From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Colette was the surname of the French
novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (28
January 1873 – 3 August 1954). She is best
known for her novel Gigi (upon which the
stage and film musical comedies by Lerner &
Loewe, of the same title, were based).
born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne, in
the Burgundy Region of France, the daughter
of Jules-Joseph Colette and Adèle Eugénie
Sidonie Landoy ("Sido"). In 1893 she married
Henri Gauthier-Villars, a famous bisexual
wit known as "Willy", who was 15 years her
books, the Claudine series, were published
under the pen name of her husband, "Willy",
writer, music critic, "literary charlatan
and degenerate",. Claudine still has the
power to charm; in belle epoque France it
was downright shocking, much to Willy's
satisfaction and profit.
hall career, affairs with women
Colette in a publicity still for Rêve
In 1906 she left the unfaithful
Gauthier-Villars, living for a time at the
home of the American writer and salonist
Natalie Barney. The two had a short affair,
and remained friends until Colette's death.
She was also, according to author
Jean-Claude Baker’s book Josephine: The
Hungry Heart, involved for some time with
actress Josephine Baker.
took up work in the music halls of Paris,
under the wing of Mathilde de Morny, the
Marquise de Belbeuf, known as Missy, with
whom she became romantically involved. In
1907, the two performed together in a
pantomime entitled Rêve d'Égypte at the
Moulin Rouge. Their onstage kiss nearly
caused a riot, which the police were called
in to suppress. As a result of this scandal,
further performances of Rêve d'Égypte were
banned and Colette and de Morny were no
longer able to openly live together, though
their relationship continued a total of five
years. She also was involved in a
heterosexual relationship during this time,
with the Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio.
Another affair during this period was with
the automobile-empire scion, Auguste
marriage, affair with stepson
In 1912 Colette married Henri de Jouvenel,
the editor of the newspaper Le Matin. The
couple had one daughter, Colette de Jouvenel,
known to the family as Bel-Gazou. Colette de
Jouvenel later stated that her mother did
not want a child and left her in the care of
an English nanny, only rarely coming to
during World War I, Colette was approached
to write a ballet for the Opéra de Paris
which she outlined under the title
"Divertissements pour ma fille". After
Colette herself chose Maurice Ravel to write
the music, he reimagined the work as an
opera, to which Colette agreed. Ravel
received the libretto to L'Enfant et les
sortilèges in 1918, and it was first
performed on 21 March 1925.
war she converted her husband's St. Malo
estate into a hospital for the wounded, and
was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour
(1920). She divorced Henri de Jouvenel in
1924 after a much talked-about affair with
her stepson, Bertrand de Jouvenel.
Colette married Maurice Goudeket, an uncle
of Juliet Goudeket alias Jetta Goudal.
After 1935 her legal name was simply Sidonie
Goudeket. Maurice Goudeket published a book
about his wife, Close to Colette: An
Intimate Portrait of a Woman of Genius. An
English translation was published in 1957 by
Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, New York.
Post-war, her writing career bloomed
following the publication of Chéri (1920).
Chéri tells a story of the end of a six-year
affair between an aging retired courtesan,
Léa, and a pampered young man, Chéri.
Turning stereotypes upside-down, it is Chéri
who wears silk pajamas and Léa's pearls, and
who is the object of gaze. And in the end
Léa demonstrates all the survival skills
which Colette associates with femininity.
(The story continued in La Fin de Chéri
(1926), which contrasts Léa's strength and
Chéri's fragility and decline).
Colette entered the world of modern poetry
and paintings revolving around Jean Cocteau,
who was later her neighbor in Jardins du
Palais-Royal. Their relationship and life is
vividly depicted in their books. By 1927 she
was frequently acclaimed as France's
greatest woman writer. "It ... has no plot,
and yet tells of three lives all that should
be known", wrote Janet Flanner of Sido on
its publication in 1930. "Once again, and at
greater length than usual, she has been
hailed for her genius, humanities and
perfect prose by those literary journals
which years ago ... lifted nothing at all in
her direction except the finger of scorn."
published around 50 novels in total, many
with autobiographical elements. Her themes
can be roughly divided into idyllic natural
tales or dark struggles in relationships and
love. All her novels were marked by clever
observation and dialogue with an intimate,
explicit style. Her most popular novel, Gigi,
was made into a Broadway play and a highly
successful Hollywood motion picture, Gigi,
starring Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan
and Leslie Caron.