Shipwrecked on a Traffic Island

And Other Previously Untranslated Gems

By Colette
Translated by Zack Rogow & Renée Morel

Subjects: Literature, Translation, Fiction
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438454443, 208 pages, January 2016
Hardcover : 9781438454436, 208 pages, November 2014

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Stories Imagined and Real
            Conversation in the Metro
            The Woman Who Sings
            By the Bay of Somme
            The Dancer’s Song
            The Mirror
            Gone Fishin’
            Masked Ball on the Riviera: Cyclamen and Buttercup, or the Costume Ball of Feet
            Shipwrecked on a Traffic Island
Colette’s Advice Column
            From Denise in Despair
            From a Tormented Heart
            From Minerva
            “I love a young man…”
            Colette on Love
            Colette on Women Growing Older
Memoirs of Friends
            Portrait of Marcel Proust
            Remembering Maurice Chevalier
            Portrait of the Poet Léon-Paul Fargue
Cats, Dogs, and Nature
            The Cat
            A Dream
            Toby-Dog and Music
            The Bees of Castel-Novel
            The Summer Beauty
War and Peace
            Their Letters
            In the Home for Blind Soldiers
            The Eyes of the Dragonfly
            Colette Speaks to Americans
            Parisians Go on Vacation—To Paris
The Writing Life
            Ways of Writing
            Letter to My Daughter
            The Young Poet
            Why I’ve Never Written a Children’s Book
            Children’s Books
            Scribes of the Palais-Royal
            On Growing Older
Colette’s Journalism
            The Discovery
            Poverty Exists Everywhere
            The Fake Pearl
            With Love
            The Silence of Small Children
Colette on Her Life
            “Just a little bit farther…”
Movies, Theater, and Vaudeville
            Why I Love Bette Davis
            From Both Sides of the Curtain
            A Distinguished Connoisseur
French Wine, Perfume, and Dolls
            The Wines of France

A collection of Colette's best writings that have never before appeared in English.


The French writer Colette (1873–1954) is best known in the United States for such classic novels as Gigi and Cheri, which were made into popular movies, but she was a prolific author. This meticulously translated collection offers some of her best fiction, personal essays, articles, and talks, all appearing in English for the first time. The pieces showcase Colette's gifts as a writer: her deep wisdom about every age of human life, her skill as a storyteller, her wry humor, her persuasive powers, and her foresight as a social critic of issues such as gender roles.

The translators combed through journals and past editions of Colette's work to cull these gems, which cover an enormous array of topics—from French wines and perfumes to her friendships with Marcel Proust and Maurice Chevalier to uncanny insight into the curious habits of cats and dogs. Selections from an advice column that Colette wrote for the French women's magazine Marie Claire are also included, and her savvy suggestions for the lovelorn stand the test of time. Moving articles written during the two world wars, along with her memories of being an actor and playwright, reveal facets of her writing that are less often celebrated. The first new work by Colette to appear in English in half a century, it will delight devoted fans and new readers alike.

Zack Rogow is Associate Faculty member in the Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is the author, editor, or translator of many books and plays, including award-winning translations of George Sand, Colette, and André Breton. Raised in Paris, Renée Morel is a translator and an instructor in French and linguistics at City College of San Francisco. She lectures throughout the Bay Area on French culture, art, and civilization, from the Gauls to de Gaulle.


"It has been 50 years since anything new by Colette has appeared in English, but happily, that drought is over with the publication of Shipwrecked on a Traffic Island …Translation is an art, and Colette has been well served by Rogow … and native Parisian Morel … Together, they have captured the extraordinary range and power of one of the 20th century's most important writers. " — Bay Area Reporter

"Though the book is clearly intended for English speakers, even those who admire Colette in her inimitable French will derive pleasure from these once-inaccessible texts. " — CHOICE

"The translators and editors, Zack Rogow and Renée Morel, have done a marvelous job combing through obscure journals and past editions of Colette's work to cover an array of topics that they've organized thematically … beautifully translated … Subtle yet explicit, specific yet universal, Colette conjured our emotional lives in ways impossible to ignore. " — Wall Street Journal

"Zack Rogow and Renée Morel provide an exquisite translation that maintains Colette's delightfully effusive prose, and is certain to have readers envisioning the France she knew and loved … This is an excellent opportunity for English readers to familiarize themselves with a more complete body of Colette's progressive works. " — San Francisco Book Review

"This charming collection of previously untranslated stories, advice columns, and articles captures the passion and whimsy of influential French writer and personality Colette. The brevity of each piece (the longest is eleven pages) only serves to highlight the author's remarkable wit, insight, and economical yet beautiful prose. Each offering disarms and delights. " — World Literature Today

"Clearly the translators have poetic gifts themselves, a necessary quality to render Colette's airy, evocative, protean shifts in tone and voice, from the flippant to the heartrending in the turn of a phrase. This book reveals in a single volume many luminous facets of Colette as a woman, a French woman, and a writer. " — Lynn Hoggard, translator of Marie d'Agoult's Nelida

"Little gems indeed—this garland of hitherto untranslated short texts by Colette is expertly rendered into idiomatic English by Zack Rogow and Renée Morel, who succeed in retaining the flavor, piquancy, sensuousness, wit, and whimsy of the author's poetic and chiseled prose. Colette, foremost French woman writer of the first half of the twentieth century, is here represented by a range of sketches, mini-essays, reminiscences, portraits, personal confessions, and journalistic pieces including some war articles. The selections, preceded by helpful notes, provide rapid insights into Colette's sense of the human comedy, her love of nature and animals, and her enticing exuberance. " — Victor Brombert, author of Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi