Thursday, 16 June 2011

Edith Piaf's Letters

This year marks the 48th anniversary of Edith Piaf’s death from cancer at the age of just 47. It seems quite incredible that the French chanteuse has now been dead for longer than she lived. And yet, as the years roll relentlessly by, our enduring fascination with Edith Piaf shows no signs of abating.

Piaf was no stranger to headlines during her lifetime. Her genuine rags-to-riches story, combined with her very public battles against addiction and depression provided a rich source of fodder for the tabloids and gossip columnists of the day. Her endless stream of doomed love affairs also did nothing to alleviate the burden of public interest in her private life. And now, almost half a century after her death, this tragic songbird, famous for singing 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien' is once again garnering attention for all the wrong reasons.

The cause of this renewed interest in Piaf is the recent publication of a cache of over fifty love letters written to her married lover, Louis Gerardin, over the course of a ten-month affair from 1951 – 1952. These letters, which first came to the public’s attention in 2009 when they were sold by Christie’s in Paris for €67,000, have now been collated into a book called Mon Amour Blue (My Blue Love).

Giving unparalleled insight into the mind of this passionate, and often overbearing woman, the letters reveal a yearning to love and be loved. Consumed by romantic fantasies, she declares herself willing to abandon her singing career (and her alcohol addiction!), if only her lover would leave his wife and family.
"I made an oath in Church that if you came I would never touch another glass of alcohol in my life," she writes, adding that she would become a "real and docile woman" for him.
She seems intent on devoting herself completely to Gerardin, mind, body and soul.
"I want to completely better myself, I want to be worthy of you, you must help me to transform, you will be my little professor, dear, and I will blindly listen to you like a master that I adore."
Coming just two years after the true love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash, one can only assume that this desperate need to be loved completely and unconditionally is in some way a reaction to the trauma of Cerdan’s untimely death.

Unfortunately, her fervent letters did not have the desired effect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the obsessive nature of her sentiments only succeeded in scaring her lover away. It has been reported that Gerardin, a world-champion cyclist, declared that:
 "Forty-eight hours with Piaf are more tiring than a lap in the Tour de France".
The letters, which became increasingly desperate in the face of Gerardin’s reticence to commit to her, culminate in Piaf writing to abruptly end their affair. However, she wasn’t alone for long. By the time Gerardin received the letter, his erstwhile paramour had married a French singer called Jacques Pills, a union which was to end in divorce four years later.

Regrets? Well, perhaps when all was said and done, she did have a few …


  1. An interesting piece about an extraordinairy woman. I was wondering what happened to the post entitled Culture Vulture -Did you Know...? from 3 days ago.

  2. Hi Gareth. Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure why the Culture Vulture post disappeared. I'll get it back up again asap.
    Have a good weekend!

  3. Love her songs, and her voice is so different...:)