Paris de ma fenêtre

Year: 1961

Author: Colette (1873 - 1954)

Artist: André Dignimont (1891 - 1965)

Publisher: Trinckvel

Paris de ma fenêtre, cover

It seems like a misogynist cliché: relating the development of Colette, one of the freest spirits of her time, to the lives of her trio of husbands. And yet their behaviour has been of essential importance in several respects. Great talent alone was not enough for a girl from the country, and literary underachiever Henry Gauthier-Villars, alias Willy, who plucked her away from the Burgundy countryside in 1893, was enough of a professional to see her talent and teach her how to write. The result was the series of Claudine novels (1900-1905), written by Colette, with the addition of piquancies by Willy, and published under his name to enormous success.

The country and the capital

None of this made Colette any happier. She began to act like a free woman, publishing Sept dialogues de bêtes (1905) and the lyrical Les vrilles de la vigne (1908), both expressions of her love for flowers and animals, passed on to her by her mother, whom she was to honour in 1929 with Sido. Colette was already living with Mathilde de Morny ('Missy') by 1906, a prominent figure from the circles around the legendary Nathalie Clifford Barney, the 'Amazon' of Rémy de Gourmont. This is where she began her career as an actress in musical revues and pantomime plays, which led to numerous scandals and to books like L'envers du music-hall (1913) and Mitsou (1920). She also wrote contributions to Le matin, the newspaper owned by Henry de Jouvenel, whom she was to marry in 1912. Journalism, and especially theatrical criticism, became a daily occupation, while novels like La Vagabonde and Chéri (1920) first appeared in serial form.

Colette soon developed into a celebrity in Parisian life, and slowly even became a figure of national prominence. Remarkably enough, she never betrayed her roots; a more fortunate union of the country and the capital is hard to imagine. For the last twenty years of her life, she was the Colette whom many remember: living and working in her apartment in the Palais-Royal, now with Maurice Goudeket beside her, who remained there until the end. In spite of health problems, she always maintained her high level of productivity: novels, memoirs, screenplays. They are all testimonies to her loving attention to flowers, plants, children, animals, her region of birth, love in all its facets and also the words it uses. Colette was one of this century's greatest prose authors.

Famous window

Of all the many tributes to her, one undoubtedly pleased her enormously: her membership and later her presidency of the Académie Goncourt. She did face one more scandal at the very end: the church refused to participate in the national funeral of this heathen 'reine de la terre'. She probably wouldn't have cared. On 7 August 1954 she was paid the last honours on the square where she had lived: Port-Royal. The collection Paris de ma fenêtre- Paris from my window - refers to this square and its direct surroundings; 'The Louvre and its flower beds, Rivoli and its arcades'. The pieces date to the beginning of World War II. Colette wrote that most bouquinistes had become a kind of reading libraries for young people who couldn’t afford to purchase books and who 'read fifty pages today, the same number tomorrow, and the rest the day after'.

The window of Colette's apartment was the frame for several famous photographs of the older Colette. This window also found a place in this book, viewed both from the inside - as on the frontispiece - and from the outside. The illustrations are lithographs based on aquarelles by the industrious illustrator André Dignimont. In his prints, Colette sits like a small figure in her elegant interior. The book also contains black-and-white illustrations: they were printed on the basis of wood-engravings by Henri Renaud that were based on Dignimont's sketches. The book was printed by Jean and Raymond Crès in November 1961 after a design by Henri Jonquières, who was also active as a publisher.

These deliberations of Colette's are not considered part of her best work, but they are the work of a mature author, who in this case was addressing her fellow women. The first edition appeared in 1942, and in 1944 a revised edition appeared in Switzerland. The edition of Trinckvel is the seventh edition and the third illustrated edition. Clément Serveau and Louis Touchagues preceded Dignimont in bringing to life the intimate scenes with interiors, flowers and animals.

Bibliographical description

Description: Paris de ma fenêtre / par Colette ; préf. de Francis Carco ; ill. de Dignimont. - Paris : Trinckvel, 1961. - 202 p. : ill. ; 35 cm

Printer: Jean en Raymond Crès (text) Antoinette Vivant (illustrations)

Edition: 500 copies

This copy: Number 271 of 500 on vélin blanc

Bibliography: In liefde verzameld-193; Monod 3032

Shelfmark: KW Koopm A 337


  • Colette, Oeuvres, IV. Paris, Gallimard, 2001. (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 481)
  • Nicole Ferrier-Caverivière, Colette l'authentique. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1997
  • Hortense Dufour, Colette la vagabonde assise. Monaco, Rocher 2000