Cheri

Cheri

Summary

Chéri, first published in 1920, is considered Colette's finest novel. Exquisitely handsome, spoilt and sardonic, Chéri is the only son of a wealthy courtesan, a contemporary of Léa, the magnificent and talented woman who for six years has devoted herself to his amorous education.

When a rich marriage is arranged for Chéri, Léa reluctantly decides their relationship must end. Chéri, despite his apparent detachment, is haunted by memories of Léa; alienated from his wife, his family and his surroundings, he retreats into a fantasy world made up of dreams and the past, a world from which there is only one route of escape.

In her portrait of the fated love affair between a very young man and a middle-aged woman, Colette achieved a peak in her earthy, sensuous and utterly individual art. Chéri caused considerable controversy both in its choice of setting - the fabulous demi-monde of the Parisian courtesans - and in its portrayal of Chéri.

Reviews

  • Everything that Colette touched became human... She was a complete sensualist; but she gave herself up to her senses with such delicacy of perception, with such exquisiteness of physical pain as well as physical ecstasy, that she ennobled sensualism almost to grandeur
    The Times

About the author

Colette

Colette, the creator of Claudine, Cheri and Gigi, and one of France’s outstanding writers, had a long, varied and active life. She was born in Burgundy on 1873 into a home overflowing with dogs, cats and children, and educated at the local village school. At the age of twenty she moved to Paris with her first husband, the notorious writer and critic Henry Gauthier-Villas (Willy). By locking her in her room, Willy forced Collette to write her first novels (the Claudine sequence), which he published under his name. They were an instant success. Colettte left Willy in 1906 and worked in music-halls as an actor and dancer. She had a love affair with Napoleon’s niece, married twice more, had a baby at 40 and at 47. Her writing, which included novels, portraits, essays and a large body of autobiographical prose, was admired by Proust and Gide. She was the first woman President of the Académie Goncourt, and when she died, aged 81, she was given a state funeral and buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
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