Peter Owen Publishers | Paperback | 172 pages
Published: January, 2006
The 1964 publication of Violette Leduc’s extraordinary memoir La Bâtarde impressed and scandalized the literary world with its explicit account of lesbian love. Its author became an instant celebrity, with 150,000 copies of the book sold in its first year.
Her 1967 novella The Lady and the Little Fox Fur deals with a different side of life, focusing on a lonely old woman whose fortune and dignity are gone.
Translated from the French by Derek Coltman
VIOLETTE LEDUC (1907–1972) was a French author, best known for her semi-autobiographical feminist masterpiece La Bâtarde. Leduc was born in Arras, the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl. Spending a lonely childhood mainly in boarding school, she left for Paris at the age of nineteen where she began work at a Publishing house. Simon de Beauvoir took Leduc on as a protegé and was instrumental in the publication of her first novel l’Asphyxie (In the Prison of Her Skin) in 1946. Although ignored by the general public, it was immediately recognised as an important work by the French Literary establishment with whom she kept company. Her later books L’Affamé, Ravages and Les Boutons Dorés all earned high praise from the likes of Cocteau, Sartre, Camus and Simon de Beauvoir. After the publication of La Bâtarde in 1964, Leduc’s readership greatly expanded. Her novel La Femme au Petit Renard (The Lady and the Little Fox Fur) became an immediate best-seller. She died of breast cancer in 1972.
“The narrow focus and the compactness of Leduc’s prose mean that, line for line, this book is as richly humane as anything else you’re likely to read.” – The Independent
“A sensual reading of the city that’s poetic and moving and a study in isolation of someone who succeeds partly in transcending the harsh reality of city life: a necessary glimpse of life lived at the margins, below the ever-present ‘roar of the overhead Metro.'” – Paul Fitzpatrick, Aesthetica Magazine
“To enter the world of Violette Leduc’s ‘lady’ is to step into a place where each sensation is digested morsel by morsel, where clothes have opinions and pieces of furniture have individual personalities – but in which large themes of loneliness, hunger and hope are distilled and counted out like the coffee beans with which the heroine measures out her poverty. Leduc, a friend of Jean Genet and admired by De Beauvoir and Camus, recalls Beckett and perhaps Gogol in her exploration of the bitter comedy of the marginalised. Here, an old woman, ashamed to be ‘breathing the oxygen meant for people who had spent their day working’, walks the streets of Paris to stave off gnawing hunger. Each step is an ordeal of repressed desire – for food and for recognition of her existence. When she picks a fox fur out of a bin, the creature appears to offer the chance of money. Her attempt to sell it leads first to humiliation but then to salvation. What could be an utterly dispiriting, larded-with-pathos portrayal of old age is fashioned through Leduc’s expressionist eye into a forceful affirmation of the human spirit.” – The Guardian