Paris as Text
“A City that Wears its Heart on its Sleeve,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at City of Paris on July 2nd, 2022.
Studying abroad was supposed to be me taking a risk and experiencing a broader perspective on culture, as well as participating in this idea I had of self-exploration. Due to all the obstacles that my fellow classmates and I endured throughout our Spring semester; we didn’t think we’d actually make it here in Europe. However, here we are, and I’ve come to realize that my temporary visit to France will become permanently engraved into my future self and her endeavors. The moment I took my first steps onto Paris grounds I knew that I had come face to face with true happiness and the closest thing I’ll ever get to, to time travel. For me happiness has become about exploring and learning about a specific place that is filled with wonder, romance, history, and life. A place that I had only ever seen on T.V and thought I’d never be able to travel there. Happiness is meant to be felt deep in your bones and send shivers down your spine the moment you crane your neck up, to get a long-lasting look of that beautiful iron tower that erects over the city of Paris. Houses are lined up, and untouched since the era in which they were built in, and the worn-out gravel keeps your eager steps off balance. I am amidst a cultural epiphany where the Parisian way of life is, as the saying goes, “la vie en rose’’ (life in pink). Beauty, liberty, and history paint the canvas of this magical city’s architecture. Architecture that has remained sturdy and in character since its transition from the Middle Ages all the way up to the 21st century. In the end Parisian’s cultural identity is seen through what they consider to be the most unique and distinctive characteristic of their city, which is their architecture.
Paris wears its history proudly and patriotically on its sleeve. As a Cuban American I am accustomed to this type of culture where pride for one’s island is prevalent in daily recognitions, such as wall graffiti’s honoring the native flag, as well as flags being hung-up all-around neighborhoods and buildings. Both America and Cuba tend to be very patriotic and loyal towards their nations. Paris consists of several world-famous sites such as the neoclassical architecture of the The Arc De Triomphe and the modernized look of the Eiffel Tower, as well as other architectural marvels, to serve as poignant reminder of the many distinct eras and governments that have made their mark on the city and encouraged this patriotic way of living. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte was the leader of the French Revolution in its last years. In reference to historian/journalist, Noa Radosh, ‘’He became Emperor of France in 1804 and ruled the country until 1814’’ (2019, par. 3). Gorgeous neoclassical statues adorn the Arc de Triomphe highlighting different aspects of the French Army. The first one on the left shows Napoleon in all his glory surrounded by gods, especially the Greek goddess of Nike who represents victory and wisdom. Le Départ des Volontaires en 1792, also known as la Marseillaise, represents a diverse set of French people marching in unity to battle. Then, the back side of the arc shows two more astonishing statues which aim to symbolize the prospects of war and the pursuit of peace. Many contributions were made by Napoleon, some of which are still important to France today such as being one of France’s greatest military generals, his triumph in conquering Spain and granting the Jews and Muslims their rights back into Spain, helping popularize universities, and his emphasis on spreading ideas of the revolution to the people. Hence, why The Arc De Triomphe, which was Napoleon’s idea, was sought through even after his death and commemorates all of his and France’s victories. Serving as a main symbol in Paris, The Arc De Triomphe reminds the French people of their national identity and spirit.
The Parisian way of life is filled with conspicuous innuendos located all around Paris, which emphasize how sexually liberated they tend to be. For instance, Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Its modern look celebrates science without limitations and the idea of progression. It exceeds the height of the church, which back in the day was a huge no-no. French Revolutionists wanted to separate state and church, which Gustave achieved by making the Eiffel Tower a long-lasting monument of science. However, not only is the Eiffel Tower a key component to the progress made in science and is considered an industrial masterpiece, but it is also an obvious hats off to the male private part and their ‘’superiority’’ in society at the time. The names carved on the tower also only acknowledge white male French scientists. And even though this monument is a step forward for science and a step back for women and feminism, there is a place located within Paris that kind of shows the significance of women and its interpretation of motherhood. That place would be Square de la place Dauphine, which is said to be the birthplace of Paris and is ironically enough shaped to symbolize a woman’s vagina. This is another example of Parisians doing the most to make their city uniquely and hilariously sexualized to mirror their views on the matter.
