Books 2010

Books 2009

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Tuesday, 09 December 2008


How kind to say that I am enriching! I have not read Colette for many years so I think some re-reading (which I very rarely do) is in order. Results probably after Christmas.

Dark Puss

I have just posted a reply to Dark Puss, technically in 3 different comments because the blog still refuses long comments - from me :-((

To Dark Puss - quite exclusively (Part 3)

One of the main conclusions of my whole re-reading is that Dark Puss can definitely be dubbed a Colette cat. He has the same lovely manners, same cat-awareness and nice way of speaking... but who is just purring loudly out there?

Dark Puss, please tell me all you think about Colette (when you have time), and you surely are the Colette expert here. And now just a few words by Colette herself to end this report:
A fréquenter le chat, on ne peut que s'enrichir. (in Les vrilles de la vigne)
(Being acquainted with a cat is nothing but enriching - so true!)

To Dark Puss - quite exclusively (Part 2)

- Le blé en herbe, I consider it as her masterpiece. Well, I am a bit biased, I know very well the area (North Brittany) were the action takes place and I could almost feel the warm, salty and sticky sea breeze that surrounds all the story.
Colette was a mature woman and a mature writer when she wrote this book. She was really able to sense and put into words - and into meaningful silence - those feelings of first love, certain/uncertain feelings and eventually disgust. But one thing I found rather questionable; I really doubted the 15-year-old girl could have such a mature conversation and be so perceptive about the situation (re the last discussions she had with the young boy). It is quite unlikely according to me.

- And finally of course, the utterly exquisite Dialogues de bêtes and all short stories about animals and especially cats (including Les vrilles de la vigne and Chats). She was such an observer of the pets - read members of the family - she lived with! And you really can't tell if the humans live with the animals or if the animals live with the humans!
My main purpose before I started reading was to see if she could stay away from the temptation of too much anthropomorphism, which was quite hard to avoid. And she really succeeded, I must admit. She actually imagines she is an animal and she can see things happen from the point of view of said animal. Some sentences and expressions are really, really priceless.
From what I remembered from my child reading, I used to consider Colette as a cat lover but now, to be really honest, I can't tell anymore for sure if she prefers cats to dogs. She certainly loves both of them but I still want to remain partial and think that she prefers cats!

Colette has also written many other - read minor - novels about the Parisian way of life of her time, about her life as an artist, about her travels etc, etc... but I consider them more like fiction than literature (to stick to Mr Bagshaw's standards). Most of them have definitely a Parisian twist but they are more of historic interest than literary interest, I'd say. Nevertheless, it is always quite amazing to read in old books about places that still exist.

To Dark Puss - quite exclusively (Part 1)

Given that the lovely Cat is still with us, here is some more purr-ple prose for him to read, in other words this is my report to him (as promised) after my Colette re-reading.
It was a selective and subjective re-reading though, not a full, comprehensive reading of all she published but I browsed all her work from early novels to final pages. And it was really nice to see how her writting style improved in depth and precision and how her choice of words became even more well-focused. I realised what a keen and precise observer of animals and human beings she was, and this was certainly her secret.

NB: I chose the La Pléiade by Gallimard collection and borrowed the books from my local library, as recommended by some lovely Cat I know. These books are full of interesting notes... but how couldn't Dark Puss not know La Pléiade?

Then my favourites and those I consider her best works are:
- the 3 first Claudine. The other 2 have no real connection with her former work, she really ought not to have published them; she obviously lacked of inspiration and these books are really bad. Well, we know she published the 4th because she needed to earn her living after her divorce and also her readers were eager to read more about Claudine. The 5th (La maison de Claudine) was written afterwards and has absolutely no connection with Claudine. It's rather a collection of short stories which include some nice pages about cats though.

"Lovely Cat" is still here and well. Love the Pale Puss and yes I am very much of the "Bagpuss" generation. I had also just come across the paper about the light echos from Tycho Brahe's supernova.

Dark Puss

Amazing picture of a chameleon cat!
For a more colourful feline, you can look at this:
Does this bring back childhood memories? Dark Puss knows this kin of his, that's for sure.

Well, to tell the truth, I am a bit worried about Dark Puss; the other day he said he was hammer in paw - definitely no suitable tool for a feline. And now that he doesn't show up, I think he may have ruined his velvety fingers and then he is not able to type on the keyboard at the moment. Looking forward to seeing you back, lovely Cat!

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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