Did you know that Colette had more than one link with Belgium?
On 9 March 1935, Colette (1873-1954) was elected to the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature of Belgium as a foreign member, to occupy the chair of Anna de Noailles. But the writer had many other ties with our country in addition to this distinction and her friendship with Queen Elisabeth.
Her maternal grandfather, Henri Landoy, a veteran of Waterloo, went to Brussels to escape his creditors. He became a chocolate-maker and remained there until 1854. Her mother, who had lived in our capital for many years, told her daughter about the charms of this city where she had grown up in her father's "chocolate shop" on rue Neuve. These memories would one day be idealised in La Maison de Claudine.
As for her two uncles, the first, Eugène, worked mainly as a columnist, editor and art critic in Brussels under the name of Bertram; the second uncle, Paul, was an editor of L'Indépendance belge from 1857 to 1885, then manager of the Kursaal d'Ostende, the big casino in the seaside town, until his death in 1891.
But the novelist also had a personal knowledge of our regions. She made frequent visits, especially to Brussels, but also to Liège and Ghent. First as a stage actress, notably when she played the lead in Pan, the play by the Belgian symbolist poet and writer Charles Van Lerberghe. Afterwards she frequently travelled to Belgium as a lecturer.
She published her first theatre reviews as a journalist at Le Matin in Paris and then became its literary director. It was Colette who gave the young Simenon his chance and published sixty-nine short stories in Le Matin. She often said that she felt at home in Brussels. But she retired near Houyet in 1928, during the winter months, to finish La Seconde (The Other One). She lived at the "Château d'Ardenne", a palace surrounded by woods and overlooking the Val de Lesse.