Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"In The Flower of Age" by Colette- Observation on The Collected Stories of Colette by Robert Phelps

  "In the Flower of Age" by Colette   (1932, 6 pages, translated by Mathew Ward translated)

The Collected Stories of Colette edited and selected by Robert Phelps (1989, 606 pages)

"It's absurd to divide people into good or bad,  people are either charming or tedious"  from Lady Windemere's Fan
It was just a question of time until Colette (1873-to 1954, Paris, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) became part of my reading life.      I would have read her sooner but I do not read French and  translations of her work are not in the public domain.   I now own a copy of  The Collected Stories of Colette edited and selected by Robert Phelps which contains 100 of her short stories.    I will be reading and posting on these stories for a while to come, starting with the longer more substantial ones.  

Colette, Welcome to The Reading Life
I appreciate the work in assembling and translating 100 short stories.    The Collected Stories of Colette is a physically a beautiful book with a generous size type face.   I do not like the way the book is organized.   Phelps  has divided it up into sections based on what the stories are about.   I think  readers would be better served if the stories were in publication order, with the date of original publication in a note on page one of the story.   There are no dates of publication given on any of these stories.   The introduction tells us little or nothing of value about Colette.    I see myself doing at least 15 posts on Colette over the next few months and I will post  a bit on her life, art and cultural important in subsequent posts.    In addition to her huge literary output she heroically sheltered Jews from the Nazis in Paris during WWII, received a state funeral upon her death and is an iconic GLBT figure.    

"In the Flower of Age" is  a very interesting story that makes us rethink a lot of our assumptions about relationships based just on the beauty of one of the parties and the appreciation of the other party of that beauty.    This is a very fragile link and Colette does a wonderful job in this story about  an older still very full of life highly sophisticated person and his/her much younger lover which centers on just this matter. Most commentators quick summery of Colette's stories is going to be that they are about very worldly, sophisticated people, men and women very into fashion and culture and their domestic lives.    It is also about spectation.     The story does make use of a sort of surprise ending but it is, I  cannot help but say it, so sophisticated I marveled at it.      I am sorry to say that I do not think this story can be read online.     After Virginia Woolf died Elizabeth Bishop (more to come on her soon) said Colette was among her most admired living writers.

If anyone has any suggestions to help a Colette neophyte please leave a comment-

question-going back to 1964 and Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp", is Colette a camp?  

Mel u



JoAnn said...

Very interesting post, Mel! Colette is on my 'authors to read more of' list. I'll keep an eye out for her stories. Look forward to further thoughts on this collection.

Mel u said...

JoAnn-it is far past due for me to begin to explore the world of Colette-