Reading my way to Paris from my armchair / bed /car /desk is proving to be full of that je ne sais quoi atmosphere and kicked off by a delightful book by Colette.
I'm very new to Colette and so Claudine's House from Hesperus looked like quite a gentle start.First published in 1922 and Colette's account of her childhood "In an idyllic countryside woodland setting...surrounded by a warm and loving family".
Her child's eye view of the world is remarkable for its detail and the recollection and interpretation of events going on around her.A constant flow of innocent and unrecognised truths about girlhood emerge.
"It doesn't often happen that little girls recognise beauty in one of their number and pay homage to it. But the undeniable beauty of young Bouilloux disarmed us"
There's another perfect little piece on a rural wedding that puts a different perspective on that memorable one portrayed by Flaubert in Madame Bovary. Colette views it all through the magical eyes of a little girl and suddenly you have a much more satisfying vision of the event than you ever had from Flaubert.
Colette's mother is the epitome of wisdom and steadfastness always ready with sage down to earth advice that must have stayed with Colette all her life.In the final few stories you see Colette as a mother to her daughter Bel Gazou passing much of it on.
Altogether a really satisfying read and to keep it company I dipped into Paris Was Yesterday 1925-1939 by Janet Flanner who was the Paris-based columnist for The New Yorker in that time.
Janet Flanner has something interesting, ascerbic or insightful to say on just about every famous and less famous person who ever frequented Deux Magots,walked the Champs Elysees or ended up in Pere Lachaise.
Her perceptive assessment of Ernest Hemingway after his death casts him in an entirely new light and of course she had something interesting to say about Colette too
"French literature is peculiarly devoid of nature - indeed, there is hardly a tree in the whole lot of it;and to the French, despite their instinct to appreciate him, Hardy reads rather like the pages from a seed catalogue.In their fine letters Colette is the first dendrophile they have possessed, the first writer to give them news of nature; she has the strangeness of a traveler who tells of an unknown land".
Every story in Claudine's House has a little kernel of something special wrapped up in some of the most endearing writing and I suspect it's to the credit of Andrew Brown's translation that I experienced a read very close to the original.