GABRIELLE SIDONIE COLETTE, French writer was born (d. 1954); The great French writer’s affairs with women are well known, but equally so are her affairs with men. Colette’s was a concept of androgyny in which everyone was predisposed to discover within herself, himself, and in other people, a subtle mixture of male and female components. “Once the precious tresses are cut,” she wrote, “the breasts, hands, bellies, hidden, what is left of our female facades? In sleep, an incalculable number of women approach the form they would probably have chosen had their life awake not made them ignorant of themselves. And the same for me. I can still see the gracefulness of a sleeping man! From forehead to mouth, behind his closed eyelids, he smiled, nonchalant and sly as a sultana behind her grilled window… And I, who would have in my stupidity ‘really liked’ to be completely a woman, I looked at him with a male regret.” Ambivalence was Colette’s middle name.
“Be happy. It’s one way of being wise,” said Colette. She 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 Jourdain and Leslie Caron.
A controversial figure throughout her life (at age 60 she had an incestuous affair with her 16 year old son), Colette was open about her Lesbian affairs. She aided her Jewish friends, including hiding her husband in her attic all through the war. She was a member of the Belgian Royal Academy (1935), president of the Académie Goncourt (1949) (and the first woman to be admitted into it, in 1945), and a Chevalier (1920) and a Grand Officier (1953) of the Légion d’honneur. When she died in Paris on August 3, 1954, she was given a state funeral, although she was refused Roman Catholic rites because of her divorce. Colette is interred in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. In her own words: “What a wonderful life I had…I only wish I knew it sooner.”
An excellent bio-pic, Colettte, has been made of her life starring Keira Knightly is available, now. It is a fairly honest telling of her life and loves. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018. It was released in the United States in September 2018. The film premiered in London at the BFI Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom in January 2019.