Short summary - Chéri - Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Chéri
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

She is almost fifty, he is half his age, their relationship has been going on for seven years. She calls him Angel. He is going to marry: his mother found him a bride - young Edme.
Leonie Walson, known as Lea de Louval, ends a prosperous career as a wealthy courtesan. She hides her age - only sometimes languidly admits that at the end of her life she can afford some whims. Women of the same age admire her iron health, and younger women, whom the fashion of 1912 awarded with a stooped back and protruding belly, jealously glance at her high bust. But most of all, they both envy the young handsome lover.
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Oncetime, Angel was just Fred for Lea - the son of her friend Charlotte Pelu. Adorable, like a cherub, the baby knew all the joys of a dissolute childhood. As befits a true prostitute, his mother entrusted him to servants, and then handed him over to college. After experiencing her last love adventure, Madame Pelou discovered that the boy had become incredibly thin and learned to use foul language desperately. She took him home, and he immediately demanded horses, cars, jewelry, decent monthly maintenance - in a word, complete freedom. Lea often visits Neuilly: for twenty years of acquaintance, she and Charlotte spent so many sad evenings together that they could no longer do without each other. The angel led a riotous life, he developed shortness of breath, he constantly coughs and complains of migraines. Charlotte gazed with quiet hatred at Lea's white, ruddy face - the contrast with her son wasting away before her eyes was too striking. Taking pity on the "ugly boy", Lea took Angel out to the countryside. During one summer, spent in Normandy, he ate and got stronger: Lea stuffed him with strawberries and cream, forced him to do gymnastics, took him on long walks - at night he fell asleep peacefully, resting his head on her chest. Then Lea was sure that in the fall she would let Angel go "free." It sometimes seemed to her that she was sleeping with a Negro or a Chinese - positively, she and Angel spoke different languages. Returning to Paris, Lea breathed a sigh of relief - the fleeting connection was finally over. But the very next evening, the young man burst into the mansion on the rue Bujot, and in a moment they were lying in Lea's big soft bed.
Seven years have passed since that night. The envious sighs of aging girlfriends do not disturb Lea. In the end, she does not keep Angel on a leash - he can leave at any moment. Of course, he is divinely beautiful, but at the same time greedy, selfish, calculating. In essence, he is just a gigolo: he has been living with her for seven years and calmly listens to offensive hints. Lea convinces herself that she can easily find a replacement for him, and she meets the news of the upcoming wedding with skepticism: to give a young girl to the Angel to be torn apart - what a reckless thought! Edma is only eighteen years old, she is charming and timid. As for the Angel, he is confident in his own irresistibility: Edme must bless fate for unheard of happiness.
Another visit to Neuilly turns into a nightmare: Charlotte was visited by another "girlfriend" - the ugly old Lily with her young lover Guido. Looking at this couple, Lea feels nauseous. Returning home, she tries to understand her feelings: she has chills, but there is no temperature. A month ago, the Angel got married - so this is the pain of loss. Now he and Edme are in Italy and are probably making love. Lea is too proud of her endurance to stoop to suffering. She immediately leaves Paris, leaving no address to anyone, and in a short note addressed to Charlotte, she transparently hints that the reason for leaving was a new novel.
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Angel returns to Neuilly with his young wife. Everything in his mother's house seems ugly to him in comparison with Lea's exquisite furnishings. Edme annoys him with her obedience. Charlotte, evil by nature, does not miss an opportunity to stab her daughter-in-law more painfully. The angel is burdened with a new life and constantly remembers his mistress - with whom the hell did she leave? One day he goes out for a walk, and his feet themselves carry him along the familiar road to the Rue Bujot. But the concierge doesn't know anything about Lea.
At the restaurant, the Angel meets Viscount Desmon, a friend of the former wild days. Suddenly deciding, he drives to the Morrio Hotel, where Desmon rents a room. Edme meekly endures her husband's flight. Desmon finds life beautiful, as the Angel pays him much more generously than in his youth. After midnight, Angel always leaves - these walks invariably end at Lea's mansion. The windows on the second floor gape with dead blackness. But one day there is a flash of light. Servants bring suitcases into the house. The angel grabs his heart with his hand. Perhaps this is happiness? Now you can fondle poor Edma.
By putting things out of suitcases, Lea is strenuously struggling with the growing and incomprehensible melancholy. Six months have passed: she lost weight, rested, had fun with random acquaintances and parted with them without any regret. They were all men of age, and Lea hated a faded body: she was not created to end her life in the arms of an old man - for thirty years she had owned shining youths and fragile teenagers. These suckers owe her health and beauty - she not only taught them love, but surrounded them with genuine motherly care. Didn't she save the Angel? But there will not be a second time, although the "ugly boy", according to rumors, ran away from home,
Charlotte Pelu pays Lea a visit, wanting to tell the good news: the Angel returned to his wife. The poor boy needed to go crazy, because from the age of eighteen he had no opportunity to enjoy a bachelor life. Edma showed herself from the very best side - not a word of reproach, not a single complaint! Lovely children made up in their bedroom. Lea looks after Charlotte with a vicious look, mentally wishing her to twist her leg. Unfortunately, this snake is amazingly careful. Lea reflects on the inevitable old age. You should probably do something. Some of the girlfriends have succeeded by opening a bar-restaurant and a late night cabaret. But Lea realizes that she does not like to work: her counter has always been a bed - it is a pity that new clients are not expected. Suddenly, in the stillness of the night, the bell rings, and Lea instinctively grabs the powder box. This is an Angel. With tears he falls to the chest of his "Nunun". In the morning Lea looks at her sleeping lover with tenderness. He left his stupid beautiful wife and returned to her - now forever. She thinks about where to make a nest. They both need peace.
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angel does not sleep. Examining Aea from under his eyelashes, he tries to understand where the great happiness he experienced the day before has gone. At breakfast, he looks sadly at his mistress, and Lea flushes, instantly catching pity. She finds the courage to help the unfortunate baby again, because it is so difficult for him to hurt her. In the courtyard, the Angel stops hesitantly. Lea throws up her hands in delight - he's back! The old woman in the mirror repeats her gesture, and the young man on the street raises his head to the spring sky and greedily begins to inhale the air - like a prisoner released.