Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saucy, Delectable

Speaking of modernism. . . dramatic cover art for a titillating French production of the 1920s. The 'Willy' here was Henri Gauthier-Villars--prolific journalist, novelist, and walrus-like "literary charlatan and degenerate" who two decades earlier had been Colette's philandering first husband.

Willy was notorious for publishing the works of others under his own name, and according to the Bluebeard mythology, locked the 20-year-old Colette, whose literary talent he had quickly discerned, in a room in their Paris apartment until she produced a novel he might pass off as his own. The resulting work, Claudine à l'école, a saucy and delectable piece of girl-on-girl romance based on Colette's own schooldays, appeared in 1900 (yes, under Willy's name) and became an instant sensation. Colette soon ditched Willy for an aristocratic female lover--the stone butch Mathilde de Mornay, Marquise de Belboeuf--and toured the French provinces with her as a vaudeville performer. Although Willy lost the rights to Claudine in 1906--Colette sued for them and won-- he continued to flourish for many years as writer, roué, and charming old stinker.

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