Colette

I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (28 January 18733 August 1954) French writer, usually known simply by her pen-name "Colette."

Sourced

By means of an image we are often able to hold on to our lost belongings. But it is the desperateness of losing which picks the flowers of memory, binds the bouquet.
  • When she raises her eyelids it's as if she were taking off all her clothes.
    • Claudine and Annie (1903)
  • There are days when solitude, for someone my age, is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.
    • Freedom (1908)
  • Nothing ages a woman like living in the country.
    • L'Envers du music hall (Music Hall Sidelights), "On Tour" (1913)
  • Her childhood, then her adolescence, had taught her patience, hope, silence and the easy manipulation of the weapons and virtues of all prisoners.
    • Chéri (1920) pt. 2
  • It is not a bad thing that children should occasionally, and politely, put parents in their place.
    • My Mother’s House, "The Priest on the Wall" (1922)
  • I love my past. I love my present. I'm not ashamed of what I've had, and I'm not sad because I have it no longer.
    • La Fin de Chéri (The Last of Cheri) (1926)
  • My true friends have always given me that supreme proof of devotion, a spontaneous aversion for the man I loved.
    • Break of Day (1928)
  • Can it be that chance has made me one of those women so immersed in one man that, whether they are barren or not, they carry with them to the grave the shrivelled innocence of an old maid?
    • Sido (1929)
  • We only do well the things we like doing.
    • Prisons and Paradise (1932)
  • By means of an image we are often able to hold on to our lost belongings. But it is the desperateness of losing which picks the flowers of memory, binds the bouquet.
    • Mes Apprentissages (1936)
  • You do not notice changes in what is always before you.
    • Mes Apprentissages (1936)
  • But just as delicate fare does not stop you from craving for saveloys, so tried and exquisite friendship does not take away your taste for something new and dubious.
    • Chambre d’Hôtel, "The Rainy Moon" (1940)
  • The true traveler is he who goes on foot, and even then, he sits down a lot of the time.
    • Paris From My Window (1944)
  • To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one.
    • Paris From My Window (1944)
  • The day after that wedding night I found that a distance of a thousand miles, abyss and discovery and irremediable metamorphosis, separated me from the day before.
    • Noces (1945)
  • Total absence of humor renders life impossible.
    • Chance Acquaintances (1952)
  • You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
    • New York World-Telegram and Sun (1961)
  • The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.
    • Speech on being elected to the Belgian Academy. as quoted in “Lady of Letters” Pt. 4, Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • Humility has its origin in an awareness of unworthiness, and sometimes too in a dazzled awareness of saintliness.
    • Speech on being elected to the Belgian Academy. as quoted in “Lady of Letters” Pt. 4, Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • There is no need to waste pity on young girls who are having their moments of disillusionment, for in another moment they will recover their illusion.
    • “Wedding Day”, Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • What a delight it is to make friends with someone you have despised!
    • “Sido and I”, Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • It takes time for the absent to assume their true shape in our thoughts. After death they take on a firmer outline and then cease to change.
    • "The Captain", Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • As for an authentic villain, the real thing, the absolute, the artist, one rarely meets him even once in a lifetime. The ordinary bad hat is always in part a decent fellow.
    • “The South of France”, Earthly Paradise (1966) ed. Robert Phelps
  • It’s nothing to be born ugly. Sensibly, the ugly woman comes to terms with her ugliness and exploits it as a grace of nature. To become ugly means the beginning of a calamity, self-willed most of the time.
    • Journey for Myself (1971) “Beauties,” Quatre Saisons (c. 1928).

Le Pur et l'Impur (The Pure and the Impure) (1932)

  • It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship.
    • Ch. 9
  • Whether you are dealing with an animal or a child, to convince is to weaken.
  • Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: “It’s four o’clock ... At five I have my abyss.”
  • Perhaps the only misplaced curiosity is that which persists in trying to find out here, on this side of death, what lies beyond the grave.
  • Smokers, male and female, inject and excuse idleness in their lives every time they light a cigarette.

Gigi (1945)

  • In the matter of furnishing, I find a certain absence of ugliness far worse than ugliness.
    • The Photographer’s Wife
  • On this narrow planet, we have only the choice between two unknown worlds. One of them tempts us—ah! what a dream, to live in that!—the other stifles us at the first breath.
    • The Photographer’s Wife
  • Don’t ever wear artistic jewellry; it wrecks a woman’s reputation.
    • Aunt Alicia
  • Boredom helps one to make decisions.
    • Aunt Alicia
  • A pretty little collection of weaknesses and a terror of spiders are our indispensable stock-in-trade with the men... nine men out of ten are superstitious, nineteen out of twenty believe in the evil eye, and ninety-eight out of a hundred are afraid of spiders. They forgive us—oh! for many things, but not for the absence in us of their own feelings.
    • Aunt Alicia

