The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

May 28, 2017

May 28, 1972

Violette Leduc (April 7, 1907 to May 28, 1972) was a French novelist. Her theme of lesbianism was scandalous at that time. Her books though, were praised by leading French cultural figures such as Sartre, and Cocteau.

In the Prison of Her Skin
(1970) is the English title of her first book, (L'asphyxie, 1946.) There are cats in it, as we see in this quote:

Our cat, which had no interest in mice, settled itself down in the sieve with half its wire bottom missing. My grandmother returned with the coffee pot and two cups.

This book is somewhat autobiographical. She was close to her grandmother, her main anchor in a childhood in which Violette LeDuc was literally and figuratively starved of nutrients necessary for growth.

A Guardian article explores the question of LeDuc's undeserved literary obscurity.

It is no surprise that when she finally meets Simone de Beauvoir in 1945 (after months of stalking her at Paris’s Cafe Flore), her obsession is as much sexual as intellectual. De Beauvoir, the privileged product of elite schools, takes Leduc under her wing and encourages her to write. Leduc’s first novel, L’Asphyxie, is published by France’s premier publishing house, Gallimard, thanks to De Beauvoir’s efforts. After De Beauvoir rejects her sexually, Le Duc writes of her devastation: “She has explained that the feeling I have for her is a mirage. I don’t agree.” The word wounds her in its implication that her starved longing for love is somehow less than real – or in De Beauvoir’s terms, less authentic. “

The Guardian maintains LeDuc's life did not fit "the French cultural narrative," by way of explaining the obscurity of this writer.

The juxtaposition of De Beauvoir and Leduc is revelatory in terms of who defines feminism and who actually lives it. Here is Leduc, a woman made feminist by experience: a fatherless, poverty-stricken childhood, a youth spent grovelling for affection and sustenance, her wartime hustle smuggling legs of lamb to rich Parisians. Her autobiography painfully and pointedly underscores her constant alienation, her surfeit of emotion. Ever the outsider, she steals, she smuggles; when she reads and learns, it is in bits and pieces. Days spent writing are imbued with worries about eating, surviving. Uninterested in branding and constructing her own myth, she bluntly tells De Beauvoir that she is not an intellectual. This annoys her mentor, to whom Leduc recalls retorting: “You are an intellectual because you write.”

And concludes:

Yet it is only De Beauvoir’s prescient and crisply analysed feminism that we remember and celebrate. The lived feminism of Leduc – raw, passionate, and devastatingly honest – is what we choose to forget.

And yet, LeDuc is not completely forgotten.

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