On This Gay Day: French writer Colette was born in 1873

French writer Colette was born in 1873 

French writer Colette was born on this day in 1873 in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye in France. She was a writer, mime, actress and journalist.

She was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature and is best known for her novella Gigi which was published in 1948.

The novel tells the story of a young Parisian girl who is being groomed to be a courtesan, and the wealthy man Gaston she is being groomed for. Eventually he falls in love with her, and they marry.

The short novel was turned into a film in France in 1949. In 1951 it was turned into a play in English by author Anita Loos. The Broadway production starred Audrey Hepburn, it was the actors first Broadway role, and she was largely unknown at the time.

The best-known iteration of the story in the 1958 musical film that starred Leslie Caron in the title role and Maurice Chevalier playing Honoré Lachaille, the uncle of Gaston.   

Colete began her writing career under the guidance of her husband Henry Gauthier-Villars, he was part of the Libertines and encouraged his wife to explore her same-sex attraction. The first four novels she wrote we about a schoolgirl called Claudette, the second of the novels focused on a girl’s school with a seductive female teacher.

The books were published under her husband’s name, and when the couple separated in 1906, she was unable to access any of the income from the books she had written.

In 1912 she married Henry de Jouvenel, the editor of a well-known magazine. The couple divorced in 1924, partly because of her husband’s infidelities, and that Colette has also been having an affair with her stepson.

She married for the third and final time in 1925 to Maurice Goudeket who she remained married to until her death in 1954. Colette remained in Paris throughout the German occupation of World War II. Her husband, who was Jewish, was arrested and imprisoned for several months.

Colete wrote for the Nazi run newspapers during the war and her 1941 novel Julie de Carneilhan contains many anti-semitic slurs.

While Collette married three times, her writing also documented her many liaisons with women.

OIP Staff, this post was first published on 28th January 2020. 

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