Lesbian Couple at the Monocle

Brassaï, Lesbian Couple at the Monocle, 1932, Courtesy of RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource.

After Francine Prose came across Brassaï’s 1932 Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, depicting the cross-dressing French athlete–turned–Gestapo henchwoman, Violette Morris, and her girlfriend, she considered writing Morris’s biography. But, ultimately, Prose couldn’t resist the urge to embellish, renaming Morris “Lou Villars” and interweaving her fascinating tale with the letters of a Brassaï-esque photographer, his wife’s wartime memoir, a faux Henry Miller book, and the autobiography of a fictionalized Peggy Guggenheim. The resulting novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club Paris, 1932 (HarperCollins), captures the vibrance and violence of bohemian Paris before World War II—much like the image that inspired it.