Memorable Lines: Colette

“Except for one mound with a clump of cherry laurels over-shadowed by a maidenhair tree – whose skate-shaped leaves I used to give to my school friends to press between the pages of their atlases – the whole warm garden basked in a  yellow light that shimmered into red and violet; but whether this red and violet sprang then, and still spring, from feelings of happiness or from dazzled sight, I could not tell. Those were summers when the heat quivered up from the hot yellow gravel and pierced the plaited rushes of my wide-brimmed hats, summers almost without nights. For even then I so loved the dawn that my mother granted it to me as a reward. She used to agree to wake me at half past three and off I would go, an empty basket on each arm, toward the kitchen gardens that sheltered in the narrow bend of the river, in search of strawberries, black currents, and hairy gooseberries.

At half past three, everything slumbered still in a primal blue, blurred and dewy, and as I went down the sandy road the mist, grounded by its own weight, bathed first my legs, then my well-built little body, reaching at last to my mouth and ears, and finally to that most sensitive part of all, my nostrils. I went alone, for there were no dangers in that freethinking countryside. It was on that road and at that hour that I first became aware of my own self, experienced in an inexpressible state of grace, and felt one with the first breath of air that stirred, the first bird, and the sun so newly born that it still looked not quite round.”

Colette, from Earthly Paradise

Colette, Irving Penn, 1951 /IRVING PENN/CONDE NAST

Comments (3)

  1. Shannon July 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    That is exceptional. I’ve never read anything before that’s made me want to get up at 3:30 in the morning!

  2. Susan Olding July 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I know! It’s really quite amazing, isn’t it. The whole book is full of moments like that.

  3. Lito December 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    What a moving extract! Thank you.

    Where did you find this photo of the hand of Colette with pen?? Is it copyrighted? I’m looking for one for my blog as I write about pens of famous authors etc.

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