Interview Appraisals

Among the reactions elicited by the 1944 Chanel-Muggeridge unpublished interview, we wish to cite a message received in December 2011 from Muggeridge’s official biographer, Ian Hunter, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Western Ontario: “I read the transcript of the Chanel interview with great interest. CC [sic] more than held her own with MM [Malcolm Muggeridge] which, as you know, was not easy. I agree with you [Isée St. John Knowles] that many themes in Liberation are foreshadowed in the interview… It is interesting, in retrospect, how guarded MM was about revealing his wartime experiences. When he wrote Chronicles [of Wasted Time], he decided (quite deliberately, I think) to consider the war as fit only for satire. So, he takes a world-weary, sometimes condescending, attitude toward the war and his (actually, rather important) role in it; I thought the interview shed light on how seriously he took things at the time”.

Further comments were voiced in Jean Lebrun’s Notre Chanel (published by Bleu autour, winner of the 2014 Goncourt award for biography). Lebrun is a historian and produces the radio programme “La marche de l’histoire” broadcast on France Inter. The interview conducted by Muggeridge led the historian to the conclusion that “Here, without doubt, we are as close as can be to the ultimate truth concerning Chanel”.

One account of Chanel’s life which is steeped in the thinking of her time is the carefully-researched work by Professor Rhonda K. Garelick, Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, New York, Random House, 2014. This publication, some 600 pages in length, does not confine itself to authenticating the 1944 interview, but goes on to comment on certain fragments of it, one of which is corroborated by a remark confided by Chanel to her great-niece.

A hallmarking comment by Gabrielle Palasse-Labrunie punctuates her preface to the original website, dated July 2012, ending with these lines:

“Movingly vivid to me, some forty years after Coco Chanel’s death, is the sound of her voice transpiring from the words of that interview”.