Architecture that’s so vulnerable and true to its city guides people in the right direction of learning how to honestly understand and appreciate its cultural identity. Someone like me can resonate to its roots and admire the adoration the people have for their home. It’s a place that cannot be fully appreciated from a screen but must be seen in person to fully immerse yourself in what is known as the Parisian lifestyle. A culture full of pride and vigor, stays strong and allows visitors to go back in time and understand their history and ideals through their building’s stories.
Radosh, N. (2019, September 30). 14 Events That Shaped Paris’s History. Culture
Versailles as Text
“Two Kings, One Versailles,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Versailles Palace and Gardens on July 3rd, 2022.
Louis XIV was a king who dreamt lavishly. He took on the prospect of enhancing the iconic palace of Versailles for the sole purpose of leaving a cultural legacy. A legacy so impactful, that till this day the palace still stands in all its beauty and glory. During his 72-year reign, Louis XIV altered Versailles by expanding the chateau, which had been built by Louis XIII, to impress those all around the world. He wanted this place to be the new and elite Paris for the wealthy. Through symbolism and strategic architectural designs, he made his message of authority very clear. From the consistent references and self-comparisons to Apollo, to placing his bedroom at the center of Paris and claiming ”The state is me”, Louis XIV made sure to portray himself as a divine and respectful being. Visiting this location was a sight to behold; however, all I could think about while being there is how inadequate Louis XVI must’ve felt compared to Louis XIV. Louis XVI just couldn’t handle the pressure of the great legacy that Louis XIV bestowed upon the future generations of the monarchy. The uprise and downfall of the leadership in Versailles are a clear indication of the ends not justifying the means for the monarchy, but a step forward towards the French Revolution.
The Palace of Versailles found itself right in the middle of the uprising. The Palace, which was constructed to serve as the French monarchy’s official residence during Louis XIV’s rule, retained this purpose under Louis XVI. As the “Sun King,” Louis XIV consolidated the monarchy’s authority and ruled during a time of exceptional wealth, during which France rose to become the dominating force in Europe and a pioneer in the humanities. Whereas Louis XIV was a strong-willed ruler who was determined to leave a legacy, Louis XVI was the complete opposite. Prior to the monarchy being overthrown during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was the final king of France. Louis XVI lacked self-confidence and maturity. A tyrannical monarchy and a massive debt made it difficult for ruler Louis XVI of France to do his duty as an honorable king and serve his people. For much of his time in office, he would be dogged by his inability to solve the country’s severe fiscal issues. As I entered one of the grand rooms in the palace, I was able to visibly see the differences in character of both men through their portraits. Louis XIV stands confidently for his portrait, with his hair voluptuously sprawled out like a male peacock flashing his fancy feathers to get attention and praise. The colors that surround his silhouette are comprised of bold reds and golds, which signify confidence. His crown and sword are obviously seen, kind of like they are being flaunted. On the other hand, Louis XVI’s portrait is more mellow. He uses shades of blues and white’s, which make his portrait seem more relaxed and calmer. His facial expression makes him look like he is uncomfortable and feels awkward. His crown is subtly peeking out from the left side and his sword seems to get lost behind the enormous cape that seems to be drowning Louis XVI.
