The Pure and the Impure
by Colette, introduction by Judith Thurman, translated from the French by Herma Briffault
Colette herself considered The Pure and the Impure her best book, “the nearest I shall ever come to writing an autobiography.” This guided tour of the erotic netherworld with which Colette was so intimately acquainted begins in the darkness and languor of a fashionable opium den. It continues as a series of unforgettable encounters with men and, especially, women whose lives have been improbably and yet permanently transfigured by the strange power of desire. Lucid and lyrical, The Pure and the Impure stands out as one of modern literature’s subtlest reckonings not only with the varieties of sexual experience, but with the always unlikely nature of love.
Colette has always seemed to me the most authentic feminist heroine of all women writers.
— Erica Jong
Faced with [The Pure and the Impure's] perfect, lapidary and truth-bearing sentences, one's only appropriate response is to fall to one's knees and surrender.
— Terry Castle, London Review of Books
The Pure and the Impure comes closer than any of Colette's books, memoir or fiction, to revealing "the mysterious nature of [her] being."
— Judith Thurman
[The Pure and the Impure] is redolent with exploits from the era when Colette, the "truth seeker," was coming into her own, both as a writer and as a sexual explorer, spelunking in the dark recesses of the French underworld.
— Elissa Schappell, Bookforum