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Similarly, Claudine punches and teases little Luce Lanthenay [a classmate] merely from a clinical desire to discover the effect of such cruelty on herself. All her hyperthyroid activity has but one goal: to make things happen and then study the results. The more popular the books got, the more the couple quarreled over adding her name as an author. Down the road, about five or ten years, their marriage was open on both ends, and Colette proposed that rather than divorce, they go on that way.

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Then she married again, to the diplomat Baron Henry de Jouvenel, but her love life continued to be a source of inspiration for her work. For example, at the age of 47 she seduced her year-old stepson Bertrand, a series of events that sounds similar to the plot of her book Cheri. Those themes continued throughout her career.

She was 17 years older than her third husband, Maurice Goudeket , whom she married in , and they remained married until her death on Aug. As one American lawyer in Paris put it succinctly for the French court, confirming French jurisdiction:. Consequently, there exists no national [U. Furthermore, both countries used and required different sets of documentary proof. In the case of divorce, lawyers like Miller testified that there was no federal divorce law in the United States and that domicile therefore constituted jurisdiction.

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For Americans living in France, that meant France. Nevertheless, for their divorce to be recognized in the United States, couples had every interest in ensuring that the cause given was also valid in their home state. Thus, some lawyers advised their clients to use adultery as grounds, be it true or false, to make sure that the divorce would be recognized at home.

In , the rise in Paris divorces among Americans even led to a minor diplomatic incident. American clergymen and the New York Times both questioned the probity of this new flurry of divorces and implied that they reflected poorly on the French legal system. Paris newspapers in turn became outraged that American couples were taking advantage of the French system. The honor of the French judicial system was at stake, and Parisians were offended at being seen as the new Reno:.

Too many good Americans have been going to the French capital, not when they die, but when they want to get divorced. Another investigation into the matter began in June and finally put a stop to the practice. An unusual public disciplinary hearing in the first since brought several French barristers and bailiffs to court.

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As described empathetically by the French courtroom reporter, honorable French men in their black robes and red Legion of Honor ribbons were being accused of facilitating the divorces. Pale and emotional, they defended themselves by blaming the American lawyers for whom they worked, in whom they trusted, and who had provided the documentation. It is not our role to act as detectives and check out the truth of domicile, they protested. The accusation roiled the French court, worried, as one judge exclaimed, that the international reputation of the French legal system was at stake.

Audible relief was palpable in the audience. In the end, some of the court officials received minor penalties, and some French lawyers were suspended from practice for months; three others were formally scolded.


The bulk of opprobrium was placed on unscrupulous American lawyers. Three of them were publicly reprimanded in the proceeding, although, true to form, they were not named in the French press.

Economics did the rest, as the Depression kept many formerly-wealthy but newly-poor divorce-prone Americans closer to home. The affair of the Paris divorces was widely commented upon both sides of the Atlantic.

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Critics in both countries bemoaned the fact that marriage, like divorce, had become too easy and needed to be made more difficult: banns should be published to give people time to reflect on the former, residence laws needed to be enforced to prevent jurisdiction-hopping for the latter. However, the greater number of divorces in the United States was a particular matter of concern: 70 divorces per , in France in compared to per , in the United States.

And many French critics worried about contamination. However, if moralists on both sides of the Atlantic fretted over the increase in divorce, discussions about the practice also showed a Franco-American divide with regard to matters of the heart.

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By the s, two opposing ideas of divorce became apparent. As mentioned above, the scandal broke in New York largely via the concerns of clergymen there, reported by the New York Times, and setting into motion an investigation. Nevertheless, a majority of French observers and occasional Americans responded by arguing that divorce was fundamentally a question of freedom, and that the French conception of abstract justice and individual liberty was broader and protected that liberty better than in the United States.

With a shrug of the Gallic shoulders at the court scandal, one French journalist pointed out that after all none of the American divorces had been contested. So what was the problem? If people want to get divorced, let them. Oui, on divorce trop. Oui, les enfants souffrent trop des querelles des parents.

Yes, we have lost respect for married and domestic life. Yes, children suffer unduly from their parents' disagreements. It's a fact. It is painful, it is regrettable.