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Colette, (Sidonie-Gabrielle)

claudine gigi paris short

(French, 1873–1954)

Colette wrote short stories and novellas, and adapted much of her work for the theatre and screen. It is often difficult to separate the autobiographical from the fictional in her writing; My Mother's House (1953) for instance, easily passes as fiction, yet is also a series of minutely observed sketches about Colette's own life, particularly of her mother. This gives her writing an immediacy and warmth. Her early short novels comprise the Claudine series, and are based on recollections of her schooldays and her development into adulthood, including Claudine at School (1900), Claudine in Paris (1901), and Claudine and Annie (1903). The Vagabond (1910) draws upon Colette's experiences as a music hall performer. Colette is an important figure in French feminism because it is felt that she gave female experience a voice, which was rare in her time. Thousands of women attended her state funeral in Paris.

Gigi (1944) is famous for its adaptation to cinema. Having reached adolescence, Gigi is being reared to follow in their professional footsteps by a grandmother and great-aunt who are both retired courtesans. Gigi is too honest and sceptical to be much affected by their instruction and outsmarts her teachers by marrying the bored and wealthy Gaston, for whom they had intended her only as a mistress. Colette does not invite the reader to judge her characters, but observes them with minute detail and gentle humour.

Katherine Mansfield, Françoise Sagan, Miles Franklin. See FRANCE  DJ

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