Versailles also aided Louis XIV in gaining control of the nobles by giving ample room for him to keep a close eye on them. He would use the palace’s lavish upbringing to distract everyone. During King Louis XIV’s reign, the Palace of Versailles promoted absolutism via propaganda and noble control. Louis XVI wasn’t very strategic or business savvy; hence, him being persuaded by Benjamin Franklin to form an alliance with the American rebels to help them in their pursuit of independence from the British. However, this ends up being Louis XVI’s demise because the French rebels seek inspiration from America’s pursuit of freedom. He also refused to sanction the ‘’Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’’, which ‘’…[proclaimed] liberty, equality, the inviolability of property, and the right to resist oppression’’ (Britannica, 2022). By the 5th of October in 1789, the impoverished ladies of Paris had had enough. They marched to the royal house at Versailles because there was a shortage of bread, which meant that they were unable to provide for their families in the absence of it. Additionally, there were reports that the royal family staged sumptuous feasts for military troops. During this time it seems as though instead of the king controlling his people, the people were taking control of him. The royal family was then taken back to Paris to receive their punishments for a lack of consideration of the people, and Versailles was left behind like a pipe dream for the monarchy.
Versailles was meant to enhance the reputation of French culture and status. Till this day it still does because of its history and impact. However, the means of building it to accommodate only those with fortune didn’t catch on and Louis XVI clumsily made sure its purpose would dissipate. The French Revolution overcame the monarchy, which mirrored how both Louis XIV and Louis XVI ruled their nation during their reign. Overall, I’m glad to have been able to pretend to live like a royal walking through the halls of Versailles, even though I know very well I would’ve been a rebel during that time.
Encyclopedia. (2022). French Revolution – Events of 1789. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/French-Revolution/Events-of-1789
Lyon As Text
“Five Stages of Grief,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Lyon on July 8th, 2022.
Would you rise when the sun wakes up every morning?
Would you rise when you hear sirens echoing the streets?
Would you rise in the line of fire?
Would you rise when there’s nothing to eat?
Would you rise when all is taken including being free?
Would you fall at the sound of a cell closing?
Would you fall when you hear the screams?
Would you fall as you’re being shackled?
Would you fall in front of a child, who’s only fifteen?
Would you fall when your body can’t carry the weight of the fear, they let you keep?
Would you hate if they beat the hope you had left?
Would you hate if love you can no longer see?
Would you hate if you became an animal?
Would you hate never knowing what happened to your family?
Would you hate when your faith proved to be a target and not a sign of what was once holy?
Would you continue on, despite being corrupted?
Would you continue on after you were bit by the sharp teeth of the beast?
Would you continue on every night enduring the nightmares they gifted you?
Would you continue on, knowing what became of humanity?
Would you continue on when the silence that followed these tragic events spoke louder than the actual torture of accepting defeat?
Would you love because the sun goes to sleep every night and the stars shimmer with hope?
Would you love because magnificent things like honey, clouds, music, and trees exist only on this Earth?
Would you love the family and life you created because you didn’t let them win?
Would you love life wholeheartedly because you know defeat wasn’t tattooed on your skin?
Would you love because love is all we have and it’s what got you through what future generations will hope to never ever let happen again?
The Holocaust is defined as the persecution and mass killing of millions of European Jews and other people, such as Romani people, people with intellectual disabilities, political dissidents, and homosexuals, by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. This happened because of their beliefs and was supported by the government. Many suffered tragic deaths and horrible torture solely because of what religion they practiced and/or their political views. Visiting Lyon really put the tragedies of the Holocaust into perspective for me because I was able to connect with the history physically and emotionally of what took place there during those dark times. It is very overwhelming walking amongst a city, or even a country, like Lyon or France that endured the horrid monstrosities of the Nazi regime. As much as I have learned about the Holocaust and World War 2 in school, nothing could have mentally prepared me for walking into the Prison of Montluc and speaking with Holocaust survivor, Claude Bloch.
