“But what is the heart, madame? It’s worth less than people think. It’s quite accommodating, it accepts anything. You give it whatever you have, it’s not very particular. But the body… Ha! That’s something else again! It has a cultivated taste, as they say, it knows what it wants. A heart doesn’t choose, and one always ends up by loving.”
Colette writings were on my wish list as long as I can remember. Her life and ideas of sexual liberation enthralled me with the very thought of it being played in the early 19th century. To pine for such independence, moreover live it to the fullest fancies me as even today in this post-modernization era sexual taboos thrive with the strongest clout.
Colette’s writings are a bit peculiar and candid without being mechanically strategize to create a pre-planned ambience. The exceptional quality can be observed in this book. Colette focuses on the eternal pursuit of jouissance, an extreme pleasure to pacify the bodily hunger with a prevailing element of love. She questions the legitimacy of love when engulfed with sexual bliss develops into an expression of narcissism or self-obsessed endeavor. All her characters in this novel are in a never ending pursuit of love defining their own rules yet never seem to have a happy ending. The several protagonists varying from:-
Charlotte:- a 45 yr old woman who tries her best to hide her true feelings from her ravishing young lover.
Renee Vivien:- Seek for acceptance and love in her several lesbian relationships, ultimately rendering to commit suicide with a lonely heart.
Lady Eleanor:- who live a quaint and indiscernible life with her companion Sarah for 53 years.
Pepe:- A Spaniard of nobility who was in love with rugged men in blue overalls.
All of them are chained in sexual inhibitions and failing miserably in achieving self- satisfaction over sought after pleasures. Colette’s notion of the quest to attain pure jouissance brings rejection and vacant contentment solidifying the “impurity” of any relationship.
Colette’s scripts are not strictly feminist or homosexual values; it is a novel implicating the idea of women flouting societal norms of conventional sex, power and love, by discovering their sexuality. Her open acknowledgement of homosexuality as a legitimate and external character and androgynous women delineates her rebellious temperament in a sexually repressed era. Colette’s callous abnegation for “normal” people is reflected in the following excerpt:-
“The viewpoint of “normal” people is not so very different. I have said that what I particularly liked in the world of my “monsters” where I moved in that distant time was the atmosphere that banished women, and I called it “pure.”
“O monsters, do not leave me alone. . . I do not confide in you except to tell you about my fear of being alone, you are the most human people I know, the most reassuring in the world. If I call you monsters, then what name can I give to the so-called normal conditions that were foisted upon me? Look there, on the wall, the shadow of that frightful shoulder, the expression of that vast back and the neck swollen with blood. . . O monsters do not leave me alone. . .”
The book reveals the restless soul of disgruntled relationships, similar to what Colette experienced in her personal life. With two failed marriages and feral affairs she constantly longed for approval and love just like her characters. Thus, I wonder whether ‘love’ is the purity of pleasurable impurity.