Bibliothèque de SuZette

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Bibliothèque de Suzette
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Nouvelle Bibliothèque de Suzette
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Collection Jean-François
The disciplinary effect of Suzette on unruly juveniles

Oh, dear!... Nanny is crying. These naughty girls deserve a good dose of Suzette

Look!... Rover, Pussy and Bleuettes are behaving too

(from L'Ouvrier, February 1905)

Storia della Biblioteca dei Miei Ragazzi
par Anna Levi

DELLY Cendrillon revanchiste
par Anna Levi

Sixty years of Suzette

The first Suzette n. 1, 1905



Subsscription card (front)

Album 1925
Cover by R de la Nezière



cover by Manon Iessel


Album 1951


n. 2 June 1960
...mais il n'y aura pas de rentrée

The last Suzette cover
25 August 1960

La Semaine de Suzette


From La Semaine de Suzette

Les Petites Filles Bien Sages

Dominique Rolin
Photo Jean Rolin, 1924
courtesy ©François Nielsen

A charming family group with an attentive Suzette reader
courtesy JMC©1950

Bibliothèque de Suzette is a children's book collection published in France between 1919 and 1965 by the publisher Gautier & Languereau. Its existence is strictly interconnected with that of La Semaine de Suzette. In fact all the books of the collection started life as feuilletons in La Semaine de Suzette, a French illustrated weekly for well-to-do little girls, published by the same publisher from February 2nd 1905 until June 6th 1940 and from May 30th 1946 to August 25th 1960.
Each issue of La Semaine, which was aimed at an age range of 8-14, contained short stories, an episode of a serialized novel, an agony aunt column, games, cookery recipes, sewing patterns for the wardrobe of the doll Bleuette, a stylish French grand'mama of the yet to be born Barbie, competitions, crosswords, good manners and fashion features, in short anything deemed indispensable to make a proper little girl blossom into a proper grown up Madame, supporting manners, principles and ideals of the middle class milieu to which the readers belonged. It carried some discrete and tasteful advertising. By today's standards, it was a most gloriously politically incorrect magazine... Et alors!?... To paraphrase Larkin, “political correctness began well after nineteen-sixty-three”. Witness the alluring poise of M.lle Dominique Rolin, born 1913 in a well-to-do Belgian family caught by her father Jean reading La Semaine de Suzette in this delightful photo circa 1924. (Courtesy Prof. François Nielsen, University of North Carolina, Miss Rolin's nephew) and the enchanting group of five little French brothers photographed (Suzette warrants!) on the 1st of June 1950.

Amongst its readers La Semaine could boast children who became famous such as Michèle Morgan, André Malraux, Jeanne Moreau, Troyat, Sylvette Baudrot, Barjavel and others who in later years reminisced fondly about Suzette in books or interviews. On the other hand, Simone de Beauvoir relates in her memoirs that while the majority of children in her milieu read La Semaine, she had a subscription to L'Etoile Noëliste which her mother considered «d'un niveau moral plus élevé». As for Dominique Rolin, she became the acclaimed writer of more than forty books (see BNF). Suzette had also two royal readers: the English Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. In July 1938 their governess Marion Crawford (the infamous Crawfie) subscribed for a year to La Semaine de Suzette through a London bookshop.

For those long summer terms, 1924

Bécassine is the copyrighted property of
©Hachette Livre/Gautier Languereau

One of the most interesting features of La Semaine is the agony aunt columns, edited in succession by:
Tante Jacqueline (Jeanne Spallarossa, Mme Alexandre Bernhardt, the very first aunt). Wrote under the pseudonym of Jacqueline Rivière
Tante Rolande (Mme Rolande Le Brun, born in 1880 in Paris, employed at G&L, in charge of advertising, a stopgap agony aunt, also wrote some features including the on on good manners as Edna Lor. She remained at La Semaine until her death in 1939.
Tante Alice (Alice Piguet, b. 1 Sett. 1901 in Nîmes, aka Alice de Chavannes, pseud. of Alice Pourcherol, a Law graduate rapporteur à la Commission de contrôle de la Presse Juvénile). She became a writer inspired by Mme de Ségur. Prix Jeunesse 1945 for Le jardin de Thérèse.
Tante Mad (Madeleine Giraud)
Tante Mireille (Géneviève Néranval, she started working as a secretary for Jean Valmy-Baysse Secrétaire Général de la Comédie Française, collaborated with the writer Madeleine Chaumont and became a brilliant poet and writer) and the last, another
Tante Jacqueline (Jacqueline Gaillard born 1934, who eventually became editor-in-chief at Les Veillées des Chaumières).
After more than eighty years, the advice given to the little Suzettes makes appalling or appealing reading (whichever side of the divide one happens to be) all based on submission, blind obedience, reverence towards parents, through the complete annihilation of a child's personality, which — the message is — can only be moulded by the experience of the grown-ups, on middle class models of behaviour. This is what Tante Rolande replies, on 16 December 1926 to a rebellious (and hapless) Libellule Verte, aged 14, who is asking for Tantine's help to convince her parents to let her: —1) change her first name (didn't we all wish to re-invent ourselves at 14?); — 2) cut her plaits; — 3) go out without nanny. Not totally unreasonable desires for a girl of 14, one would imagine. Tantine's answer is a devastating blow to poor Libellule's hopes:

