Discover Violette Leduc

Photo of Violette Leduc's novel The Lady and the Little Fox Fur

‘Violette Leduc’s novels are works of genius and also a bit peculiar. . . Female love and desire are [her] main subjects.’ – Deborah Levy [from the introduction]

Deborah Levy thinks Violette Leduc is a genius, if that’s not enough reason to discover the French feminist writer, we’re not sure what is. From the Penguin European Writers series, Leduc’s classic novel The Lady and the Little Fox Fur is a stunning portrait of Paris, of the invisibility we all feel in a big city, and ultimately of the hope and triumph of a sixty-year-old woman who reclaims her place in the world.

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Or, read on for an exclusive extract of this rediscovered gem…

She returned to her post in front of the pancake shop. The placard with the prices printed on it was still the same: Paris had not forgotten her, Paris was lighting up on every side, the night was tender, the light was soft, the neon signs were flickering on, the sky was candid, and she was rewarded for loving Paris so much. Viarmes, Belloy, Saint-Martin‑du‑Tertre, Bruyères, Villiers‑le‑Sec were nothing but the whistling of an errand boy to the music of the city. She set off towards the Métro stairs, settling her hat more firmly on her head and pinning up her silver hair. Unconcerned, detached from the whole world by her idleness and her age, she recited the names of all the villages the buses were going to stop at as she flip- flopped along the street in her much-too-big shoes, and the recital became a programme of innumerable happy times that she had never known.

She sacrificed fifty- five francs for a Métro ticket, she hummed, she took herself for a little butterfly before a storm, she walked down on to the platform of the Jaurès station, and trains arrived to take her on to Strasbourg–Saint-Denis, a station she usually stayed at a long while. At seven o’clock she sat down beside the gate to the platform, near two of the station staff who were chatting together as they watched the trains coming in and going out, the passengers arriving and departing, walking up the stairs and walking down the stairs. She found reassurance in this ebb and flow. The train drivers were giving her what she wanted: their herds of passengers surging past her. But she didn’t want to see their wrinkles, their worries, their sleepwalkers’ gait, their fatigue. No, what she wanted was their warmth: she had deprived herself of bread, now they were to give her their warmth in its place. Motionless, she travelled with them in a tunnel where the typists’ fingers, the packers’ wrists, the bank clerks’ foreheads, the waists of the saleswomen from the shoe shops, the ears of the switchboard operators, and the postmen’s feet filled her with wonder. She turned her head to watch a young lady, or perhaps a young man, who sold paisley or cashmere by the yard: she was walking through an Oriental bazaar. She took her key out of her pocket, she dangled it between her thumb and forefinger, showing it off to them all. They were all on their way home, that was next in their future. […]

And she saw herself too, living still in an apartment opposite the Luxembourg. Centrally heated of course. It was comfy, as they say. Memories are comfy too, they are swaddling bands, they wrap you up warm like a mummy. What moment is there in life that is not already a memory?

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