Built in 1921, ‘’Montluc [prison] became an internment camp for members of the resistance, hostages, and victims of the racial persecution, prior to their transfer to Drancy and subsequent deportation to the concentration and extermination camps’’ (Only Lyon, 2022, par. 4). The moment I stepped foot into the prison I felt an instant wave of anguish and a hint of familiarity. For some background knowledge about my family history, my grandpa was a political prisoner in Cuba for 14 months. He, like Claude Bloch, is open about his experience and has described to me the barbaric conditions he endured while being captured. Learning about the way the people were treated, as well as standing there and imagining how the conditions must’ve been like, hit home for me. My grandpa described his experience as traumatizing because he would be fed only twice a day, be put into solitary, and be beaten by the guards if he wasn’t doing his chores correctly. So being in Montluc and grasping the concept of acknowledging that up to ten people had to squish together in a tiny little cell, with no air conditioning, one bucket for sanitary reasons, and two meals a day that they all had to share, made me want to sob and hug my grandpa who had to endure conditions like that. It even made me more upset knowing Claude, at only fifteen years old, also stayed in that prison before being taken to a concentration camp. He was just a child and couldn’t possibly understand what was going on. Hearing him describe the fear he felt when the soldiers would barge into their little shack every other day announcing who would leave with luggage (those who would be deported to camps), and who would leave without any luggage (those who would be executed), crushed my soul. No human being, especially those who were put in there for no reason at all, should ever have to experience being treated like an animal.
My poem is meant to shed light on this devastation that occurred and in fact is still occurring in some other places. Countries like North Korea and Cuba, till this day, have people of opposing beliefs suffering in prisons like the one Montluc once was. The only way to overcome these tragedies is to acknowledge that they really happened and spread the word like Claude Bloch does.
Only Lyon. (2022, June 16). National Memorial Prison of Montluc. Lyon France. Retrieved 2022, from https://en.lyon-france.com/discover-lyon/culture- and-museums/museums/national-memorial-prison-of-montluc
Maison D’Izieu As Text
“A Home Away from Home,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Lyon on July 10th, 2022.
From the moment we’re born our parents take a personal vow to love and protect us indefinitely and to be by our side no matter what. For one, I have been fortunate enough to have parents that made sure my childhood consisted of happiness, hope, and opportunity, as well as the fact that I am blessed enough to live during a time and in a place where there’s no harsh dictatorship or invasions occurring. In my life I have never had to encounter the fear of being abandoned by my parents sacrificially so that I can live a better life or be safe. My grandma lived in America, specifically Miami, by herself at the age of 19 because she fled the Cuba regime in the 50’s with her younger sister. Her mother and father stayed behind and were trapped in Cuba for another five years. I can’t imagine the fear of letting your children go in hopes of them living a free and fulfilled life, not knowing if the ends justify the means. Unfortunately, the parents of the children who lived in Maison D’Izieu tried to do the same for their kids during such a dark time but were met with a tragic ending.
In November 1942, Nazi Germany seized control of the Vichy regime’s territories. In April 1943, a children’s home in Izieu, previously Vichy territory, was built to give sanctuary for dozens of children. Parents who were in hiding from the Nazi’s felt that the safest thing to do for their children was to send them here. Sabine Zlatin, a Jewish nurse and OSE volunteer, ran the residence, which was part of the OSE’s network of hiding places. Some of the children who resided there were French, while others were from Belgium, Austria, Algieria, Germany, and Poland. Several had come from other children’s homes in France. It was a place built on love and heart. The adults who worked in Izieu made sure to teach and comfort these children and care for them like they were their own. Unfortunately, on the morning of April 6, 1944, officers of the Lyon Gestapo, after being tipped off by an informant, raided the children’s home in Izieu and imprisoned everyone. Forty-four children aged 4 to 17, as well as seven staff personnel who had been caring for them, were imprisoned in Lyon and deported the next day to Drancy. Klaus Barbie, the leader of the Gestapo in Lyon, issued the deportation order. Barbie sent a wire to Paris in which he reported the arrest of the kids at the children’s home. According to the website Yad Vashem, ”During the children’s detention in Lyon, the Germans discovered the whereabouts of some of their family members, who were also then taken to Drancy and later deported to their deaths in Auschwitz” (2022, par. 5). By the end of June 1944, all of the children and adults housed at Izieu had been transferred from Drancy, transported to Auschwitz, and executed as well. In reference to the website Yad Vashem ”Miron Zlatin, Sabine Zlatin’s husband who ran the children’s home with her, was deported on 15 May, together with two of the older boys from the children’s home, to Estonia, where they were all shot to death” (2022, par. 6). Sabine continued to live a long life, spreading her words and experience onto the world. She passed away on September 21st, 1996, in Paris.
