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A touch of Chanel by Paul Morand: A book for the summer

In 1946 in St. Moritz, Chanel and Paul Morand wrote a book. In the afternoon Coco talked and at night Morand retired to his rooms to write in first person, what the couturier had told him.

It is a small book I’ve read many times just like the book Venice by the same author. These memories were given the title: The “Allure” of Chanel; the French word that means air, breath, distinction and elegance.

It is logical that Morand was attracted to her because she was the ultimate snob of snobs of that generation who liked to know things just for the sake of knowing and she had an inexhaustible curiosity to travel around the world. As if from another planet travelling to an unpublished planet, Paul Morand made the trip around the legendary Coco and her mythical meeting room. Morand and Blaise Cendrars are the most modern poets of the 1920’s. Paul Morand, almost unknown today, is a great poet. As a diplomat he travelled the world, plucked tulips in Amsterdam and bought international newspapers to be up to date. He was a cynical and detached person that envisioned the world with his synthetic poetry view and he was never aware of that he was inventing a new style.

In exile and not working for the first time in her life, Coco Chanel, always with a cigarette in the mouth, told Morand all her memories with her characteristic. The book was published thirty years after it was written and was the last book of Morand. He and Coco had met in 1921 because they shared the same circle of friends; Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, the Sert couple, and even Winston Churchill.

This is the life of a girl who suffered all kinds of emotional deprivation, and whose education was based primarily on reading novels. “I mostly bought books to read. Books were my best friends. Just like the radio is full of lies, each book is a treasure. Even the worst book has something to say, some truth. Even the silliest novels are monuments of human experience. I’ve met many highly intelligent and highly educated people and they have all been surprised by my knowledge; and they would have been even more surprised if I had told them I learned to live through novels. If I had had daughters I would have given them novels to read. In them we find the great unwritten laws that govern man. In my region there was a lack of oral tradition. From the serialized novels, read in the barn in the light of a candle stolen from the maid, to even the great classics; all novels are really a disguised dream. As a child I read everything for pleasure; catalogs and novels. Novels are actually just great catalogs.”

This is how Coco was, and she also says she visited cemeteries because “there, everyone listens”, and there she found a place sharpen her tongue and more than energetic character.

There is another moment in which she speaks of wealth, “enthusiasm more necessary for spending money than earning them. Spent money is only physical evidence that we have acted in an appropriate way: if a business or dress does not provide any profit it’s because they have done it wrong. Wealth is not about accumulating, on the contrary, it serves to free us; it’s the ‘I’ve had everything and that everything is nothing’ of the philosopher emperor. Just like true culture, which consist in throwing overboard a number of things. In fashion it’s the same, it usually starts with something too beautiful which then becomes something basic and simple’. One can be elegant without being rich. Money is not something beautiful, but it’s comfortable.”

It’s a highly recommendable book from which you can learn many things and enjoy the prose of a person who had come into the world to see. Chanel was a world.

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Comments

  1. india / 4 July 2012

    Se me hace bonito saber que, si los libros fueron sus mejores amigos de infancia, un libro refleje fiel su identidad en el recuerdo.
    Un placer, como siempre, leerla, conocer, saber a tavés de usted, Sra.Garrido.
    Saludos

  2. Pilar Mandl / 5 July 2012

    Excelente libro, aprendi mucho con las sabias palabras de Coco… Me hubiera gustado saber qué novelas hubiera elegido para la educación de su hija.
    Gracias.
    Un saludo
    Pilar Mandl

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