Who more omnivorous - not to mention lewd - than Colette, the frizzle-headed Cat Woman of 20th-century French writing? Shocking still the sheer salaciousness of the prose, even in the works of her apprenticeship, written in the days when ladies wore bustles and carried parasols. Take the following scene from the autobiographical Claudine Ó Paris (1901), in which the precocious yet virginal 17-year-old heroine, recently arrived in the capital with her dreamy widower father, is flirting with her 'uncle' Renaud, a handsome older friend of the family by whom (though she hasn't realised it yet) she desperately wants to be fucked. She tells him a titillating story about one of her school-mates in the country village of Montigny:
'Take CÚlÚnie Nauphely, for example . . .'
'Aha! Let's hear what CÚlÚnie Nauphely did!'
'Well, CÚlÚnie Nauphely used to stand up - she was a big girl of 14 - at half-past three - half an hour before it was time to go . . . and say out loud, looking very serious and self-important, "Mademoiselle, can I go, please? I've got to go and suck my sister."'
'Merciful heavens! Suck her sister?'
'Yes. Just imagine, her married sister, who was weaning a child, had too much milk and her breasts hurt her. She pretended she used to spit the milk out again but, all the same, she must have swallowed some of it in spite of herself. Well, the girls used to fuss over her with admiring envy, this suckling infant. The first time I heard her telling all about it, I couldn't eat my next meal. Doesn't it have any effect on you?'
'Don't press the point or I think it most certainly will have an effect on me. You certainly open strange vistas on the Fresnois institutions, Claudine!'