Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born January 28, 1873, one hundred and forty years ago today. The French novelist and sometime music hall performer is not well known in the United States, but she was a friend’s literary hero, which is how I came to know her work, and my friend went so far as to name her first born daughter after Colette. I don’t read much fiction these days, and it’s been years since I read one of Colette’s books. Thinking back I can recover a mood, almost a smell like faint perfume, rather than narrative or characters. I also read a biography which I remember slightly better–I drew the above sketch from a photograph in that biography. She and Jean Cocteau became great friends when she was in forties, I think. Colette lived life and wrote about it with great carnal brio.
“Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: It’s four o clock. At five I have my abyss…”
“I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it.”