Gigi & Le chatte

April 19, 2009 at 7:19 pm (French, Literature) ()

Gigi & Le chatte

Gigi & Le chatte

Gigi & Le chatte by Colette
Translated by Martin Senhouse  and Antonia White
Originally published 1933
Penguin Twentieth Century Classics, 14th printing, 1958
188 pages
Fiction, French

Synopsis & Review: In Gigi, Gilberte (the titular Gigi) is brought up be her like mother and Mamita, Madame Alvarez, women who do not marry, in the Belle Epoque. Gigi and her beloved Tonton–Gaston Lachaille, a very rich, very eligible young man–play cards and enjoy one another’s company, until Tonton’s status and Gigi’s reputation as a young woman come into play. In The Cat, a seductive yet despised young wife and her husband’s beloved Russian Blue battle for his affections. Two tremendously short novellas, stories really, depicting the complexity of human relationships. I was fascinated by Gigi as a child, after seeing a series of classic movies on Disney under the heading “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”–disturbing, really. And I cannot for the life of me recall the fourth film, the other two besides Gigi being Lili and Silk Stockings–and the life of grandes horizontales still fascinates, leading me to Nana as an adult. I still recall Aunt Alicia lecturing about emeralds and ortolons. Ultimately, Gigi chooses what kind of life she will lead, regardless of expectation–or even her own desires. Though brief, Gigi is beautiful, with perfect turns of phrase and a clear-eyed lack of sentimentality. The Cat is entirely different, presenting a heroine at once repulsive in the hero’s eyes, yet understandable to my own, as she battles his attachment to childhood via his beloved cat Saha. It will end up being the story you puzzle over longest, deciding to whom your loyalty belongs: the beguiling Saha, the loyal Alain, or the strident Camille. Eventually, we all must surrender our childhoods and move on. “Call your mother, Gigi! Liane d’Exelmans has committed suicide.” The child replied with a long drawn-out “Oooh!” and asked, “Is she dead?” “Of course not. She knows what she’s about.” “How did she do it, Grandmamma? A revolver?” Madame Alvarez looked pityingly at her granddaughter. “The idea! Laudanum, as usual. ‘Doctors Moreze and Pelledoux, who have never left the heart-broken beauty’s bedside, cannot yet answer for her life, but their diagnosis is reassuring . . .’ My own diagnosis is that if Madame d’Exelmans goes on playing that game, she’ll end by ruining her stomach.” “The last time she killed herself, Grandmamma, was for the sake of Prince Georgevitch, wasn’t it?” “Where are your brains, my darling? It was for Count Berthou de Sauveterre.” “Oh, so it was. And what will Tonton do now, do you think?” A dreamy look passed across the huge eyes of Madame Alvarez. “It’s a toss-up, my child. We shall know everything in good time, even if he starts by refusing to give an interview to anybody. You must always start by refusing to give an interview to anybody.” He escaped more easily than Camille could have wished, constrained as he was to fly on the very spot. Escape no longer meant a staircase descended on tiptoe, the slamming of a taxi door, a brief farewell note. None of his mistresses had prepared him for Camille and her young girl’s eagerness; Camille and her reckless desire. Neither had they prepared him for Camille’s stoical behavior as an offended partner. She made it a point of honor not to complain. 18 April 2009


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