Colette: A Life

Herbert R. Lottman, Author
Herbert R. Lottman, Author Little Brown and Company $24.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-316-53361-4
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The celebrated French writer, who emerged from a small Burgundy town a rustic innocent to take Paris by storm and eventually become a national monument, had surely one of the strangest lives of any literary figure. Married to her dominating ``collaborator,'' a Parisian wit and journalist called, simply, Willy, she also dabbled in lesbianism and eventually went on the cabaret stage. Though apparently no great shakes as actress or dancer, her vitality and sensuality made her a draw. Out of her second major heterosexual liaison her only daughter was born, and late in life she married again. She lived under the Nazi occupation, leaving a hint of collaboration, and died in 1954, 80 years old and much honored. She always worked hard, slaving against deadlines for magazines and newspapers when not on tour with the cabaret, writing novels in installments, stories, sketches, reviews and endless letters. She even launched her own cosmetics line. Perhaps overfaced with this polymath, Lottman, an admired literary historian (as well as PW's international correspondent) has fashioned a careful, painstaking biography that is far less spectacular than its subject. The facts are all here, splendidly researched, but more color is needed to bring this remarkable woman fully to life. Photos not seen by PW . (Feb.)
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