Colette had once been married to a man who would later become an ambassador, and whom many people saw as the future president of the French republic- but people couldn't see his wife residing in the Elysée. Colette was too controversial for that. This wasn't just because of her topless performances in a nightclub, or because she had lesbian relationships andmale lovers besides, her stories themselves contained enough material for debate. Much of what she wrote appeared originally in magazines and newspapers; she wrote for the daily newspaper Le matin for years. Her novels began therefore as a serial.
The recurrent themes of bisexual love was popularized by Colette, due in part to her unsentimental, businesslike style. She was a modern writer who dealt intelligently with autobiographical material, and who had an instinct for marketing. This led her to create her own line of cosmetics, which was unsuccessful. In 1920, the novel Chéri in which a new controversial theme was first touched upon, had been published. In 1926 this was followed by La fin de Chéri (The End of Chéri). The novels tell the story of an older woman and her gorgeous young lover.
For the story of the young Chéri and his older love, Colette used the subtheme of the love triangle. Chéri is initially seen only as a pretty boy, but Léa and he develop a caring love for each other. Léa dominates him, and he in his turn dominates Edmée, whom he ends up marrying. Léa then goes her own way, and Chéri flees partially into vapid entertainment and opium. But World War I transforms Léa into a more independent woman who takes pleasure in a life without men, which is incomprehensible to Chéri. After a brief reunion she encourages him to return to his wife.
By giving the leading role to a sexually desirable man, Colette reversed the traditional roles. After 1926, Colette would occasionally return to the famous story of Chéri- which was later adapted into a movie- in Clouk et Chéri from 1935, among other things. These are loose sketches that show the development of the main character: annoying, sentimental Clouk was replaced by the pretty and unreliable Chéri. In short: these were notes from the author's study. They were collected in the first volume of Les cahiers de Colette, four of which would be published in two years time. After 1936, the series was discontinued. The age of deluxe bibliophile book editions was ending due to the crisis of 1931, and the 'amis de Colette' (friends of Colette) couldn't do anything about it.
The edition was the initiative of Colette's circle of friends. Book dealer and gallery owner Pierre Berès was secretary and treasurer. The committee further consisted of Tristan Bernard, Pierre Brisson, Francis Carco, Jean Giraudoux, Édouard Herriot, François Mauriac and Paul Morand.
The illustrator of the first volume was André Dignimont, who was known- as Colette was- as a decadent artist, in his case because of the many nude portraits and his erotic drawings. He was ideally suited to do the illustrations for this tender subject. The printer of all four volumes was Jean-Gabriel Daragnès (1886-1950), who printed the books in Montmartre in a large size and a small edition. Copy number 89 was printed for the Koopman Collection. The book was published in June 1935. André Dignimont inscribed onthe colophon that the book was printed on Easter Day for 'Mademoiselle Anny Antoine Koopman'. She had already been dead for two years, and the addition of her fiancé's name looks a little odd. Koopman kindly requested the publishers to modify the dedication. In order to reach a compromise, the publisher asked the illustrator to do something extra. Dignimont then drew one of his typical woman's heads, and Colette later added her autograph to it in blue ink. This might have been done at a meeting of Koopman and Colette in Paris: a note pertaining to an appointment with Colette has survived.
The printer used blue as a secondary colour in this book, which meant that the initials that had been designed especially for this edition were also printed in blue. The initials are graceful and imposing, printed across 18 lines and taking up over half the page with their height of 12 centimetres. Their size isn't as noticeable in narrow letters like 'I' or 'J', but it is in 'E', 'L' and especially 'M'.
|Description:||Clouk et Chéri / [Colette ; avec 6 eaux-fortes de Dignimont]. - Paris : Amis de Colette, 1935. -  p. : ill. ; 31 cm. - (Les cahiers de Colette ; 1)|
|Printer:||Jean Gabriel Daragnès (Paris)|
|This copy:||Number 89 on Arches|
|Note:||With an autograph dedication by author and artist|
|With an original sketch by Dignimont|
|With a brochure and a letter from the publisher to Louis Koopman|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 4-585 ; Carteret IV-108 ; In liefde verzameld 194|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm A 590|
- Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
- Hortense Dufour, Colette la vagabonde assise. Monaco, Rocher, 2000
- Maurice Martin du Gard, Les mémorables 1918-1945. Paris, Gallimard, 1999.