French literary icon Sagan dies

Posted: October 2, 2007 in French Literature

Best-selling French novelist Francoise Sagan has died in the north-western town of Honfleur aged 69.

She died of heart and lung failure a few days after being admitted to a local hospital.

Sagan published her first and best-known work Bonjour Tristesse – an anthem to disillusioned youth – in 1954 at the age of just 18.

She produced more than 40 novels and plays, including A Certain Smile, Incidental Music and The Painted Lady.

She had been ill for several years and was taken to the hospital earlier this week, hospital officials said.

With her passing, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive authors
President Jacques Chirac

She had been staying in the Normandy town of Honfleur, and passed away with a close friend and her son by her side, a hospital official told French radio.

French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin immediately paid her emotional tributes.

Mr Chirac called Sagan “a leading figure in her generation” who helped raise the status of women in France.

“With her passing, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive authors…

“With finesse, emotion and subtlety, Francoise Sagan explored the spirit and passions of the human heart,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

Mr Raffarin called Sagan “a smile – one that was melancholy, enigmatic, distant, and yet joyous”.

Early literary success

Sagan was born into a wealthy family in the south-west of France in 1935.

She was expelled from her convent school and took seven weeks in the summer of 1953 to write her most important work.

She was the archetype of the teenage rebel in a post-war Paris abuzz with jazz and existentialism, says correspondent Hugh Schofield in Paris.

Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) tells the story of a bored, bourgeois teenager who filled the emptiness of her existence by conspiring to destroy her father’s new girlfriend.

It was about adolescence, love and loneliness, and it had an immediate echo in a world looking for new ways of expressing emotion and human identity, Hugh Schofield says.

The novel gained instant success because of its irreverent tone and was considered at the time shocking because of the emotional intimacy and subversive subtext.

It was later translated into 22 languages and sold five million copies around the world.

Later in her life, Sagan proved just as controversial, collecting a number of convictions for tax fraud and drug abuse. She was also known for her love of gambling and fast cars.

“The laws are made to be adapted to people and not the other way round. I have always advised everyone against cocaine,” she said at the time of one of the convictions.



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