Barks and Purrs

Barks and Purrs as translated by Maire Kelly

  • Toby-Dog: It seems to me that of the two of us it's you they make the most of, and yet you do all the grumbling.
    Kiki-The-Demure: A dog's logic, that! The more one gives the more I demand.
    Toby-Dog: That's wrong. It's indiscreet.
    Kiki-The-Demure: Not at all. I have a right to everything.
    Toby-Dog: To everything? And I?
    Kiki-The-Demure: I don't imagine you lack anything, do you?
    Toby-Dog: Ah, I don't know. Sometimes in my very happiest moments, I feel like crying. My eyes grow dim, my heart seems to choke me. I would like to be sure, in such times of anguish, that everybody loves me; that there is nowhere in the world a sad dog behind a closed door, that no evil will ever come...
    Kiki-The-Demure: And then what dreadful thing happens?
    Toby-Dog: You know very well! Inevitably, at that moment She appears, carrying a bottle with horrible yellow stuff floating in it — Castor Oil!
  • Kiki-The-Demure: Once when I was little She tried to give me castor oil. I scratched and bit her so, she never tried again. Ha! She must have thought she held the devil between her knees. I squirmed, blew fire through my nostrils, multiplied my twenty claws by a hundred, my teeth by one thousand, and finally — disappeared as if by magic.
    Toby-Dog: I wouldn't dare do that. You see, I love her. I love her enough to forgive her even the torture of the bath.

Attributed

  • If I can't have too many truffles, I'll do without truffles,
    • quoted in Close to Colette by Maurice Goudeket

Unsourced

  • A happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts.
  • Be happy. It's one way of being wise.
  • For to dream and then to return to reality only means that our qualms suffer a change of place and significance.
  • Give me a dozen such heartbreaks, if that would help me lose a couple of pounds.
  • I am going away with him to an unknown country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart.
  • I believe there are more urgent and honourable occupations than the incomparable waste of time we call suffering.
  • In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge.
  • Is suffering so very serious? I have come to doubt it. It may be quite childish, a sort of undignified pastime / I'm referring to the kind of suffering a man inflicts on a woman or a woman on a man. It's extremely painful. I agree that it's hardly bearable. But I very much fear that this sort of pain deserves no consideration at all. It's no more worthy of respect than old age or illness.
  • It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses.
  • January, month of empty pockets! let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer's forehead.
  • Jealousy is not at all low, but it catches us humbled and bowed down, at first sight.
  • Let's buy a pack of cards, good wine, bridge scores, knitting needles, all the paraphernalia needed to fill an enormous void, everything needed to hide that horror -- the old woman.
  • Look for a long time at what pleases you, and for a longer time at what pains you. ** Variant: Look for a long time at what pleases you, and a longer time at what pains you.
  • Never touch a butterfly's wing with your finger.
  • No temptation can ever be measured by the value of its object.
  • One keeps forgetting old age up to the very brink of the grave.
  • Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.
  • Shall we never have done with that cliche, so stupid that it could only be human, about the sympathy of animals for man when he is unhappy? Animals love happiness almost as much as we do. A fit of crying disturbs them, they'll sometimes imitate sobbing, and for a moment they'll reflect our sadness. But they flee unhappiness as they flee fever, and I believe that in the long run they are capable of boycotting it.
  • Sincerity is not a spontaneous flower nor is modesty either.
  • Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.
  • The cat is the animal to whom the Creator gave the biggest eye, the softest fur, the most supremely delicate nostrils, a mobile ear, an unrivaled paw and a curved claw borrowed from the rose-tree.
  • The day after that wedding night I found that a distance of a thousand miles, abyss and discovery and irremediable metamorphosis, separated me from the day before.
  • The faults of husbands are often caused by the excess virtues of their wives.
  • The lovesick, the betrayed, and the jealous all smell alike.
  • The woman who thinks she is intelligent demands equal rights with men. A woman who is intelligent does not.
  • There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.
  • What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.
  • Writing only leads to more writing.
  • You must not pity me because my sixtieth year finds me still astonished. To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.

About Colette

  • I am devoted to those who endured, like Colette. It is easier ... to kiss the world a bitter goodbye than to go on working, writing, changing, enduring the slings & arrows of outrageous aging. Colette endured. And she wrote & wrote & wrote. Whenever I feel really depressed, I think of her & keep going.
    • Erica Jong as quoted in Mountain Moving Day (1973) by Elaine Gill
  • Here lived, here died Colette, whose work is a window wide open on life.
    • Plaque placed by the city of Paris at the home of Colette, as quoted by Maurice Goudeket in Close to Colette (1957)

External links

Wikipedia
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Colette
Last modified on 13 April 2008, at 20:06