The last passionate love of a lavishly endowed courtesan

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The last passionate love of a lavishly endowed courtesan
The last passionate love of a lavishly endowed courtesan

Infused with decadent sensuality and biting humor, this novel was first published in France in 1920. The focus is on the scandalous relationship between the charming Fred Pielou, called Sherry, and the much older courtesan Léa de Lonval. The ironic description of worldly environments, the subtle penetration into the labyrinths of the female soul, the cruel charms of seduction and a little sad humor make "Sherry" one of the pearls of French fine literature of the first half of the 20th century.

The great French writer Sidoni Gabrielle Collet (1873-1954), better known as Collet, personified an elegant style and a delicate sensibility. She is the second woman to be a member of the French Academy and the first to be elected its president. Collett's work is largely autobiographical and is marked by a subtle psychologism, a restless thirst for harmony and a reverence for human nature. Her most famous work, Sherry, was welcomed as an event by Andre Gide and Marcel Proust.


Bulgarian audiences will have the pleasure of seeing director Stephen Frears' magnificent film adaptation, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend, within the upcoming CineLibri film and literature festival, which will take place from October 5 to 16! Tickets for all screenings are already on sale at the box office of the respective cinemas and at

Showings of "Sherry" in the capital:

October 8, Saturday, Euro Cinema, 6:30 p.m.

October 11, Tuesday, G8 Cultural Center, 7:30 p.m.

October 14, Friday, Euro Cinema, 6:30 p.m.

October 15, Saturday, French Institute, Slaveykov Hall, 6:00 p.m.

October 16, Sunday, G8 Cultural Center, 8:30 p.m.


– Leah, give me your pearl necklace! Can you hear me, Leah? Give me your necklace!

No response came from the large iron bed with copper ornaments, which gleamed in the semi-darkness like armor.

– Why don't you give me your necklace? It's as good for me as it is for you, if not better!

At the sound of the clasp snapping, the lace of the bed stirred, and two bare, lovely hands with thin wrists raised lazily up white palms.

– Stop Sherry, you've been playing with that necklace.

– I'm having fun… Are you afraid I'll steal it from you?

In front of the sunlit pink curtains he danced, black and broken, like a devil against the background of a red-hot furnace. But when he retreated to the bed, he became all white again, from the silk robe to the suede slippers.

– It's not that I'm afraid, - the soft and quiet voice called from the bed, - but you will rub the thread. Pearls are heavy.

“Yes, they are heavy,” Sherry agreed with due respect. – The one who gave you this jewelry did not make fun of you.

He stood in front of an oblong mirror hung on the wall between the two windows, and contemplated his image as a very young and very handsome youth-neither large nor small, with bluish hair like the feathers of a blackbird. He parted his nightclothes over a dull and hard chest that bulged out like a shield, and the same pink spark played across his teeth, on the whites of his dark eyes and on the pearls on his necklace.

– Take off that necklace, the female voice demanded. – Do you hear what I'm saying?

Unmoved by his reflection, the young man giggled softly.

– Yes, yes, I hear. I know, you're afraid I'll take it away from you!

– No, but if I give it to you, you will accept it as nothing.

– And how! I don't give five bucks for the choir's opinion. I find it silly that a man should be able to accept from a woman a pearl on a tie-pin or two on a pair of cufflinks, and be considered disgraced if she gives him fifty…

– Forty-nine.

– Forty-nine, I know the number. Tell me, doesn't it suit me? Say, am I ugly?

He leaned over the prone woman with a defiant laugh that revealed tiny teeth and the moist inside of his lips. Lea sat up in bed.

– No, I wouldn't say such a thing. First of all, because you won't believe me. But can't you laugh without scrunching your nose like that? Will you be very happy when three wrinkles appear on your nose?

He suddenly stopped laughing, smoothed the skin on his forehead and swallowed his chin with the dexterity of an old coquette. The two of them looked at each other hostilely: she, clouded among the quilts and laces, he – sitting on the edge of the bed, crossing both his legs on one side of it. "She'll tell me what wrinkles I'll have one day!" he reasoned.

And she: "Why does he, who is otherwise so handsome, turn ugly when he laughs?" She thought for a moment and finished aloud:

– You look so mean when you're cheerful…

You only laugh out of malice or derision. This endangers you. You're ugly so often.

– Not true! – shouted Sherry angrily.

Anger closed his eyebrows at the base of his nose, enlarged his eyes, filled with bold light and protected by eyelashes, half-opened the haughty and chaste arc of the mouth. Lea smiled, seeing him as she loved him: rebellious, then submissive, reluctant to wear his bonds, unable to be free. She laid her hand on the head of the youth, who rejected the yoke impatiently, and whispered as we soothe an animal:

– Come on… come on… What’s the matter…

Wonder big…

He rested on the broad beautiful shoulder, buried his forehead and nose, snuggling in his favorite place, already closing his eyes, and looked for his winged sleep from the long mornings, but Lea pushed him away.

– Not now Sherry! Today you will have lunch at our glorious Curse, and it is already twelve past twenty.

– Is it? Shall I have lunch at the lady's? you too?

Lea stretched out lazily in bed.

