Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Colette's "Chéri"

I bought a boxed-set of some of Colette's novels, thinking that maybe they'd give me some insight into the lives of outrageous 1920's Parisian femme-fatales.

Having just finished "Chéri"...well, I'm not feeling too enlightened. Maybe it's because her characters are unlikeable and dull and her writing is clunky. Maybe her "pearl necklace" theme got on my nerves. Maybe stories about vicious middle-aged women need to be awfully good before I start to enjoy them...

...but all-in-all, "Chéri" struck me as a relatively dull story about vacuous, spoiled people who suddenly suffered an unrealistic moment of conscience during the last few pages. This is probably what I should have expected from a story about a kept woman and her emotionally-retarded boy-toy, and it's possible that her awkward style was due more to the translation than to her own writing ability.

But I wonder if the thrill of Colette had more to do with her outrageous life than it did to her storytelling ability?


Mantelli said...

Yes, I think her reputation does come mostly from her life, although a lot of it started with the "Claudine" books. Those were spiced up quite a lot by her first husband, "Willy", actually. If you want to read them, I'd advise doing it with a good biography of her open at the same time. That's what I did the last time I read them, and it helped immeasurably.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Colette's writing is so lyrical... you must have read a bad translation. Well done for giving it a go, though.