A subtle psychologist, wise in the ways of women, children, and ani-
mals, Colette is represented by a self-commenting little essay from
her childhood, her early reading, and her later writing. She is con-
sidered by many figures in contemporary French literature as one
of the greatest stylists of our time. She says here she has never
found French an easy language to write--although she has been
writing it with great distinction for many years.
YOUTHFUL promise, early flickerings of the sacred flame, lisping in numbers, predestination? I find no trace of these within my memory. My career as a writer began with a footwarmer. . . . Soon, to be understood, I would need to describe this all but extinct household utensil. I open my dictionary to footwarmer: a metal box to hold live coals, and on which one placed the feet to keep them warm. Already the dictionary speaks in the past tense. . . . Well, it was a footwarmer that reigned over my intellectual or, I should say, scholastic beginnings. Within the glacial, barnlike houses of our countryside, the footwarmer was an article of prime necessity. In my parents' home, the cook had her footwarmer, so did the seamstress who came in by the day; my mother had hers, and lastly I had mine, which I carried to school, filled with poplar embers buried in ashes. . . . I was given the handsomest because it was the most solid; a magnificent object all of forged steel, indestructible, heavy as a packed valise. Has anyone an idea of how admirable a weapon, both defensive and offensive, a steel footwarmer can be at recess time? I carry the ineradicable evidence of a duel with footwarmers: a broken cartilage in my left ear. Shield, missile, stove --primitive luxury in a countryside with few comforts. Each little girl had her own, in the first class--the six- to eight-year-olds--of