Form and Content
Called a psychologist of the senses and a poet of the sensuous, Colette is considered, along with Marcel Proust, Albert Camus, and Émile Zola, to be one of France’s premier contributors to early twentieth century literature. A prolific and disciplined artist, Colette molded a world of characters peopling eighteen novels and more than one hundred short stories, and she also wrote plays, literary criticism, and essays.
She is considered a pioneer in the genre of social realism so popular in her era and a model for the French libertine movement that addressed action unrestrained by convention of morality, making references to lesbianism and sadomasochism. Her characters are deeply entwined in relationships, usually of a sexual nature. These subtle, realistic relationships, though shocking in the early 1900’s, may seem mild by later standards. Nevertheless, she was in a vanguard by addressing topics not usually discussed in literature, and especially those not discussed by a female author.
The Collected Stories of Colette, edited by Robert Phelps and translated by Matthew Ward, Antonia White, et al., features one hundred of her short stories culled from twelve volumes published between 1908 and 1945. Because of the restricted exposition and the emphasis on character development, the stories remain viable and only peripherally dated. For the most part, they feature relationships between two people who are only moderately connected to their locale, and they demonstrate the all-too-human nature of the developing characters. Although there are brief mentions of the café society of Paris, backstage views of vaudeville performances, and peeks into Parisian drawing rooms,...
(The entire section is 695 words.)