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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

Colette and the wine.

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), French, was a writer and female figure of the greatest expression of the first half of the 20th century, and is still edited and read today. Strong personality stirred her midst, questioning sexual mores and gender concepts of the time. She published extensive and varied work with an intense autobiographical imprint.

From her book Le Voyage Égoïste, which brings together short texts written between 1912-1913, we have translated the following account where one can feel, in addition to her very own style, the ability to mix strong irony and no less sensitivity; naturally the wine theme is present in it. This article gave us the opportunity to get to know the French writer’s intense connection with wine, to the point of deserving the publication of a small study entitled: Colette, Un Vin d’Ecrivain (Colette, A Writer’s Wine). In time, we will return to the topic.



'Where are you going in September?' my friend Valentina asked me in May. When she interrogates me, I always feel a little guilty. She asks casually, with class. Knowledge of her from the near or distant future baffles me. It sets a point in the future and pan! directly at the Spa, in Saint-Moritz, in Rome. Six months in advance, she says: “On the 14th of January, in the afternoon, I have tea in Caux”.

'In September? In September, hmm... See, there's a high tide in the full moon... I'm not leaving here because of the fishing, and also the storm of the equinox which will be tremendous...

My friend Valentina shrugs her shoulders, which are thin and even a little dry. Her entire body displays a tough youth, as if ravaged by inexhaustible adolescence. In the street, seen from the back, she is between ten and twelve years old, like many of the women of today [1920/1922]. From the front, she looks a little tired of playing young for so long. What a! Things are as they should be. That's why she raised her shoulders covered in transparent organdy in May.

Here it is after a Parisian summer of exquisite taste. She “did” the Decorative Arts, dined at the Quays, kept the house open until August 1st, had breakfast in the gardens of the sixteenth arrondissement. Don't come to visit me: enter en passant... Little white hat, white, black and green dress -- what does she look for with her eyes? Your parasol? No, his driver's coat, which was left up there, in the street, in his car that you can't see: it's chic to "pass through" a friend's house, four hundred kilometers from Paris, with the air of someone who came on foot. ... At the bottom of the meadow, the sea, with a courteous tongue, moistens the iron foliage and the flaming flower of the blue thistles. My friend Valentina, however, doesn't see the sea, or the beach, or the cape stripped by summer, yellow and brown like a doe: she thinks about the harvest. The harvest takes place, for two or three years, as assiduously as the kasha (typical European cereal dish). Between my friend Valentina and the sweet milky sea there is an extravagant picture of vintages of dubious grace, and I sympathize with this young woman reduced by fashion to a permanent prospect of the future. Similar to the tailor who, when the weather freezes with frost, works the crepe, the wild flower in embroidery; under the heatwave, she arranges the fur in towels...

'So you're going to harvest, Valentina?'

'Of course dear.'

'It's the first time?'

She blushes.

'Yes... I mean... I was supposed to harvest last year on the estate of our friends X... And even, two years ago, on the estate...'

'Do not apologize. And how do you think should be the clothes in the vintages?'

'In violet-purple fabric, printed with yellow grapes," my friend responds quickly.'


'Yellow. Violet ribbon under the chin.'


'Braided. In yellow and white leather.'


'Shaped like a stork's beak. In Strasbourg I found some lovely ones.'

Don't I catch her in the wrong? She even imagined the scissors! I am astonished to find that your ignorance of the things of nature serves you as well, at least in practice, as a consummate experience. It characterizes the season by its fabric, sport by its machine, beauty by its jewelry. She interprets the language of symbols as a romantic bride, in short... But, sure of offending her, I won't tell her that.

'You know, Valentina, that scissors are, if I may, superfluous.' My friend's plucked eyebrows prick up in astonishment and hide under a chalk-white cap.

'Superfluous! Remember I have the old steel chain that holds them around my waist.'

'... If you allow, I'll tell you. -- For the stem of the bunch, four or five centimeters from the stump to which it is attached, swells like a snake that has not yet digested its meal. Press down on this almost imperceptible engorgement with your fingernail: it breaks like glass and the curl falls into the basket your other hand holds out to it. It's a little peasant trick I'm teaching you, Valentina, so you can fill your basket faster... That's how I used to do it when in nineteen seventeen...

Well, the rest had nothing to do with her. The vintages of war belong only to my memories. Red earth, baked by the long suns, torrid September, wet with dew at dawn, unexpected curls under the fig trees in the aroma of fresh milk... The blue of this year flowed like an indigo without gaps, from the rosy morning until the even more rosy evening. . Never have there been so many peaches on the peach trees, and the vines, winnowing, ripe; never so many yellow plums and green plums among the tendrils of the vines. How many kingfishers chattering over the river, bees in harmonious halos around the lime trees, and the hissing of swallows piercing the cloud of mosquitoes... How much animal joy, what spontaneous and vegetal splendor in our silent harvests...

Women's hands, children's hands, were pushing aside the leaves, groping and cutting the bunch of tepid grapes. As far as the eye could see there was not a man among the parallel rows of the vineyard. What the war left of men to the country was less than eighteen years old or more than fifty, and carried, bent over, from the vineyard to the vats, the wooden vats that weigh, when full, more than 25 kilos.

At noon, a young woman slipped out of the vineyard, ran down the hall, sat in the shade of a fig tree, and caught a baby tucked into the folds of her robes. Her milk pressed against her, and as she unraveled and awoke the baby, I saw the drops of milk and the tears of the mute, lonely grapevine fall together on him.

(Le Voyage Égoïste, Paris, 1930; 1ª ed. 1922. Trad. de CG.)

(Le Voyage Égoïste, París, 1930)

*Translated by Google Translate.

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