Barks and Purrs by Colette (1905), translated by Maire Kelly (1913)

Link to book

My second post-process for Distributed Proofreaders. Although nowadays this depiction of dog and cat personalities is trite, it probably was novel at the time. “Please, no stories told from the dog’s point of view” was already a staple of submission guidelines in the 80s, but it can’t have originated much before the late 19th century, can it? Black Beauty was 1877. (If I had oodles of time, surveying literature from an animal POV would be a lot of fun, if it hasn’t already been done…) Anyway, Colette’s poetic language is delightful, if sometimes a little excessive. (In a few spots the translation’s not quite spot-on, but not too many). “The Storm” is particularly evocative and “The Caller” has some funny bits:


… Do they leave you in the room all alone?


It happens so now and then.


And you don’t bark? I cry as soon as I’m left alone. I’m bored, afraid, feel sick, and chew up the cushions.

My mother used to talk about how Colette’s husband Willy repressed her, forced her to write for money, then put it out under his own name, etc., etc.–I don’t know how accurate that is, but it feels very strange that in this book written by a woman, the man is shown “scratching paper” (writing) and must not be disturbed, while the woman does housewifely stuff.

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