21 June 1935
|Died||24 September 2004
|Occupation||Novelist, screenwriter and dramatist|
|French literary history|
Françoise Sagan (21 June 1935 – 24 September 2004) – real name Françoise Quoirez – was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. Hailed as "a charming little monster" by François Mauriac on the front page of Le Figaro, Sagan was known for works with strong romantic themes involving wealthy and disillusioned bourgeois characters. Her best-known novel was her first – Bonjour Tristesse (1954) – which was written when she was a teenager.
Sagan was born in Cajarc (Lot) and spent her early childhood in Lot, surrounded by animals, a passion that stayed with her throughout her life. Nicknamed 'Kiki', she was the youngest child of bourgeois parents – her father a company director, and her mother the daughter of landowners. Her family spent the war in the Dauphiné, then in the Vercors. Her paternal great-grandmother was Russian from Saint Petersburg. She failed her baccalauréat in 1953. Though notorious all her life for her extravagant lifestyle, she would later attend school but without graduating.
Her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), was published in 1954, when she was 18 years old, and it was an immediate international success. It concerns the life of pleasure-driven 17-year-old Cécile, in particular her relationship with her boyfriend and her adulterous, playboy father. Her pseudonym was taken from a character ("Princesse de Sagan") in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).
Sagan's characters became something of an icon for disillusioned teenagers, in some ways similar to those of J.D. Salinger. During a literary career lasting until 1998, she produced dozens of works, many of which have been filmed. She maintained the austere style of the French psychological novel even while the nouveau roman was in vogue. The conversations between her characters are often considered to contain existential undertones. In addition to novels, plays, and autobiography, she wrote song lyrics and screenplays.
In the 1960s, Sagan became more devoted to writing plays, which, though lauded for excellent dialogue, were only moderately successful. Afterward, she concentrated on her career as a novelist.
Sagan was married twice: to Guy Schoeller (married 13 March 1958, an editor with Hachette, 20 years older than Sagan, divorced June 1960) and to Bob Westhof (a young American playboy and would-be ceramicist, married 10 January 1962, divorced 1963; their son Denis was born in June 1963). She took a lesbian long-term lover, fashion stylist Peggy Roche, and had a male lover, Bernard Frank, a married essayist obsessed with reading and eating. She added to her self-styled "family" by beginning a long-term lesbian affair with the French Playboy magazine editor Annick Geille, after she approached Sagan for an article for her magazine.
Fond of traveling in the United States, she was often seen with Truman Capote and Ava Gardner. On 14 April 1957, while driving her Aston-Martin sports car, she was involved in an accident that left her in a coma for some time. She also loved driving her Jaguar automobile to Monte Carlo for gambling sessions.
In the 1990s Sagan was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine.
At various times of her life, Sagan was addicted to a number of drugs. She was a long-term user of prescription pills, amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol. When the police came for an inspection of her house, her dog Banko showed cocaine to them and also licked the cocaine. Sagan told the police, "Look! He likes it too."
Her health was reported to be poor in the 2000s. In 2002 she was unable to appear at a trial that convicted her of tax fraud in a case involving the former French President François Mitterrand, and she received a suspended sentence. Françoise Sagan died of a pulmonary embolism in Honfleur, Calvados, on 24 September 2004 at the age of 69. At her own request she was buried at her beloved birthplace, Cajarc.
In his memorial statement, the French President Jacques Chirac said: "With her death, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive writers – an eminent figure of our literary life."
- "To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter."
- When asked if she believed in love: "Are you joking? I believe in passion. Nothing else. Two years, no more. All right, then: three.”
- "A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off you."
- "I have loved to the point of madness, that which is called madness, that which to me is the only sensible way to love."
- "La vitesse n’est ni un signe, ni une preuve, ni une provocation, ni un défi, mais un élan de bonheur" (Speed is no sign, no proof, no provocation, no challenge, but rather a surge of happiness); quote from her book "Avec mon meilleur souvenir"
- Bonjour tristesse (1954, (Hello Sadness), translated 1955)
- Un certain sourire (1955, A Certain Smile, translated 1956)
- Dans un mois, dans un an (1957, Those Without Shadows, translated 1957)
- Aimez-vous Brahms? (1959, translated 1960)
- Les merveilleux nuages (1961, Wonderful Clouds, translated 1961)
- La chamade (1965, translated 1966 as La Chamade; newly translated 2009 as That Mad Ache)
- Le garde du cœur (1968, The Heart-Keeper, translated 1968)
- Un peu de soleil dans l'eau froide (1969, Sunlight on Cold Water, translated 1971)
- Des bleus à l'âme (1972, Scars on the Soul, translated 1974)
- Un profil perdu (1974, Lost Profile, translated 1976)
- Le lit défait (1977, The Unmade Bed, translated 1978)
- Le chien couchant (1980, translated 1984)
- La femme fardée (1981, The Painted Lady, translated 1983)
- Un orage immobile (1983, The Still Storm, translated 1984)
- De guerre lasse (1985, Engagements of the Heart, translated 1987)
- Un sang d'aquarelle (1987, Painting in Blood, translated 1991)
- La laisse (1989, The Leash, translated 1991)
- Les faux-fuyants (1991, Evasion, translated 1993)
- Un chagrin de passage (1994, A Fleeting Sorrow, translated 1995)
- Le miroir égaré (1996)
Short story collections
- Les yeux de soie (1975, Silken Eyes, translated 1977)
- Musiques de scène (1981, Incidental Music, translated 1983)
- La maison de Raquel Vega (1985)
- Château en Suède (Château in Sweden) (1960)
- Les violons parfois (1961)
- La robe mauve de Valentine (1963)
- Bonheur, impair et passe (1964)
- L'écharde (1966)
- Le cheval évanoui (1966)
- Un piano dans l'herbe (1970)
- Il fait beau jour et nuit (1978)
- L'excès contraire (1987)
- Toxique (1964, journal, translated 1965)
- Réponses (1975, Night Bird: Conversations with Françoise Sagan, translated 1980)
- Avec mon meilleur souvenir (1984, With Fondest Regards, translated 1985)
- Au marbre: chroniques retrovées 1952–1962 (1988, chronicles)
- Répliques (1992, interviews)
- ...Et toute ma sympathie (1993, a sequel to Avec mon meilleur souvenir)
- Derrière l'épaule (1998, autobiography)
Published posthumously by L'Herne:
- Bonjour New-York (2007)
- Un certain regard (2008, compilation of material from Réponses and Répliques)
- Maisons louées (2008)
- Le régal des chacals (2008)
- Au cinéma (2008)
- De très bons livres (2008)
- La petite robe noire (2008)
- Lettre de Suisse (2008)
- Brigitte Bardot (1975)
- Sarah Bernhardt, ou le rire incassable (1987, Dear Sarah Bernhardt, translated 1988)
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