– I don't, I'm on vacation. I'll go for coffee at half past two or for tea at six or for a cigarette at a quarter to eight… Don't worry, he'll still have an occasion to see me… And I'm not invited.

Sherry, who was pouting straight, beamed with cunning.

– I know, I know why! Selected guests will come! The beautiful Marie-Laure will come with her crazy daughter!

Lea's big blue eyes that had been wandering froze still.

– Yes, true! The little one is adorable. Well, not as much as her mother, but still adorable…

Finally remove this necklace.

“Too bad,” Sherry sighed as she unbuttoned it. – It would look good in the basket.

Lea propped herself up on her elbow.

– What basket?

“Mine,” Sherry replied with comical pouting. – MY basket of MY jewelry for MY wedding…

He jumped up, landed on his feet after an impeccable entrance, pushed the door with his head and disappeared, shouting:

– My bathtub, Roz! Faster! I'll have lunch at the lady's!

This is it, Leah thought. – I'll find a flood in the bathroom again, all the towels wet and shaving marks in the sink. Look if I had two bathrooms…”

But he remembered as before that he would have to lose a closet, to block off part of the boudoir, and concluded as before: "I'll wait until Sherry's wedding."

She lay down on her back again and found that Sherry had thrown her socks on the mantelpiece the night before, her underpants on the desk, and her tie around the neck of one of her plaster busts. He smiled involuntarily at this soulful male disorder and half closed his large, youthful blue eyes that kept their brown eyelashes. At the age of forty-nine, Léonie Ballon, nicknamed Léa Lonval, was successfully ending her career as a lavishly provided courtesan and a kind-hearted woman whom life had spared the self-flattering adversities and

the noble sufferings. She hid her date of birth, but readily admitted, fixing Sherry with a sweetly condescending glance, that she was nearing the age when she would allow herself some small pleasures. He loved order, fine linen, aged wines, he althy cuisine. In her youth as an ex alted blonde, and then in her adulthood as a rich demi-monde, she had avoided both undeserved glamor and ambiguous insinuations, and her friends still remembered a horse race in 1895 when Lea answered the secretary of Gilles Blas, addressed her as "dear actress":

– Actress? Oh, indeed, my dear friend, my lovers are great talkers.

Her peers were annoyed by her flourishing he alth, and the young women, who the fashion of the 1912s already swelled on the back and stomach, laughed at Leina's luscious breasts - and both equally envied her because of Sherry.

– Oh my god! Lea exclaimed. - At least there was something for it! Let them take it away from me. I haven't tied him up, from time to time he comes out on his own.

In this she was half-lying, too proud of a relationship-sometimes she said "adoption" for love of directness-that had lasted six years now.

“The basket…” Lea repeated to herself. - To get Sherry to sleep… This is not possible; it's not… humane… Marrying a young girl to Sherry - isn't it like throwing a doe to the dogs? People don't know what Sherry is."

She passed the necklace lying on the bed between her fingers like a rosary. Lately he had been taking it off at night, as Sherry, who was in love with the beautiful pearls and had a habit of stroking them in the morning, would eventually notice that Leah's fuller neck was losing its whiteness and showing loose muscles beneath the skin. She fastened it around her neck without getting up and took a mirror from the bedside table.

“I look like a peasant - she judged mercilessly. – To a Norman peasant woman who went with a necklace to the potato field. It fits me like a pig's bell - and the expression is very soft."

She shrugs, stern at what she likes least about herself lately: the fresh, he althy, flushed complexion of a man who spends most of his time outdoors, capable of warming clear blue pupils framed by darker blue.

The proud nose still enjoyed Leah's approval. "A nose like Marie-Antoinette's!" - claimed Sherry's mother and never failed to add: - … In just two years, sweet Leah will have a chin like Louis XVI's." The mouth with teeth as thick as beads almost never burst into laughter, but it often smiled conspiratorially with big eyes blinking slowly and rarely - a smile, a hundred times extolled, praised, photographed, deep and trusting, which you can't get enough of.

Regarding the body, Leah said, "A body made of good dough is known to last a long time." She could still show her large, white, ruddy body, endowed with long legs and a sculpted back like the nymphs of the fountains of Italy; and the dimpled bottom and high chest could, in Leah's words, survive "long after Sherry's wedding."

She got up, put on a light robe and drew the curtains herself. The midday sun broke into the pink, a cheery, overly gingerbread room, furnished with out-of-date opulence: double lace curtains on the windows, pink faience on the walls, gilt paneling, netted with pink and white tulle electric lamps and antique furniture upholstered in fashionable silk fabrics. Lea did not give up this cozy bedroom, nor her bed - a remarkable, timeless masterpiece of wrought iron and copper, strict on the eye and merciless on the squeaks.

“Nothing like that,” Sherry's mother protested, “isn't that ugly at all. I like this bedroom. It's stylish, it has its own charm.

Lea smiled at the memory of the 'glorious Curse', tidying up her messy hair.

He quickly powdered his face, hearing the slamming of two doors and the sound of a shod foot tripping over some light furniture. Sherry would come back in pants and shirt, collarless, ears white with talcum powder, and in a grumpy mood.

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