Présentation de l'éditeur
Having lived in France for several years, I think I can say that every French person has read or at least heard of Colette. She had a very celebrated literary career and received many distinguished honors, including being named a Chevalier (1920) and a Grand Officier (1953) of the Légion d'honneur. She was also elected President of the Académie Goncourt (1949) (and was the first woman admitted into it in 1945), among other honors. She was born in 1873 in the Burgundy region of France and died in 1954 in Paris.
She was a liberated woman decades before that term was ever coined. In fact, putting it that way is understatement. She was married to three men in her lifetime, had affairs with several others, including a son-in-law, and she was intimately involved with and lived with at least one woman.
As stated in Wikipedia, “All her novels were marked by clever observation and dialogue with an intimate, explicit style.” This is certainly true of La Maison de Claudine which was originally published in 1922.
This autobiographical novel is a collection of essays which is mostly about the people who surrounded Claudine (Colette). She talks about her father, her sister, her brothers, her mother’s first husband, but mostly about her mother. She talks about growing up in the French countryside, and there are several essays that highlight all the animals that surrounded the family and the household.
The book was not originally published in chapters, just as separate essays, and I have chosen to keep it that way in this translation. The order of the essays is the same as in the original French language version. There is no strict timeline in the book. She jumps around from being 8-9 years old in one essay, then 13-14 in another, for example. A timeline is followed only very generally. In the beginning part of the book she is a child for the most part, and towards the end she is an adult, but beyond that the time frame of each section jumps all over, although she indicates how old she was in every case. This might be a little confusing at first, so keep that in mind.
Her third husband, Maurice Gaudeket, published a book entitled, Close to Colette: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman of Genius. When you read this book, you will get an idea about why people thought of her in that way. She is truly one of the most important literary figures in French history.
I hope readers enjoy this intimate story of a very observant and clever young girl growing up in rural France over a century ago as much as I enjoyed translating it. WB