Walking through Izieu was like having a fever dream. Even though I was well aware of the tragedy that struck this beautiful place, there was no negative energy in the air. From the drawings on the tables, to the portraits of all the children, you can tell that despite being away from their parents and homes, they created a family amongst each other. A home away from home was developed. A home so magical and peaceful that when you look out the window you realize some of the kids’ drawings replicate the setting. They made funny comics based on their lessons and took silly pictures together. If you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you can still hear the kid’s laughter bouncing off the walls. They learned, lived, and laughed during their time in Izieu.
Yadvashem. (2022). Maison D’Izieu | Children’s Homes in France During the Holocaust | Yad Vashem. https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/childrens-homes/izieu/index.asp
Normandy As Text
“Endless Love,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Normandy on July 26th, 2022.
Billie D. Harris and Peggy Seale Harris
Throughout this course semester the question of ‘’Would you risk your life for your country to save the future of humanity?’’ has come up on several occasions. It’s a loaded question and one which I can’t really answer because frankly I don’t know. I have been fortunate enough to live a healthy life. A life where I have opportunities, a great education, and am confident enough that I can do anything I set my mind to despite me being a Cuban American woman. Yes, terrible events and horrible people have made their mark on our history. However, I still feel like the emotion of love no matter what way you experience or interpret it finds its way of saving us. It’s clear that the love humans share for their country, no matter where they’re from, runs deep in our veins. From French Revolutionaries that fought during the French Revolution to resistance fighters who fought during World War II, our class has learned a lot about sacrifice and standing up for people for the notion that we must love and accept each other no matter what. Would I stand by my brother’s side or my boyfriend’s side to fight a war to save innocent people from being enslaved and/or slaughtered? Would I sacrifice a future of marriage, a house, and starting a family to ensure that future generations never have to ask themselves this question? I don’t know. I don’t know if I can watch someone, I wholeheartedly love march onto the battlefield and never return. Late Veteran, Billie D. Harris knowingly went into battle and sacrificed his love to his devoted wife, Peggy S. Harris to fight for the liberated future that I can live in.
In 1942, Peggy and Billie’s love tale started. Peggy Harris, from Vernon, Texas, was employed at Altus Air Force Base as an electrical instrument technician. She enjoyed poetry and music and originally corresponded with 1st Lieutenant Billie D. Harris, from Altus, Oklahoma, via his father’s letters (her boss and God-sent cupid). Despite her efforts to play hard to get and dissuade Billie, their romantic letter exchange continued until they ultimately met in a hangar at Altus Air Force Base. They then became inseparable. Billie D. Harris and Peggy Harris were wed on September 22, 1943. However, their two-week honeymoon was cut short when Lt. Harris was sent to fly P-51 Mustang escort aircraft. During World War II, Billie was a Lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force. He was a fighter pilot with the 355th Fighter Squadron/354th Fighter Group in southeast England. In 1944, Billie was designated as MIA after he failed to return after a mission over northern France. The couple had only been married for six weeks when her husband went missing over France. The Army Air Forces had notified his wife that he was still alive and returning home, but then they subsequently revoked that. He was killed and buried in a French cemetery to Peggy’s dismay. The War Department even told her that they were unsure whether the bones they held belonged to Billie. Distraught, Peggy couldn’t believe the love of her life who sacrificed himself for the sake of the country couldn’t even be given a proper burial with his body present. Peggy, being the devoted wife she was, made it her goal in life to find out what really happened to him. Peggy waited and waited for news about her husband for years. Until she decided to finally write to her congressman about it. She waited and wrote to members of Congress over and over for decades, right up until 2005. With the help of Billie’s cousin, Peggy searched profusely and discovered his remains were buried in Normandy.
