Piaf’s fragility laid bare in published love letters

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Piaf’s fragility laid bare in published love letters

A set of love letters penned by Edith Piaf to her cycling champion lover Louis Gerardin have been published in France, where the late singer is as famous for her anguished love affairs as for her mournful ballads.

The great chanteuse’s passionate months-long affair with the married Gerardin inspired a torrent of flowery, emotional missives, dotted with spelling mistakes and crossings-out, that reveal Piaf’s fragility and desperate need to be loved.

He was not Piaf’s only paramour but it is the first time such heartfelt letters by the singer - dubbed “La Mome Piaf,” or little waif sparrow, as her mesmerizing presence propelled her from the streets of Paris to international stardom in the 1940s and 50s - appear in a published collection.

“You have taken me like no other man has ever done, and I have given you what I have never before given, which is to say: myself!” wrote Piaf in early 1952 to her blond blue-eyed lover.

Three years her senior at 39, Gerardin was the object of Piaf’s passion from November 1951 to September 1952, during which time she wrote more than 50 letters to her lover, nicknamed “Toto.”

“This is what I would like before leaving for America,” Piaf wrote on April 13, 1952, before a tour, “to be so worn-out, so filled with love, that I cannot make love anymore for months but await my marvellous return to be with you again like your little pet dog.”

Piaf wrote of her desire to have a baby with Gerardin, and offered to give up her singing career to be with him, yet her letters suggest an undercurrent of insecurity and desperation and a love that was not fully reciprocated.

“If you could write me, that would please me, but if it bothers you, don’t do it!” Piaf wrote on Jan. 25, 1952.

Gerardin reportedly said of his mistress: “Forty eight hours with Piaf are more tiring than a lap in the Tour de France.”

Piaf was no stranger to romance. Her affair with Gerardin came two years after boxer Marcel Cerdan, considered the great love of her life, died in a plane crash.

That affair was chronicled in the 2007 film “La Vie en Rose,” which brought Piaf’s sufferings to the big screen and won an Oscar and a French Cesar award for actress Marion Cotillard.

Another affair was publicized when a passion-filled letter Piaf wrote to Greek actor Dimitris Horn in 1946, while in a relationship with French crooner Yves Montand, was auctioned in 2009 for 1,500 euros ($2,222).

Piaf’s original letters to Gerardin were auctioned by Christie’s in 2009 and bought by an anonymous collector for 67,000 euros. The letters, with the scribbles and errors cleaned up, were published by French house Bernard Grasset under the title “My Blue Love” and released in late March.

In her love letters, Piaf made plans for a future home with him - “We will have pretty drapes and a beautiful table service” - even sending him a copy of her accounts and expressing her happiness that she could provide a comfortable retirement for both of them.


Reuters

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