Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Colette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colette. Show all posts

02 January, 2016

Colette, "The Tender Shoot"

The story is told by two first-person points-of-view shifting from the outer to the inner frame story. The first narrator gets her friend to tell her why young girls are out of his life forever. He is now a man of nearly seventy years old and finally agrees to explain. So he begins, "You want a story and you shall have it." He was away on a long vacation and the other vacationers annoyed him so he went off on walks by himself, met a young girl and arranged to meet her in the woods every day. One night when the rain is torrential, he and Louisette get caught by her mother. He runs off and never sees Louisette again. "At one fell swoop I had lost the taste of the twilights of Franche-Comté and satiny birch trees and clumps of heather." The story takes place in 1940 so there is some talk of war. "The Tender Shoot" is nearly fifty pages long and dates from 1943. Translated from the French by Antonia White.

01 January, 2016

Colette, "Green Sealing Wax"

First-person narrator told some time after the events. Colette is fifteen and she's particularly interested in "desk furniture," specifically writing implements and their accoutrements. After some telling of her adolescence and shifting hormones, the story turns into a frame story. "It was at this point there occurred the episode known for long afterward as 'the Hervouët will affair.'" Then the story of the poisoning and forgery of a will is told. Madame Hervouët goes mad, enters the asylum and then Sido has a discussion with her daughter about why "mad people aren't tried." Her mother, "the moralist," decides that "Yes, judges who would be able to assess the element of calculation in madness, who could sift out the hidden grain of lucidity, of deliberate fraud." Then Colette's mother goes on to explain that what she blames the woman for is that forgery and the "special, rare kind of sealing wax," exposed a particularly wild level of "conceit." Colette notices her mother's hands while this discussion is going on. Her mother is picking green beans and that she hasn't been taking care of her hands and fingernails. "But why did she confess?" Colette asks and her mother explains that a confession will always come out, it's just a matter of time and the trickiness is that it "bursts out quite suddenly, just when you weren't expecting it, it tastes liberty, it stretches its limbs."

Favorite line:
"It was the female Guillamat, less stupid than the others, who said afterward that, before anyone had spoken, Madame Hervouët began to make peculiar movements with her neck, like a hen that's swallowed a hairy caterpillar."

30 December, 2015

Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), "The Sick Child"

The last story written by Colette and translated by Antonia White in 1945 has a shifting point of view between the child, a ten-year old boy named Jean, and his mother, referred to as Madame Mamma. Jean is sick with polio and suffers--his escape from the pain and exhaustion--hallucinations. More than the illness, I think the themes of the story are the complex and two-fold, love/hate, mother/child relationship and willful imagination. It seems to me that most stories actually shrink down to the idea that a person's mindset, private thoughts, ideas and beliefs are never really known, understood, or even fully communicable to anyone else.

Some of my favorite lines:
"Madame Mamma looked at her son sorrowfully, inwardly reproaching him for wiping out, with one word, that pink color she saw on his cheeks."

"'He thinks I think he's asleep.' Sometimes they played at deceiving each other like this. 'She thinks I'm not in pain,' Jean would think, though the pain would be making his lashes flicker on his cheekbones."

"Then he laid his left temple on the firm pillow, listened to the music of water drops and fountains played by the strands of white horsehair inside the cushion under the pressure of his head, and half closed his eyes."

The story is about twenty pages long and full of adventures riding a "cloud of fragrance," watching cows in the field, and sliding down glaciers, all from Jean's
bed.

LINKS:
Wikipedia page for Colette
Britannica page for Colette
Colette's 1954 obituary in the New York Times
review in The Guardian about Colette's novel, The Vagabond