But what is the heart, madame It s worth less than people think It s quite accommodating, it accepts anything You give it whatever you have, it s not very particular But the body Ha That s something else again It has a cultivated taste, as they say, it knows what it wants A heart doesn t choose, and one always ends up by loving Colette writings were on my wish list as long as I can remember Her life and ideas of sexual liberation enthralled me with the very thought of it being played in the early 19th century To pine for such independence, over live it to the fullest fancies me as even today in this post modernization era sexual taboos thrive with the strongest clout Colette s writings are a bit peculiar and candid without being mechanically strategize to create a pre planned ambience The exceptional quality can be observed in this book Colette focuses on the eternal pursuit of jouissance, an extreme pleasure to pacify the bodily hunger with a prevailing element of love She questions the legitimacy of love when engulfed with sexual bliss develops into an expression of narcissism or self obsessed endeavor All her characters in this novel are in a never ending pursuit of love defining their own rules yet never seem to have a happy ending The several protagonists varying from Charlotte a 45 yr old woman who tries her best to hide her true feelings from her ravishing young lover.Renee Vivien Seek for acceptance and love in her several lesbian relationships, ultimately rendering to commit suicide with a lonely heart.Lady Eleanor who live a quaint and indiscernible life with her companion Sarah for 53 years.Pepe A Spaniard of nobility who was in love with rugged men in blue overalls.All of them are chained in sexual inhibitions and failing miserably in achieving self satisfaction over sought after pleasures Colette s notion of the quest to attain pure jouissance brings rejection and vacant contentment solidifying the impurity of any relationship.Colette s scripts are not strictly feminist or homosexual values it is a novel implicating the idea of women flouting societal norms of conventional sex, power and love, by discovering their sexuality Her open acknowledgement of homosexuality as a legitimate and external character and androgynous women delineates her rebellious temperament in a sexually repressed era Colette s callous abnegation for normal people is reflected in the following excerptThe viewpoint of normal people is not so very different I have said that what I particularly liked in the world of my monsters where I moved in that distant time was the atmosphere that banished women, and I called it pure O monsters, do not leave me alone I do not confide in you except to tell you about my fear of being alone, you are the most human people I know, the most reassuring in the world If I call you monsters, then what name can I give to the so called normal conditions that were foisted upon me Look there, on the wall, the shadow of that frightful shoulder, the expression of that vast back and the neck swollen with blood O monsters do not leave me alone The book reveals the restless soul of disgruntled relationships, similar to what Colette experienced in her personal life With two failed marriages and feral affairs she constantly longed for approval and love just like her characters Thus, I wonder whether love is the purity of pleasurable impurity. Please note that the above star rating is less indicative of the quality of the novel than of my shortcomings as a reader I realize in retrospect that what I wanted was an engaging, gossipy yarn dissecting the sexual practices of the affluent and or artistic circles Colette moved in in the fifty years spanning from the fin de si cle to her death just past the midway point of the 20th century What I got instead was a nuanced, diffuse and delicately textured meditation on love, sexuality and sexual practice And even though she is particularly interested in various deviant sexualities, the author to her great credit, of course is less interested in recounting details of lascivious excess than in trying to understand the motivations and psychology of sex in all of its diverse forms In the end, there s hardly any sex to speak of The main reason I took up this novel was for its now famous chapter devoted to poet and author Ren e Vivien, who was Colette s neighbor and in a loose sense of the term friend in the years leading up to Vivien s early, tragic death And one can see why Natalie Clifford Barney was appalled by the portrait Vivien comes off as eccentric if not actually mentally unbalanced, and much of the rather sensational mythology that sprung up around her certainly has many of its roots here But it s also not nearly as vicious as Barney regarded it as either, as Vivien comes off as a complex individual, lively and vivacious and intensely melancholic in turn If it does come off as a rather sad depiction in the end, it s also deeply sympathetic and even a bit moving And it s certainly the most vivid and absorbing section of the novel, perhaps because its the most concrete in its sharply observed details something Colette is masterful at and the least ruminatory in nature I fully intend to return at some point with my expectations recalibrated and attuned to the intricate