edited by Gérard Bonal and Frédéric Maget, L’Herne, 160 p., €14, digital €10.

What are we celebrating with the republication of the “Cahier de l’Herne” Colette of 2011, which accompanies Paris I love you !, collection of his texts on the capital? The birth, on January 28, 1873, of little Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye (Yonne) – the scene of a blessed childhood that was often resurrected? Or is it not rather the centenary of her birth as a writer, her surname (which has become both a first name and a pseudonym) only appeared on a cover in 1923, with Wheat in grass ?

Since Claudine at school (1900), Colette had hitherto made her “learning”, disappearing behind the signature of her prolific husband, the novelist Willy (1859-1931). Childbirth had not been without pain. Shortly after her meeting with Missy (Mathilde de Morny), the young woman had separated from Willy and, remarried in 1912 with the journalist and diplomat Henry de Jouvenel (1876-1935), had half revealed herself by signing “Collette Willy” or even “Colette (Colette Willy)”. It took her even longer to escape the sulphurous reputation that had earned her her very naked appearances on stage, her displayed bisexuality or her affair with the son of her second husband, Bertrand de Jouvenel, who was then only 16 years old…

Celebrated, Colette was celebrated during her lifetime, and even more when she died. Four days after her death, on August 3, 1954, she had the honor of a state funeral. In its own way, the Church also paid homage to her past as an actress by refusing her a religious funeral. Certainly, neither historical action, nor services rendered to grateful humanity, nor complete works “pleiadized” in advance or in the process (he had to wait thirty years). But Colette was, and remains, a familiar writer. She sculpted her multifaceted personality, while refusing to serve as a model, and embodied a certain idea of ​​France, but without fights or universal ideals.

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Today, she stands, with Beauvoir or Duras, at the top of a literary history where women finally find the place that had been refused to them, even if her anti-feminist passions continue to bother – in 1927, she was indignant, during an interview on the entry of women into politics, which we can inculcate in women “the taste for virility, in all areas, and above all the will to power” : “Once her passions are aroused, a woman knows no limits. » The privileges which Colette had been able to acquire never made her an activist.

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