Hélas! ma pauvre petite Libellule, Je suis loin de partager vos idées. Je les trouve même blâmables... Je me demande où vous pouvez avoir gagné de telles pensées d'indé pourquoi vous osez supposer que je suis capable de vous donner raison... Pauvre petite fille!... Vous vous coyez assez grande, à quatorze ans, pour vous diriger seule... Eh bien vous vous trompez. Une jeuen fille n'est jamais assez raissonable pour se libérer de l'autorité des siens: Elle a toujours besoin des conseils avisés de paroles sensées de vigilance active à ses côtés. Elles doit se soumettre sans répliquer et sans révolte, aux exigeances des siens.

Though highly prolific and successful in the genre — some winning prestigious literary prizes — with a few exceptions little is known about Suzette's authors who fell into more or less deserved oblivion. At first glance Suzette's writers, editors and columnists — basically an in-house female team — seem upper class or aristocratic women (their surnames are prefixed by a profusion of "de") who had received some sort of education, proto-feminists unhappy to be just glorified housewives. In reality the majority were middle-class "girls of slender means", more or less obliged to use their talent to earn a living or subsidize teaching jobs.
Most were spinsters. Ashamed of their writing — any money making activity being socially unacceptable for a woman of the time — they hid under impenetrable male pseudonyms and were exploited shamelessly by their publishers (for instance G&L owned the copyright of all its authors, except Marie Delly's) who dumped them when their style went out of fashion. Many died in abject poverty.
The matter of the authors' identities was raised by Anne des Déserts who in 2001 wrote to Les Veillées des Chaumières, (the big sister of La Semaine still going in 2012):

« Les auteurs, les illustrateurs de La Semaine de Suzette m'intéressent. Qui étaient-ils ? Des femmes seules qui écrivaient pour gagner leur vie, des mères de famille qui avaient envie d'écrire, des professionnels ? Etaient-ce des salariés, attachés à la rédaction, ou bien des personnes qui travaillaient à la vacation ou au contrat ? Comment choisissait-on les manuscrits ? etc. »

Surely no Balzacs, yet they write in an elegant polished French, still readable today. What made them fade into obscurity is certainly the context of their stories depicting the way of life of a limited section of society "univers de marquises et de baronnes menant grand train grâce à leurs rentes et à leurs fermages, et servies par une foule de domestiques" (cit. Hachette Jeunesse website) which started to disappear in 1914, its conduct dictated by strong Catholic principles, the result too anachronistic for a modern reader. However one feels that if not for their literary merits they should have been remembered for their contribution to the social history of the times.
One of Gautier&Languereau's authors who stood the test of time and was financially successful is Berthe Bernage: catholic, grande-dame of good manners, editor at Les Veillées des Chaumières, contributor to La Semaine, she created the character of Brigitte who first saw the light in 1925 as a serial in Les Veillées. Published in book format, Brigitte's adventures lasted 35 years following the protagonist from adolescence to maturity and are still very much in print and on sale. Bernage who was unmarried, remained tied to G&L all her life, published in their various collections and on her death she made them her heirs.
On the other hand, the illustrators, who much contributed to the success of Suzette, famous artists such as Avélot, Thiriet, Morin, Berty, Lorioux, Giffey, Le Rallic, Raffin, Zier, active in the artistic movements of the XX Century, not just as children illustrators saw a revival in the Sixties becoming even more famous with the passing years, their work highly collectible.
In the first issue of La Semaine was born, almost by accident, one of the most enduring long lasting characters of the French bande dessinée: Bécassine, the Disaster Maid, the Queen of Malapropism, who continuously misunderstood her mistress' orders with hilarious results, interpreting life according to her own philosophy of little paysanne Brétonne.

