Book shows Piaf anguish in love letters to cyclist

Wed May 4, 2011 3:42pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - 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 back.

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 over 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 marvelous 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.   Continued...