The Chairfather: Père Lachaise Part III
Our next host is on the right in a low tomb colored brown. You may see her favorite animal the cat lounging around…
Raised in Burgundy by a feminist and atheist mother who adored her, shy Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was married off to a certain Willy, a musical critic. Willy published novels under his name which were written by others. Colette became another of his ghost-writers, until she found her voice. A dozen years passed before she would publish in her own name. When she did, she never looked back, divorcing Willy, diving into the arts, and fully exploring her desires.
She performed at the Moulin Rouge, ostensibly as a mime, appearing half nude in a panther skin. In a Brussels theater, she appeared naked. She kissed a marquise on stage, and tried several female lovers. She was like a character from a pulp paperback, and so Colette wrote about her life in fictionalized form. These racy autobiographical tales fulfilled the fantasies of her growing readership.
The stories are stimulating, but her tomb is plain. So, let's keep moving as I tell you more.
Leave Colette on your right, and walk up the Avenue Circulaire.
Colette re-married and had a 5-year liaison with her new husband’s 16-year-old son. You knew where that was going, and soon she was divorced again. Both ex-husbands received rough treatment as characters in her novels. #3 fared better, as he looked the other way during her continued adventures, mostly with women.
All the while, Colette wrote prolifically, and read ravenously, participating in the jury of the highest literary awards, becoming the president of the Goncourt academy. In her 70s, she recollected the Belle Epoque kept women in her novel Gigi, which became a Broadway hit with Audrey Hepburn as the lead. The film adaptation was an ascepticised musical with Leslie Caron, which nevertheless swept the Oscars, including best picture.
After Sarah Bernhardt, whom we met in Tour 1, Colette was the second woman to ever receive a state funeral.
Continue to follow the Avenue Circulaire as it curves to the right, but don’t change paths just yet.