Turns out on July 17, 1944, his plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small town in France, and he became a legend there. Billie avoided crashing into the village and instead went down in the woods nearby. The people in the village were so thankful for what he did that they buried him in their local cemetery. Since then, the people of the small town of Les Ventes have walked down the main street, which is called Place Billie D. Harris, every year to remember what he did. Billie D. Harris won the Distinguished Flying Cross award and the Air Medal award which is given out to people who demonstrate acts of bravery by doing something extraordinary while flying.
Before Peggy passed away in April 2020 at the age of 95, she would send a bouquet of flowers to his tomb ten times a year. Being able to stand at his grave and personally give my gratitude to the legacy Billie left behind for future generations and his wife was an honor. Rubbing sand on his name after my speech made me feel like I personally knew him and Peggy. It felt like I was part of them or like I played a role in spreading their love story. Acknowledging the fact that this terrible event happened, yet the power of love and devotion to one’s country persevered through the bad, is inspiring to me. I hope Peggy and Billie would be proud. According, to Caroline, one of the tour guides who worked at the cemetery, Peggy would visit Billie often and when she couldn’t physically be there, she would call the cemetery and ask them to place the phone on his grave so she could talk to him. Caroline also mentioned how much Peggy would’ve appreciated my words and how she used to love receiving videos and pictures of people who visited his grave and knew their story. I will always hold this experience dear to my heart.
Although their time together was short, Peggy would be eternally dedicated to her husband and a widow for the rest of her life. She once stated, “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him for all of mine.” They are the epitome of the type of sacrifices people during that time had to make to let future generations live a life without fear, lost, and hatred. I can obtain that bright future filled with love, happiness, and hope because of the many people who put everything on the line. Even though their love for each other was deep and eternal, their love for their country and the future was stronger. And for that I will be eternally grateful. Because with the help of a million silent heroes, the selfless team players who offered their support during the war, did not fight, and sacrifice their lives to be recognized, but because it was the right thing to do.
V. A. P. B. K. E. (2021, June 6). A Widow’s Journey to a Husband’s Valor. Tribute to Veterans. https://evanskaren.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/a-widows-journey-to-a-husbands-valor/
Stilwell, B. (2021, November 27). How a World War II widow discovered her husband was a hero in France. We Are The Mighty. https://www.wearethemighty.com/popular/army-air-forces-pilots/
US War Memorials. (2022). Harris Billie D. https://www.uswarmemorials.org/html/people_details.php?PeopleID=4698
Pere Lachaise As Text
“Colette: Femme Fatale,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Pere Lachaise on July 29th, 2022.
Song Of The Pretty bird- Shay Alexi Stewart
“I’ve lived 20 prettybird years
Of this great big prettybird life
And i think i pretty pretty pretty bird bird pretty much know what im talking about
People like to poke fun at my pretty bird pretty preening
At my pretty pretty bird pretty feathers
But look at my long clean coat
At my pretty pretty bird pretty pink legs
When pigeon men track me cross sky highway
They are happy to trace hungry orange eyes
between my pretty pretty bird bird feathers
To busy fantasizing pretty bird
Wet dreams swollen chest fluff fest
To pretty poke bird fun
To pretty poke fun bird
To pretty bird bird pretty bird bird pretty pretty pretty
Too busy fantasizing
to poke fun at permanently preening pretty bird
My vanity is insanity unless it helps get you off
What a treat hosting eyes between my thighs
They will spend equal time begging to share bed with me
How does one achieve complexity when all she was ever taught to be was basic
Pigeon man wants pretty bird to pretty bird
Until pretty bird fulfills ideas of prettiness
Then she’s too pretty pretty bird bird paralyzing and preened…
Sorry sorry sorry sorry
Can i ask a question
May i may i
Pretty bird used to sing
Baby bird used to sing
Baby bird was pretty bird before pretty bird learned to pretty
And baby bird could compose whole symphonies
Acute intricacies melodies capturing varies poetry
But the reviews came in
and they preferred apology
So she shrank
learned to make herself small enough
to nearly fit back in her eggshell
to tip toe atop eggshells…”
This is a personifying poem which metaphorically compares societies treatment of women to birds. Birds who are ogled at for their beauty yet confined in their cage just like the ideal feminine standard society and social media try to advertise. It emphasizes the concept of society trying to break women down to make sure we stay in our nests cooped up and continue being afraid of being unapologetically ourselves.