complexity of Colette s project And when I do, I expect that it will yield a higher star rating. The Pure and the Impure I ve just finished re reading the only book of Colette I have ever read When I first read it, so many years ago, my French was not up to the challenge fortunately, that is no longer the case It is evident from the earlier reviews that this book is many things to many people indeed, I find when reading some of the earlier comments that I must remind myself that we are all talking about the same book, for it is certainly not evident To me, it is a collection of relatively brief portraits, usually emphasizing just one aspect of the person s character the middle aged woman with the lover over 20 years her junior the past middle aged cockhound the truly ruthless Don Juan the lesbian poet who excels in every form of eccentric extravagance and who is dead at 32 the aged and querulous lesbian actress the Georgian lesbian couple in their bucolic Welsh cottage a band of dishing queens from whom only two emerged as individuals a man in his 70 s who lives with his centenarian mother and a crossdressing 17 year old butcher s apprentice, who, according to our author, shot himself in the face a few days after his somewhat less than successful appearance at hersalonThese very partial portraits are drawn with great precision, if not subtlety, in a language often enjoyable to read they merit savoring The portraits are leavened with some rather airy, bordering on empty, theorizing about the differences between male female and female female relationships Mildly irritating is her occasional tone of worldlygrande dameobserving the natives in their habitat unhappily, she actually begins the book in this stance much irritating to me are her occasional generalizations and not just in the reported conversations, but also in the narrator s voice signaled by toutes les femmes , les hommes and the like And I wonder how many lesbians would agree that onlysapphicmy emphasis libertinism is unacceptable In sum, this book is aunicumI haven t read anything else like it But I expect this will be the last time I read it Rating There are glib moments here to treasureI m of the opinionthat in the ancient Nativities the portrait of the donor occupies too much space in the picture andWhat I lack cannot be found by searching for it and All amours tend to create a dead end atmosphere There It s finished, we ve arrived, and beyond us two there is nothing now, not even an opening for escape, murmurs one woman to her prot g e, using the language of a lover And as a proof, she indicates the low ceiling, the dim light, the women who are their counterparts, making her listen to the masculine rumble of the outside world and hear how it is reduced to the booming of a distant danger.But mostly is laying around and thinking or saying men are like and women are like It s complicated than that We change seasonally, daily Who I am depends on who you are, at that moment when we intersect.Get me out of this opium den. Colette s The Pure and the Impure is a meditation on sexuality sexual relationships It was an interesting read but there were times when I had trouble following the narrative, and that s why I refer to this book as a meditation Many times I would have to go back and re read several paragraphs in order to understand what or whom or who Colette was talking to But I did gather a great quote, one that I can relate to I am neither that nor anything else, alas, said La Chevaliere, dropping the vicious little hand What I lack cannot be found by searching for it. What I ve learned is that when the goodreads description says erotic , it never is Colette Herself Considered The Pure And The Impure Her Best Book, The Nearest I Shall Ever Come To Writing An Autobiography This Guided Tour Of The Erotic Netherworld With Which Colette Was So Intimately Acquainted Begins In The Darkness And Languor Of A Fashionable Opium Den It Continues As A Series Of Unforgettable Encounters With Men And, Especially, Women Whose Lives Have Been Improbably And Yet Permanently Transfigured By The Strange Power Of Desire Lucid And Lyrical, The Pure And The Impure Stands Out As One Of Modern Literature S Subtlest Reckonings, Not Only With The Varieties Of Sexual Experience, But With The Always Unlikely Nature Of Love The Following Review Is Not Totally A Review, Rather, A List Of Thoughts On Colette and Queerness I first heard about Colette not for her writing, but as a member of the long list of people who Natalie Clifford Barney hooked up with When I did a little googling, I found Colette dated someone even interesting to me The Marquis de Morny, who she caused a controversy by kissing on stage and had a relationship with for six years The Marquis is person who seems to be perceived as a woman by the upset crowd watching the stage, by history, who relentlessly genders the Marquis as female, and as I ll discuss in a minute by Colette But when you pay attention to the Marquis behavior, you wonder what the Marquis opinion was Colette on the left, with the Marquis de Morny The Marquis, who wore men s clothes almost always, and was followed by all sorts of scandalous rumors That the Marquis had a double mastectomy, that the Marquis had a hysterectomy, that the Marquis had the servants