Chéri and The End of Chéri (Paperback)

Chéri and The End of Chéri By Colette, Rachel Careau (Translated by), Lydia Davis (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Colette, Rachel Careau (Translated by), Lydia Davis (Foreword by)
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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

An exquisite new translation of Colette’s tragicomic masterpiece, a pair of novels exploring the relationship between an aging courtesan and a much younger man.

Chéri and its sequel, The End of Chéri, mark Colette’s finest achievements in their brilliant, subtle, and frank investigations of love and power. Set in the Parisian demimonde in the last days of the Belle Époque, Chéri tells the story of Léa, a courtesan at the end of a successful career, and her lover, the beautiful but emotionally opaque Chéri. Chéri will soon enter into an arranged marriage, ending their six-year affair, which—they will each realize too late—has been the one real love of their lives.

The End of Chéri picks up their story in the aftermath of the First World War. Chéri, now a decorated soldier, has returned from the trenches to a changed world. Emotionally estranged from his independent and unfaithful wife, a psychically wounded Chéri begins an inexorable descent—one that leads him back to a stunning encounter with Léa.

As the acclaimed writer and translator Lydia Davis puts it in an illuminating foreword, Rachel Careau’s “brilliantly ingenious, close new translation” reveals Chéri and The End of Chéri as “the strangest of love stories.” Colette skillfully portrays her characters’ shifting inner lives and desires amid a clear-eyed depiction of interpersonal power dynamics. Careau’s lean, attentive translation restores to these classic novels their taut, remarkably modern style—the essence of Colette’s genius.

About the Author

Colette (1873–1954) wrote numerous works, including Gigi, The Vagabond, and My Mother’s House. She was the first woman elected president of the Académie Goncourt.

Rachel Careau was named a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellow in 2019. Her translations of Roger Lewinter’s Story of Love in Solitude and The Attraction of Things were published by New Directions in 2016. Her writing and translations have appeared in Literary Hub, BOMB, Harper’s Magazine, Plume, and Two Lines. She lives in Hudson, New York.

Praise For…

Rachel Careau’s meticulous and agile translation of this pair of novels brings to Anglophone readers some of Colette’s finest writing, rich in the sensuality for which she is widely known—but also in the sharpness of her social observations, so ahead of her time that they come across as radical even by contemporary standards. Above all, Careau captures the technicality of Colette’s prose. She manages shifts in mood and characterization as well as the complexity of Colette’s sentences—sometimes terse, sometimes richly metaphoric—and she does so in a way that feels at once faithful to the author’s era and utterly timeless.
— Tash Aw - New York Times Book Review

Chéri is not a new book—Colette published the book in 1920, and its sequel six years later—but the translator Rachel Careau transforms it into a different text from any we have seen in English before. Colette’s subversive wit, cleareyed observations about sex and power dynamics, and her boundless humanity make the book feel as fresh and relevant as any I read this year: moving, funny, even shocking.

— Sadie Stein - New York Times

This heartbreaking, astute pair of novels…are among the best of [Colette’s] vast, impressive canon.
— New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Colette writes lines upon her characters’ skins to tell the story of their misfortune…Careau seems more comfortable with Colette’s syncopated rhythms and her occasionally archaic diction…There is something peculiarly painful about watching [Léa and Chéri] play their parts perfectly when they should not be playing at all.
— Michael LaPointe - The New Yorker

A carefully attentive new translation.
— Michael Dirda - Washington Post

Both novels are exquisite in structure, sparse and lacy, every detail in a web of other details, merciless, precise.
— Jenny Turner - London Review of Books

A sensuous read…full of delicious subtleties.
— Terry Nguyen - The Millions

Both [Chéri and The End of Chéri] are short, compact and intense: waves of sexual pleasure may ebb away, but Colette’s enduring importance and fascination as a writer will not.

— Michèle Roberts - Times Literary Supplement

Careau offers rich, insightful translations of acclaimed French author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s novels Chéri and The End of Chéri. Careau’s translations are infused with care and close attention to the original stories, giving readers an in-depth experience of the romance and human narratives in Colette’s texts.

— Solby Lim - Barnard Magazine

Colette raises all kinds of questions about power, hedonism, the nature of both sexual and familial love, betrayal, courage, respect…And now, in this beautifully translated work that makes Paris of the early 1900s so acutely alive and raises questions so relevant to our lives today, Rachel Careau has given us the gift Colette intended us to have.
— Roberta Silman - Arts Fuse

Elegant and careful…Careau is more adherent to the soft muddle, or swirl, of Colette’s syntax, her run-on sentences and sometimes uneven forward speed. The result is a little less cool, and more emotive…Careau’s English version…when spoken aloud sings a more natural, and pleasing, tune.

— April Bernard - Book Post

Rachel Careau here perfectly captures the breathy desperation of Colette’s devastating two-part love story…In any translation of these two works, it’s The End of Chéri that will test the skills of the translator, and Careau succeeds amazingly. Colette doesn’t lack for translators, but this volume…is outstanding.

— Steve Donoghue -

It is so hard to express what is different line-for-line in this new translation of Colette’s classic, but if you could experience the cleaning of a voice, like that of a painting, that might be it. I was left with a new sense of Colette’s self-possession as a writer, all while witnessing, moment for moment, Rachel Careau’s triumph of style.
— Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

In this new translation of Colette’s two most celebrated novels we seem to be reading her in English for the first time—her prose lean, limpid, and knowingly askew.
— Richard Sieburth, professor emeritus of French literature, thought and culture and comparative literature at New York University

Rachel Careau’s new translations of Chéri and The End of Chéri capture the bone-on-bone feeling of Colette’s prose, sinuous but never florid, precise but generous. Anglophone readers will finally be able to appreciate why Colette is one of the twentieth century’s major writers, and worth so much more than her mythology—or, better yet, they will see why the mythology exists. Chéri and The End of Chéri are edgy and surprising, and knowing, piercing insights into love, desire, and all the mysteries.

— Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse and translator of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Inseparables

This is an admirably accurate new translation of two of Colette’s most distinctive and moving novels. With a foreword and introduction that capture Colette’s brilliant particularity of style and her unsentimental yet affirmative vision of the world, the translation sensitively renders the unique tone and philosophy of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers
— Diana Holmes, author of Colette and professor of French, University of Leeds

Finally, someone has done justice to Colette’s masterpiece! Rachel Careau’s new translation is incredibly smooth and elegant and amazingly accurate. Colette is the most difficult of French writers to translate and Careau has done an astonishingly fine job with the Chéri novels. Let’s hope she continues with more of Colette’s novels. Required reading.

— Elisabeth Ladenson, professor of French and comparative literature, Columbia University

'Aren’t I splendid?’ Chéri asks, and to his arrogant query this grand translation offers a positive response. Even as the splendor of lyric effusion and inevitable tragic ending remind us of Der Rosenkavalier, this literary masterpiece of musical interpretation and understatement grabs us with its pity, wit, and layers of lamentation for the ruin of youthful beauty and for the simultaneous self-discovery enacted by character and reader.

— Mary Ann Caws, distinguished professor emerita of comparative literature, English, and French, CUNY Graduate Center

This is a refreshing and modern new translation of two of Colette’s most fascinating works. The translation itself is natural and readable, and perfectly suited to contemporary audiences. Lydia Davis’s foreword provides an engaging backdrop to the stories and to their author.
— Kathleen Antonioli, associate professor of modern languages, Kansas State University

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324052050
ISBN-10: 1324052058
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English