‘The Gentle Libertine’ by Colette

The Gentle Libertine by Colette, 1931

The magic trick:

Creating an odd mood of innocence and ambition

We’re back in France this week, and we begin with a slice of strangeness from Colette. This story has a weird vibe to it. It’s funny and satirical yet oddly sexual yet and also a bit menacing. Our protagonist is so taken with the extravagant pulp she reads – part American Western, part gangster mob stories – she dreams she is queen of the gang. The dream starts to invade the reality of her life too. Like I said, we have a weird vibe here. The mix of innocence and ambition is startling, even a little deranged

And that’s quite a trick on Colette’s part.

The selection:

Every day, at noon, Minne brushed past the vagrant and the vagrant stared back at Minne in her light summer dress and Minne returned his stare with serious eyes. She thought: “He is waiting for me. He loves me. He understands me. How can I tell him that I am never free? If only I could slip him a piece of paper saying: “I am held prisoner – Kill Celenie and we will flee together . . Flee together . . . toward life . . . toward a new life where I should never even remember that I am Minne.'”

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