TRANSLATED BY ROGER SENHOUSE
Lea de Lonval is a magnificent and aging courtesan facing the end of her career. She has devoted the last six years to the amorous education of the exquisitely handsome and spoilt Cheri - a playboy half her age. When an advantageous marriage is arranged for Cheri, Lea reluctantly decides their relationship must end. But neither lover can forsee how deeply they are connected, or how much they will have to give up.
First published in 1920, it was instantly greeted by Marcel Proust and Andre Gide as a masterpiece.
`I devoured Cheri at a gulp. What a wonderful subject and with what intelligence, mastery and understanding of the least-admitted secrets of the flesh' Andre Gide
`Me a feminist?' She scoffed in 1910. `I'll tell you what the suffragettes deserve: the whip and the harem'. Colette was an intriguing and flamboyant figure. Born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in Burgundy in 1873 she moved to Paris at the age of 20 with her husband, the writer and critic, Henry Gauthiers-Viller (Willy). Forcing Colette to write, Willy published her novels in his name and the Claudine series became an instant success. She escaped her exploitative first husband to live by her pen and work in music-halls as a dancer. Colette had a lesbian love affair with Napoleon's niece, she married three times, had a baby at 40 and at 47, preferring `passion to goodness', she seduced her teenage stepson. In the meantime she wrote stunning novels that were admired by Proust and Gide - Gigi, Sido, Cheri, and Break of Day. Colette lived to be over 80. She was the first woman President of the Academie Goncourt and was the first woman in France to be accorded a state funeral.