|About the Book|
The place of Colette among twentieth-century French writers of fiction is comparable to that of Proust. But Colettes high and certain rank in literature is determined equally by her autobiographical writings as by her novels: the imaginary characters of Cheri, Gigi, Claudine, et al. can only rival, but not excel, Colettes portraits of her family and her extraordinary friends and acquaintances, from Proust himself, younger than she, to Maurice Ravel, her collaborator for the opera LEnfant et les Sortileges.Drawn from some forty books of her non-fiction, Earthly Paradise may be described as the autobiography of her myth. It is a vivid, year-by-year revelation of a long, eager, courageous life- it is an extraordinary personal history containing scandals, marriages, motherhood, two world wars, abounding friendships- and it is a narration of the manifold stresses of a profoundly ambivalent nature. Her chronicles are tempered with suffering, self-control, work, discipline, and, above all, joy of life. Look! she once advised a young writer, look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you...Colette believed that to be born sentient and watchful is a miracle, and that the earthly paradise around us is as awesome an index to heaven as we shall probably know. For Colette, there was always something worth looking at--whether the petals of an orchid, or the way Sarah Bernhart poured coffee, or her own heartbreak. This lifetime pantheistic homage was not so much a message as her own form of daily prayer. Colette seems destined to become one of those rare writers whose literary achievement is something grander: a personal myth incarnating a point of view in human culture.