«Pour quelles raisons La Semaine de Suzette est-elle incontestablement le premier périodique du genre?» — asks Polybiblion: Revue bibliographique universelle in 1920 — «Ces raisons sont multiples. D'abord elle comporte des illustrations fort nombreuses, en couleurs et en noir, très variées et très vivantes: les enfants aiment les images; leurs parents aussi, du reste. Puis le texte est irréprochable au double point de vue moral et religieux. Ajoutons que la note patriotique résonne fréquemment dans cet ensemble toujours attachant».

These multiple good reasons were going to last another forty-five years.

The first episode of
La Tutelle de Cousine Linotte
by Berthe Bernage in
La Semaine de Suzette 3rd August 1926.

The book version 1931

Jerry dans l'Ombre by M. Giraud
in La Semaine de Suzette, May 1946 and in Bibliothèque de Suzette, 1948.

Jerry dans l'Ombre was the novel serialised in La Semaine when it reappeared in a four pages format after the war in May 1946: "Un événement important pour toutes les petites filles ! Après six ans d'interruption La Semaine de Suzette reparait provisoirement deux fois par mois"

Not all Suzette feuilletons were published in volume, for instance (in brackets the year in which some were serialized): Le Charmeur des serpents, Léon Lambry (1919); A la conquète de l'Atlas, Myriam Catalany (1919); Les Péripéties des petites Dalsie, P. Bresbre (1920); Une bien bonne idée, G. Louza (1929); Musette, M. de Carnac (1929); La Petite fille de Sainte-Hélène, E. de Cys et J. Rosmer (1929); Histoire véridique de Chelmi et de son chat, P. Perrault (1929).
La Semaine has become the subject of a number of books and graduation papers (Thèse de Doctorat or Maîtrise). The vast narrative body of La Semaine is a fertile ground for a sociological or historical analysis of many aspects of life during the sixty years of its existence, to name a few: means of transport, fashion, food, games, holidays, war, religion, homes, etc.

La Semaine de Suzette dans l’entre-deux-guerres, VINCENT Véronique, Maîtrise, Histoire, Université de Paris X- Nanterre.
La Semaine de Suzette ou le Journal des petites filles bien élevées, COUDERC Marie-Anne, Université de Toulouse Le Mirail, 1992
La représentation de la première guerre mondiale dans les histoires en images de deux grands périodiques pour enfants: L'Epatant et La Semaine de Suzette (1914-1918), PALUEL-MARMONT Julie, 1999, Université François Rabelais-Tours
L'influence de la Grande Guerre sur un illustré pour enfants: La Semaine de Suzette (1905-1918), GARDENER Thierry, 1994, Université de Paris X-Nanterre
La Semaine de Suzette: sources et lectures, GAUCHET-PLAT, Hélène, Maîtrise Lettres, Université de Paris X-Nanterre
Mme Couderc has also published two books on La Semaine:
Bécassine inconnue, CNRS ÉDITIONS, 2000
La Semaine de Suzette, Histoires de filles, CNRS ÉDITIONS, 2005

La petite poste

only «Cathol. bon. famille» need reply.
(La Semaine de Suzette no 39, 27 Sept. 1928)

Twenty four years on... and...
«Cathol. bon. fam» pen-pals are still de riguer
(La Semaine de Suzette, 1952)

Read on

Ouvrières de Lettres les romancières dans la production de la littérature de masse de la première moitié du XXe siècle
by Ellen Costans in Belphégor: an in depth analysis of the forgotten French female writers of the 20th century

Remembering Suzette
by Pivoine Blanche
Bécassine débarque
par Yves Marie-Labé in Le Monde 27 Aug. 2005

Les petites Suzettes aux colonies
by Alain Tirefort - University of Nantes in "Afrika Zamani" no 9-10, 2001-2002, pp.102-125

The tremendous sunshine of La Semaine de Suzette
by Pat Fenn
Le format de La Semaine de Suzette and Bibliothèque de Suzette
by Anne des Déserts
L'image du scoutisme à travers La Semaine de Suzette
by Anne des Déserts

Alain d'Orange
by Anne des Déserts
TRANSLATIONS — Suzette translated in foreign languages

Abstract from: Storia della Biblioteca dei Miei Ragazzi by Anna Levi,
Pontedera, Bibliografia e Informazione, ©Anna Levi, 2012.

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