Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette)

Colette (french author)

Colette (January 28, 1873 – August 3, 1954) was a French author whose full original name was Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. She was as known for her writing and performing as she was for her scandalous lifestyle. As a child, her mother Sido was her greatest inspiration, and allowed the young Colette to drink deeply from the well of life to gain courage and individuality. She conducted her life with no regrets, and disdained the restraint society had on female, expression.

Strong females and honest sexuality

Her stories of strong females were often based on her own experiences, and were  controversial, being more sexually explicit than most fiction of their time. Colette’s first marriage was to Henry Gauthier-Villars (known as “Willy”), a man much older than herself. The marriage was a disaster — he compelled her to write the Claudine stories, but then published them under his name. Claudine at School (1900) was the first of their efforts to be published, and was an immediate success. More Claudine books followed.

Divorce from the nefarious Willy

Once she divorced her nefarious husband, Colette published Retreat from Love (1907), her first solo novel. Once she broke free of him, her sprit soared. Colette worked as a journalist and moonlighted as a music hall performer, all the while continuing to write fiction. It has been said that she was an abominable mother to her only daughter.


Gigi, one of her best-known works (which inspired a popular film), is a story of a French girl training to be a courtesan, but who falls in love with a wealthy gentleman. Its stage adaptation was greeted with critical acclaim with then unknown Audrey Hepburn playing the main character. Colette remains a master for her realistic and fresh descriptions on the ups and downs of love. Her works have been adapted to film and stage.

Later years

In her later years, Colette suffered from arthritis and rarely left her Paris apartment. Memoir became a favored literary form as she reflected on her life. Upon her death in 1954, she was given a state funeral, the first for a woman in France.

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2 Responses to “Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette)”

  1. I literally just “met” Colette yesterday as I began reading a charming memoir of Julia Child called “Julia’s Cats.” In the beginning of the book, Julia is getting acquainted with Paris and falling deeply in love with everything French, beginning with the food. She spends a lot of time in cafes and sees many famous people. Colette, apparently, was known as the notorious “cat lady” of Paris! Julia, having just gotten her first cat, Minette, is falling is love with kitties just as obsessively. So now I am glad I know more about Colette!

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