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Colette: Earthly Paradise (Colette's Autobiography,Drawn from the Writings of Her Lifetime) Hardcover – Unabridged, January 1, 1966
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In her own lifetime, and especially outside of France, Colette was best known as a novelist, as the creator of Cheri, Gigi, Claudine; and as such, her place in the ranks of 20th century French fiction is secure and very high, comparable among her contemporaries perhaps to that of Proust. Over the same half century, she published an even larger body of explicit autobiography - memoirs, portraits, notebooks, letters. Barely a decade after her death, it became clear that this aspect of her work, and the personality embodied there, would determine her place in literature. Drawn from some 40 books of her non-fiction, EARTHLY PARADISE may be called the autobiography of her myth. At the same time it is the vivid, year-by-year revelation of a long, eager, courageous life. From her idyllic Burgundian childhood to her apotheosis at 80 as one of France's glories, Colette enacted an extraordinary personal history. The calendar of it all is here: scandals, marriages, motherhood; colorful houses, gardens and pets; two World Wars, abounding friendships, the manifold stresses of a profoundly ambivalent nature - and all of it tempered with suffering, self-control, work, discipline and, above all, joy of life. There is also wisdom, the undoctrinaire essence of a genuinely original member of the human species. She knew we are fallen creatures, exiled from innocence, for whom Freud's classic injunction, "Love and Work!" is the only salvation. But she also believed that to be born sentient and watchful is a daily miracle, and that the earthly paradise around us is as awesome an index to heaven as we shall probably know. For Colette, there is always something worth looking at, and this lifetime homage was not her "message," but simply her form of prayer. On every page of EARTHLY PARADISE, even when she is suffering, or looking over her shoulder at a purity she can never share, she is reverently bewitched, and on her lips there are words of assent and praise.