“My love of pleasure seems to be the only consistent side of my character.”
Françoise Sagan (Full name: Françoise Quoirez)
She was a hedonistic, tomboy beauty who drove racing cars barefoot round Saint Tropez, won literary acclaim and took so many drugs that her pet fox-terrier overdosed from sniffing her handkerchiefs.
Francoise Quoirez –- she took the nom de plume Sagan after the Princesse de Sagan, a character in Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu –- grew up in a moneyed family, first in Lyon, and then in Paris. An indifferent student, she was nonetheless fascinated by literature. Her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, was published when she was barely nineteen years old. Bonjour Tristesse caused an immediate scandal in France, but despite the outrage of the bourgeoisie it climbed to the top of the bestseller lists. Sagan became a fixture on the French literary scene, known for her reckless lifestyle: drinking, drugs, fast sports cars, and gambling, and for her advocacy of sexual freedom in contrast to the traditional mores of France.
The writer said that in life she loves speed and excitement. These qualities were presented in her own life as well. After she nearly died in a car accident at the age of 22, she learned to value life in all its displays. However, this turned into an excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs.
In 1957, she crashed her Aston Martin, suffering horrific injuries and fuelling a lifelong addiction to morphine, tranquillisers and other drugs, often washed down with whisky. This was coupled with her constant dieting which one journalist said she turned into a “conceptual art form”. Travelling with her friend, the then French president François Mitterrand, to Colombia in 1985, she overdosed on cocaine in his helicopter but survived.
Of course, everything in life needs to be paid, and the fate of Sagan was not an exception to this rule: after Fortune’s smiles, tragedies overtook her: car accidents, drug overdoses, illness and poverty. However, Sagan did not lose her spirits and believed that the only thing she could not bear was a feeling of longing. After a divorce from her second husband, she said: “Family life is some kind of asparagus with vinegar. Such a dish is not for me! ” The triviality of life frightened her more than death, and she again and again released novels full of life.
Here are the best ones:
Bonjour tristesse 1954 (Hello Sadness)
A student of the monastery boarding house Cecile spends summer vacations in her father’s villa on the Cote d’Azur, has an affair and wants to get rid of father’s girlfriend Anna.
Un certain sourire 1955 (A Certain Smile)
A 20-year-old Sorbonne law student falls in love with her boyfriend’s uncle and spends her holidays in Cannes with him.
Dans un mois, dans un an 1957 (Those Without Shadows)
In a bohemian Parisian party, a love polygon occures between an actress, writer, director, literary critic, and a young physician.
Aimez-vous Brahms? 1959 (Do you like Brahms?)
At thirty-nine years old, Paule is a divorced interior designer. Roger, her lover, who is busy with important business, makes distant visits to her, which she awaits with a certain indolence. At a turning point in her life, and ultimately dissatisfied, she met Simon, the son of Mrs. Van Der Besh, a wealthy American customer. At 25 years of age, he is handsome, nonchalant, childish. He falls in love with Paule, courting her, falls passionately in love with her. Whom will she choose?
Les merveilleux nuages 1961 (Wonderful Clouds)
Frenchwoman Jose is married to the jealous American Alan; she cheats on him but does not dare to leave him.
La chamade 1965 (Heartbeat)
Like many of Sagan’s novels, this is a story of lost love. A couple meet and move in together, but the woman cannot get used to his life, his working-class existence. She leaves her lover to return to her affair with a man of means.
Un peu de soleil dans l’eau froide 1969 (Sunlight on Cold Water)
Gilles Latiner is thirty-five, attractive, with a beautiful mistress, and a job in Paris as a journalist. He seems to have all that life can offer. But suddenly he is overwhelmed by despair.
Des bleus à l’âme 1972 (Scars on the Soul)
Twins Sebastian and Eleanor van Milhem, from Castle in Sweden, are idle bourgeoisie. We follow them through romantic entanglements, ennui, and other existential crises.
Le lit défait 1977 (The Unmade Bed)
Five years earlier the beautiful actress Beatrice Valmont had broken gauche insurance broker Edouard Maligrasse’s heart. Now he is an acclaimed young playwright whose star is in the ascendant and suddenly she is attracted to him.”
Un chagrin de passage 1994 (A Fleeting Sorrow)
France’s renowned writer whose book Bonjour Tristesse sent shockwaves through literary circles over 40 years ago, recounts a story about a man whose imminent death liberates him to pursue the only woman he ever loved.