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Colette (1) [1873–1954]

This page covers the author of Chéri / The Last of Chéri.

For other authors named Colette, see the disambiguation page.

Colette (1) has been aliased into Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.

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Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, popularly known by her last name, was born in a small village in the Burgundy region of eastern France to Captain Jules-Joseph Colette and his wife Sidonie Landoy. At age 20, she married Henry Gauthier-Villars, 15 years her senior, a writer and music critic who went by the pen name of "Willy." He encouraged Colette to write her childhood memoirs, which were published under his name between 1900 and 1903 as four novels called the Claudine series: Claudine à l’école (Claudine at School), Claudine à Paris, Claudine en ménage (Claudine Married), and Claudine s’en va (in English, Claudine and Annie). After Willy left her in 1906, Colette felt she could only earn a living by performing in Parisian music hall shows. She took emotional refuge in the lesbian establishment of the period. Among her many friends and liaisons were Natalie Clifford Barney and Liane de Pougy. Colette then began a career as a journalist, and in the offices of the daily newspaper Le Matin, she met the editor, Henry de Jouvenel, a writer and politician; they married in 1912 and had a daughter. Colette's literary career took off again with the publication of Chéri in 1920, followed by Le Blé en herbe (The Ripening Seed, 1929), Sido, and La Chatte (The Cat, 1933), and nearly 50 others. By 1927, she was frequently being called France's greatest woman writer. The French movie industry began making adaptations of her work starting with Gigi in 1949 and Chéri in 1950; Broadway and Hollywood followed suit. Colette also worked with Maurice Ravel, writing the libretto for his opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges. Colette married as her third husband Maurice Goudeket, who was 17 years her junior and Jewish. He was at risk from the German Occupation of World War II; however, she succeeded in hiding him. In 1945, she was elected the first woman member of the prestigious Académie Goncourt, rival of the more conservative Académie française, and would serve as its president. At her death, she was given a state funeral. Her voluminous correspondence was published posthumously in several volumes.

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