Break of Day
Colette, translated by Enid McLeod
Noonday 143 pp. Paper $2.95

Looking Backwards
Colette, translated by David LeVay
Indiana University Press 214 pp., $8.95

My Mother’s House and Sido
Colette, translated by Una Vicenzo and Enid McLeod
Farrar 219 pp., $7.95; Paper $2.95

The Vagabond
Colette, translated by Enid McLeod
Noonday 223 pp. Paper, $2.95

Colette: The Difficulty of Loving
Margaret Crosland
Dell 203 pp. Paper, $1.25

There is a certain trepidation in coming back to Colette, in reading once more those pages full of rich and sensuous language. Will we, like Chéri on his morning of return to Léa’s boudoir, see the wrinkles?

Needless worry: if indeed there is comparison between the ageing courtesan and the vast opus she is a part of, it lies rather in the clarity of vision that distance and time allow for. Revealing her age, Léa ironically assures that she won’t be forgotten. Her worth becomes clear. Likewise, it is now that we begin to understand Colette—to see beyond the anecdotes into which she has often disappeared and Which she herself, in a perpetual game of hide-and-seek, helped to create. As modern criticism takes a new look, as new translations become increasingly available to the American public, we can reject the past perceptions of readers as intelligent as Simone de Beauvoir who have found in Colette a great style too often at the service of frivolities and animal dialogues.

There does, in fact, seem to be new interest, particularly in the States, in Colette. Although most of her work was translated into English quite early, many texts have never appeared in paperback or are simply out of print. For some time now, Earthly Paradise, Robert Phelps’ judiciously selected extracts of what is these days being carelessly labeled Colette’s autobiography, has been available. To supplement this considerable collection, Noonday Press has just brought out new editions of certain standard translations in long-overdue paperbacks: The Vagabond, the novel which established Colette’s reputation; Break of Day, her lyric farewell to second youth; My Mother’s House and Sido, the moving tributes to her mother. The British biographer, Margaret Crosland, has recently published the engaging, well-written Colette: The Difficulty of Loving. Not containing a great deal of new information, it nevertheless has the rather uncommon merit of combining captivating biography with intelligent literary comment.

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