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“When I wrote these memoirs in 1852, I was ignorant of the future awaiting me; who could have known? It was not my willful brazenness that dictated I write these memoirs; it was not for provocation or moral outrage, as some of those who were quick to take offense said. Before you sentence the guilty,…
“When I wrote these memoirs in 1852, I was ignorant of the future awaiting me; who could have known? It was not my willful brazenness that dictated I write these memoirs; it was not for provocation or moral outrage, as some of those who were quick to take offense said. Before you sentence the guilty, at least listen through to the end of the story.”
So begins the memoirs of Céleste Mogador. The four volumes of the infamous courtesan and Hippodrome performer, Mémoires de Célèste Mogador, were published to scandalous acclaim in Paris in 1858. At the urging of her lawyer, Mogador wrote about her troubled childhood, her ascent to the heights of the glamorous Parisian courtesan society, her transition to respectable life, and falling in love with a nobleman.
In this new English translation, Memoirs of a French Courtesan Volume 1: Rebellion introduces the young Céleste. In her first sixteen years, she has plenty to rebel against: an abusive stepfather, her mother’s groping new boyfriend, her jailers, her first madame, and her first client. Not to mention the actual rebellion that engulfed the streets of Lyon in flames when she was a child.
Mogador lays out her childhood and her choices—or lack of them—in this first volume of her memoirs, setting the stage for the glittering life to come.
Kristen Hall-Geisler is author of the novel Skull and Sidecar and translator of Voyage Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, US News & World Report, and others. She’s currently pursuing a masters in English at Harvard University. Memoir of a French Courtesan Volume 1: Rebellion is her fifth book.
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 Stars: This is a translated memoir of a French courtesan from 1858. It’s the first book in a series and so far it’s very sad to read what this young girl has thus experienced with life. However, you can see that underneath is a strong and soon to emerge woman who I’m looking forward to reading more about. — Christine C.
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 Stars: This story is unfortunately one that many women are familiar with; a life of abuse, running, and neglect. I felt a whirlwind of emotions reading this book. I started off angered and saddened by the treatment of Celeste and her mother. Midway through I was frustrated by her naivety and again angered by the treatment she received. And at the end I excited by her new found empowerment. I enjoyed how rich the character development and felt that I really understood and knew everyone intimately. I wish the next volume were out so that I could continue learning more about Celeste’s journey. — Anon.
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 Stars: You may feel, from the title and topic of this book that it would be full of lurid, scandalous details. It is not. I found it fascinating to read the words of not only a ‘common’ woman, from a time when we typically only read from well-educated men, but also to read of circumstances that aren’t pretty. Life was dismal and tough for many back then. And rather than reading it out of a Dickens novel, we get the layman’s terms of a young woman’s life. — Christy H.