refer to the Marquis as Max, or as Monsieur le Marquis.All very womanly stuff.It s so bizarre to me that many people consider him a transsexual, but no one thinks to male pronoun him He s a man, but no one in his lifetime called him one, so we re off the hook Whew I d hate to make a dead transsexual happy Yeah, there s evidence for his transness And maybe he wasn t trans Because the Marquis is dead, I am open to people interpreting what they need to out of the Marquis If the butch lesbians need him to be a butch lesbian, there s evidence for that If the non binary folks need him to be non binary, there s evidence for that I m cool with with either But I think that people at least need to be open to the idea that we re talking about a transgender person, and possibly a man I was very curious to read the chapter that Colette describes the Marquis, identity hidden as La Chevali re and very sad when Colette never alluded to them as a couple I didn t really expect her to refer to the Marquis as a man, but I thought she d at least admit that they had been together, as she did so publicly on stage in front of an audience But apparently not She paints the scene as if she happened to have an in to the Marquis fabulous dapper butch parties, where she remotely describes the attendees spend a lot of money and take instruction on how to appear that most like a cisgender man The most skilled is the Marquis, who takes the younger butches and trans men under his wing and instructs them in his ways Here s one very trans line from Marquis chapter A young man gave to La Chevali re a name that made her blush with joy and gratitude he called her my father 81 As for the rest of the queer content in this book Colette describes Ren e Vivien, the tragic lesbian poet, English born, French by choice, and a fellow woman listed on Natalie Clifford Barney s conquests Colette isn t a big fan of Vivien s poetry or her life choices, but I find her first hand profile of Vivien interesting and sometimes humorous.Colette also describes hanging with a group of queer men, and she isn t very kind to them Like the Marquis friends, she goes into anthropological mode, and gives the members of the group all one character Though it s an interesting glimpse into the queer history of her time, it s not a very kind portrayal She refers to one person who came once, wore women s clothes again, another proto trans figure who she describes unkindly and then matter of factly reports that the person kills herself Not the kind of paragraph that plays well to trans audiences One chapter she spends describing two Welsh women she never met who lived together, and describes them as silly, and says that women can t sustain a relationship together Maybe Colette is censored this was Nazi France that she was writing in , maybe Colette is censoring herself, but there was no unambiguous positivity towards any of these queer people that she seems to keep hanging out with Remembering that Colette is queer herself, probably some flavor of bisexual, I m not sure how to read her tone here Perhaps she s interpreting choices she made in her life I prefer relationships with men as universal human condition Everyone should be straight I m making inferences I have no idea I wonder if there s some internalized homophobia happening, or perhaps she feels like she has to tamp down her discussion of queer people with some negativity in order to maintain her reputation, or whatever.Maybe I got used to Colette s style, but by the time I read The Tender Shoot and The Vagabond, Colette briefly describes lesbians and was much sympathetic In the Vagabond, though the fictional narrator uses some word like reprehensible for lesbians, she s mad when her boyfriend insults her lesbian friend s sexuality Colette initially pulls something similar in the story Bella Vista in the Tender Shoot though ultimately Colette the author is pulling too many strings, and the couple is bizarrely revealed to be a straight couple, but apparently the man is a criminal on the run, so he disguises himself, which Colette the narrator is appalled than if they had been as they appeared Is it transphobic Is it homophobic Who knows This book is invaluable as a peek into the lives of queer people of turn of the 20th century Paris It s also great insight into the lives of Marquis de Morny and Ren e Vivien If you re just a casual queer reader who isn t excited by queer Paris of a hundred years ago, I m not sure I would recommend the book. I found this really underwhelming, and half the time wasn t sure what she was going on about Partly I think that was because of the flowery writing, but also I felt like this was just difficult to follow The anecdotes and reflections on love in all its forms were fascinating, kinda dated but fascinating am now obsessed with Ren e Vivien. 4,5 stars.
Colette was the pen name of the French novelist and actress Sidonie Gabrielle Colette She is best known, at least in the English speaking world, for her novella Gigi, which provided the plot for a famous Lerner Loewe musical film and stage musical She started her writing career penning the influential Claudine novels of books The novel Ch ri is often cited as her masterpiece.
- 208 pages
- Le Pur et l'Impur (Ces plaisirs)
- 09 November 2017 Colette