Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Franklin Library Colette books

Stories of Sidonie Gabrielle Colette - Collected Stories of the World's Greatest Writers - 1977

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette biography

Colette is the pen name of Sidonie Gabrielle Claudine Colette (1873-1954), French novelist, born in Saint-Sauveur-en Puisaye, and educated in the local schools. In 1893 Colette married the French writer Henry Gautier-Villars (1859-1931), with whom she collaborated on her first novel, Claudine a l, Ecole (1900); Eng. trans., Claudine at school, 1930, a semi-autobiographical work published under her husband’s pen name, Willy. This novel and the three others of the Claudine series, including Claudine en Wenage (1902; Eng. trans., The Indulgent Husband, 1935) and Claudine's en Va (1903; Eng. trans., The Innocent Wife, (1934), were highly successful. Gautier-Villars contributions to the series having been negligible, in 1904 she assumed the pen name Collette Willy. Colette was divorced in 1906, and during the next few years Colette performed in music halls as a dancer and continued her literary career. Her outstanding novels of this period include L,Ingenu Libertine, (1909; Eng. trans., The Gentle Libertine, 1931) and La Vagabonde (1910; Eng. trans., The Vagrant, 1912). From 1910 to 1924 Colette was the wife of the French writer Henri de Jouvenel (1876-1935).

Cheri (1920; Eng. trans., 1929), an account of a young mans love affair with an elderly woman of doubtful reputation, and its tragic sequel La Fin de Cheri (1926; Eng. trans., The Last of Cheri, 1932), established her reputation as the leading woman novelist of France. After 1921, under the pseudonym Colette, she wrote profound studies of women in love, such as La Seconde (1929; Eng. trans., The Other One, 1931) and Duo (1934; Eng. trans., 1935). She married the French writer and statesman Maurice Goudeket (1889- ) in1935.

In addition to novels, Colette wrote numerous drama criticisms, book reviews, and fashion columns. Several of her works, notably Gigi (1945; Eng. trans., 1952), were adapted for the theater and for the motion pictures. In 1945 Colette became the first woman to be elected to the Goncourt Academy and at her death she was accorded a state funeral.

Colette is considered one of the greatest French fiction writers of the 20Th century. Her work is distinguished for its penetration into the motives of characters observed against a sensuous background of nature. Colette is noted for a lucid and incisive literary method based largely upon remarkable powers of observation and insight. Because the emphasis of Colette’s analytical realism falls equally upon objects, animals, and human beings, her detachment is sometimes criticized as cynical. However, her fame rest upon her close understanding of the moral and psychological bases of character, especially those of women, revealed in a luminous prose style wherein all details accumulate meaning.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette passed away on August 3, 1954, in Paris, France. Her legacy endures through her diverse body of work, which continues to be read and studied worldwide.

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