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, July 28, 2015

"The Other Wife" by Colette (1932). - A Post for Paris in July # 6

If Paris is the City of Love, then Colette is the High Priestess 

                                                                          1873 to 1954
"For her, as for Epicurus, hedonism was something much more purposeful and, one could say, more ethical than a greed for sensation. It was the expression of an active faith—a credo without a god, a devil, or an afterlife, but with the power of all true faith to inspire ecstasy, and reverence for creation, and to console."  Judith Thurman

Paris in July # 6. , hosted by Tamarra of Thyme for Tea, a blog I have followed for years,is one of my favorite book blog events.  It covers much more than literature and there are lots of wonderful participant posts online.

Paris in July # 6. has motivated me to read some very interesting works.

1.  "Baum, Gabriel, 1935" by Mavis Gilbert - A wonderful set in Paris short story

2.  "Two Friends" by Guy de Maupassant- Paris in July # 6. Requires reading de Maupassant!

3.  "Mildred Larson" by George Moore- What Paris Meant to the Irish

4.  "The Parisian Stage" by Henry James - an illuminating essay

5.  "The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls" by Marcel Aymé- a new to me writer I will return to

6.   Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932 by Francine Prose - interesting 

7.  Shocking Paris Soutine, Chagall and the Outlaw Art of Montaparrne by Stanley Meisler-a 
     Well done account of Yiddish emigre artists in Paris

8.  Short Stories about Cats by Three Classic French authors 

9.  Suite Francaise by Iréne Némirovsky- a true masterwork. Paris under the Germans

10.  The End of Evil Ways by Honoré de Balzac

11.  Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick- brilliant bio.

12.  The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, translated by Sandra Smith

13.  "A Piece of Bread" by Francois Coppee 

14.  The Wine of Solitude by Iréne Némirovsky- White Russians move to Paris 

15.  Pynchon and Paris - 

If Paris is the city of love, then Colette is the High Priestess.  Many draw their image or fantasy of Paris from the movie based on her most famous work, Gigi.  I did not want Paris in July # 6 end without paying homage to Colette.  She was a tremendous cat lover, among many other things. I love her short stories.

"The Other Wife" is a small gem of a story.  A man and woman are dining at an elegant restaurant.  The man sees his prior wife, who his current wife has never seen, at the next table. Of course a small drama ensues. The story is a miniature masterwork of acute observation and just a lot of fun to read.  

In the long ago, Clifton Fadiman helped steer me to the reading life.  I was delighted to find he loved Colette.  

       "The day Colette (1873-1954) died, the worst thunderstorm in sixty-seven years hit Paris. Her last conscious act was to gesture toward the lightning and cry out, “Look! Look!” The words suggest the essence of her genius. 
       At eighty-one Colette was a legendary figure. A Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, president of the Goncourt Academy, she would, to crown her career, receive a state funeral—unexampled honors for a French woman. A veteran of three marriages (the last a happy one), music hall performer, journalist, autobiographer, novelist, short story writer, deeply versed in the natural world of plants, flowers and animals, a connoisseur of more than a single variety of love, in the best sense a woman of the world, she ranked as one of the most vivid personalities of her time. During the final years of a long, crowded life, unable to stir from her Palais-Royal apartment, she reigned, surrounded by her beloved cats, as an object of wonder and pilgrimage. 
       Few have treated more revealingly at least one great theme, that of sexual love. She was most comfortable with the novella 
(Chéri, La Fin de Chéri, Gigi, Mitsou), but she excelled also in a kind of post-Maupassant short story, tender, sensual, witty, completely French, completely feminine. 
       “The Other Wife” is a deft, wry trifle, a small triumph of observation (“Look! Look!”). As with an O. Henry story, everything erupts in the last few words, indeed in the very last word. But her sensibility works on a plane quite different from his."

       —Clifton Fadiman

Mel u


Lory said...

You've been reading a great assortment of stories, really immersing yourself in Paris literature! I must read some Colette one of these days. That's a marvelous tribute from Clifton Fadiman.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

So nice to have met you here during Paris in July. You've really spent the month reading Paris lit. Good job.

Here's my Wordless Wednesday!