Title: Bonjour Tristesse (Goodreads)
Author: Françoise Sagan
Translator: Heather Lloyd
Published: Penguin, 2013
My Copy: Paperback
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
Françoise Sagan become an overnight sensation in 1954 which the publication of her first novel Bonjour Tristesse. At the age of 18, she published the novel she will be remembered for; the story of Cécile, a seventeen year old living with her widowed father and his mistress on the French Riviera. During an uneventful summer, an old friend of her late mother comes and stirs the peaceful balance of their summer villa.
Not knowing much about Françoise Sagan, I could not determine just how autobiographical Bonjour Tristesse might have been. I do know that Sagan, much like Cécile was kicked out of school and both enjoyed the bourgeois lifestyle. Sagan is a pseudonym (real name Françoise Quoirez) that was taken from the character Princesse de Sagan from Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perd (In Search of Lost Time). I expect that much of this novel is semi-autobiographical because she managed to perfectly capture the narcissism, emotions and angst of teenage life.
In 1955, a censored translation of Bonjour Tristesse hit the shelves for English speaking readers. It was only recently with Heather Lloyd’s translation that we able to enjoy an uncensored edition. Not that there was much of a reference to sex in the novel anyway. This new translation also packaged Françoise Sagan’s second novel, A Certain Smile into the one book. A novel about Dominique, who bored with her lover, starts an affair with a much older married man.
I found that Françoise Sagan likes to play with ideas of morality and pleasure, while also exploring just how problematic a wealthy and carefree life can be. She likes to look at the disillusionment of the bourgeois characters and explore the emotions that she must have been facing herself. In a lot of ways, I tend to associate the angsty style of Sagan with The Sorrows of Young Werther. Françoise Sagan and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe both managed to capture the intensity of emotions in their novels that I have not experienced in more recent books.
Bonjour Tristesse is a stronger novel than A Certain Smile, but I think both books are worth experiencing. I feel like Bonjour Tristesse had a depth that was not found in A Certain Smile. Both come in at about 120 pages each and A Certain Smile might have benefited with more pages, to fill in the plot and characters a lot more. I enjoy the style of Françoise Sagan and I hope to get a chance to read a few more of her other novels. I wonder what age and life experience does to her writing style.