I’ve been told I can be “too loud,” “too expressive,” or even “too vulgar.” I’ve experienced shame when the clothes that I have worn fit me different because of my body type; being told I’d just be “asking for it” from what I wear.
It’s been brought to my attention by some that a girl like me, who’s intelligent, confident, and kind, couldn’t survive in a place like France or Miami because I’d be “eaten alive.” But none of this is true. For I know I am capable of anything I set my mind too.
I manifest my own life and dreams just like the French author Colette. Her iconic opening line from her novel titled, Claudine at School, sets up the tone for a woman whose entire life celebrates the complexity and debauchery that is being a progressive woman. The line is as follows, “My name is Claudine, I live in Montigny; I was born there in 1884; I shall probably not die there” (Colette, 1900, p. 1).
A woman whose worse nightmare is dying in her hometown because she was told she couldn’t write, love, or travel where she wanted to just because she was a woman. Colette is a spirited woman, who despite being told she needed to conform to societies standards still broke free of her cage and inspired other young women, including me, to do the same through her literature.
Colette is a woman who reclaimed her voice and life making sure to shine bright after living in the shadow of her dominating husband.
Colette, full name Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, was born on January 28th, 1873, in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, France. She died on August 3rd, 1954 and was buried right here in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
For her, conformity was not an option—especially when it came down to who and how she should love. Colette was a woman who found her voice and her body through the process of self-discovery. In Paris around the turn of the century, a free-thinking and sexually liberated novelist explored her sexuality and didn’t care what society thought of her. Despite Paris’s image as a fashionable and sensual free-for-all at the turn of the century, homophobia and misogyny were still prevalent outside of intellectual avant-garde group settings.
It’s nice to learn from Colette that women of the past had such intricate sexual needs, but only those as rebellious as Colette could pursue such impulses and get away with it. After divorcing her first husband who took the credit for all her Claudine books, she continued to write over 30 successful sexually explicit novels and continued to have a long list of scandalous love affairs. In fact, a lot of her literary work mirrored her reality. She went on to having an openly gay relationship with a woman named Mathilde de Morny (missy), as well as seducing relationship with her 18-year-old stepson from her second marriage with a man known as Henry de Jouvenel. That specific love affair inspired her novel titled ‘’Cheri’’(premonition).
She was a very progressive woman who got what she wanted when she wanted it. She was one of the first people to accept and embrace the idea of androgyny, which is a mix of female and male traits. She would cut her hair short and sometimes dress in male suits. Colette wrote about many different things in her last 20 years. In Ces Plaisirs, which came out in 1932 as “Those Pleasures” and later as “Le Pur et l’impur” (The Pure and the Impure) in 1941, she looked at different aspects of female sexuality.
Colette’s stories were inextricably linked to her own life. Her life was all about freedom: she could love whoever she wanted, live however she wanted, and write whatever she wanted.
She did everything, not caring about tip toeing on eggshells or ruffling up some feathers.
Johnstone, R. (2019, July 3). Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realised it sooner.” My French LifeTM – Ma Vie Française®. https://www.myfrenchlife.org/2019/07/03/colette-what-a-wonderful-life/
Nicolaou, E. (2018, September 14). Colette Only Shows A Sliver Of Colette’s Eventful Love Life — Here’s The Rest. Refinery29. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2018/09/209945/colette-movie-true-story-sex-life