Friday, November 30, 2012

My beloved and I went on a delicious walk...

I'm on a major Colette kick this year (see my previous post on the Innocent Libertine). The latest in my readings was The Pure and the Impure, which Colette herself thought of as her greatest work.

"They allow us to be their master in the sex act, but never their equal. That is why I cannot forgive them."

This novel is a difficult one to follow at times as the plot is fairly non-existent as far as I could tell. We follow a woman who relates the many different ways that couples search for love and the difficulties they have at being fulfilled. The biography of Colette that I just finished, Secrets of the Flesh, has a pretty great sum up of this book, "the loves in the Pure and the Impure, who give pleasure but can't receive it, or take it but can't give it, who are mismatched in age, appetite, egoism, and experience - who all feel obscurely cheated."

There are some very memorable characters in this novel that stood out to me. In this book she writes one of the first modern pieces on anorexia with the character Renee Vivien who would walk for miles for days only drinking tea to keep herself thin. There is also a really beautiful tale of two Ladies of Llangollen, young women from the 18th century who fell in love and ran off to live together. I could read a novel about those two.

"In short, what did they want? Almost nothing. Everything."

There is something so alluring to Colette. She talks about love of all kinds with equal seriousness, examines lesbianism, homosexuality, and heterosexuality, along with the relationships we have that are platonic. Even if I am not sure what Colette is trying to tell me at times, I could listen to her go on forever.

"Some people become transformed by riches, others acquire a real life only by impoverishment, their very destitution giving them life."

The characters are even more intriguing after reading a biography of Colette because so many of them are based on very fascinating people that she knew and walked around in the real world. I think I might have to give this one a reread after finishing the biography to try to pick this work apart more.

Side note, I have bought most of my Colette books at Frugal Muse, a little book store in Madison, and they are always surprised that anyone reads Colette anymore. Am I the only one out there?

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