If Paris is the city of love, then Collette (1873 to 1954) is the high priestess. ( I am currently reading a very good biography of Colette, Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman which I hope to post upon soon.) I was looking through Robert Phelp's anthology The Collected Stories of Colette (great to have 100 of her short stories in one place, many newly or never previously translated but there are several critical flaws in the anthology that would cause me to be unable to recommend the purchase of this book) and I found a three page story called "The Saleswoman" so I read it. It is set in a lady's wear shop. A Saleswoman is trying to talk a customer into buying a hat. As I read it I flashed to the early days of Coco Chanel, getting her start selling the hats she made in a small shop. The great pleasure in reading this story is seeing how the saleswoman skillfully plays on the vanity and insecurity of her customer.
I want to read more Colette and this story was a good brief reading life interlude for me.
The French literary consensus seems to be that Proust is the most important French writer of the first half of the 20th century with Colette in an uncontested second place.
European Correspondent of The Reading Life