Images of Truth: Remembrances and Criticism

By Glenway Wescott | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
An Introduction to Colette

I have a passion for the truth, and for the fictions that it authorizes.

-- JULES RENARD

Upon publication of Mitsou, her love story of World War I, Colette received a letter from Proust. "I wept a little this evening, which I have not done for a long while."

Mitsou concludes with a passionate communication from a little musical comedy star to her lieutenant in the trenches; and this impressed Proust especially, but he quibbled: "It is so beautiful, it even verges on prettiness here and there, and amid so much admirable simplicity and depth, perhaps there is a trace of preciosity." He could not quite believe in the sudden elevation and refinement of Mitsou's style, educated only by love. And how characteristic of the very neurotic great man! The chapter of the lovers' dining in a restaurant reminded him dolefully of an engagement to dine with Colette which he had been compelled to break, it unfortunately having coincided with one of his illnesses.

Upon publication of Chéri she received a letter from Gide. He expected her to be surprised to hear from him; and perhaps she was. While Proust was a great complimenter, Gide was known to be somewhat chary of endorsements. He had read the tragical tale of the youngster in love with the aging courtesan at one sitting, breathlessly, he said. "Not one weakness, not one redundancy, nothing commonplace!" Why in the world, he wondered, had none of the critics compared her young hero or villain with Benjamin

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