Colette, a sunny little girl with long golden curls streaming over her flounced dress. Colette, short hair, sound “triangle face and her clear blackberry eyes”, which seems to defy the lens. Colette, hieratic, one breast uncovered. Colette, body impeded under the fabrics and aged look of Gitane. Emmanuelle Lambert, author of a fiery “Giono, furioso” (Stock), recounts this other genius that is Colette, from photographs taken by anonymous people or masters such as Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton, Gisèle Freund, Robert Doisneau.
Giono, this genius so misunderstood
So many portraits to try to capture the thousand facets of “one of the greatest stylists of the 20th century”novelist, journalist, dancer (“probably the only author of the Pléiade to have performed partially naked on stage”), wife, bisexual, mother, “ head magician » whose 150th anniversary will be celebrated in 2023.
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A life in perpetual transformation
Like a palmist reading the lines of the hand, Emmanuelle Lambert reads the images to glimpse not the future, but the life in perpetual metamorphosis of a Protée woman who has never stopped reinventing herself. Born Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, the child of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye chose to rename herself to become Colette. Under the impulse of Willy, her first husband, she changed her appearance to embody her heroine “Claudine”. She never allowed herself to be locked into conventions or assigned roles.
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“La Vagabonde”, “Chéri”, “l’Etoile Vesper”, all his texts vibrate with his freedom. With a snapping word, Colette turns a sentence “like a dull coat whose lining suddenly whips the air”. Such a personality would be too cramped in the corset of a classical biography. Emmanuelle Lambert has understood this well and does not hesitate to evoke her own motherhood when she approaches that of the author of “Blé en herbe” or to stage her meeting with a historian (Bénédicte Vergez-Chaignon who signs “Colette at war” at Flammarion) to determine the attitude of the writer under the Occupation. With this beautiful book of wild freedom, she pays the finest tribute to “her” Colette.
Sidonie Gabrielle Coletteby Emmanuelle Lambert, Gallimard, 216 p., 29.90 euros.