Françoise Sagan (June 21, 1935 – September 24, 2004) born Françoise Quarez in Cajac, France was a French novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. Her nom de plume was inspired by the Princesse de Sagan, Marcel Proust’s favorite author. She and her siblings were raised in an upper-middle class family in France.
Bonjour Tristesse and the start of a prolific career
After graduating from Paris schools, in 1952 she began her university study at the Sorbonne. Within a year, she began writing Bonjour Tristesse. It was published in 1954, the author only 18 years old. The book was an instant phenomenon, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in a short time. Soon, it was translated into more than a dozen languages. With this distraction, Sagan lost interest in her studies and dropped out.
The success of her first novel was followed closely with Un Certain Sourire (A Certain Smile) in 1956 and Dans un Mois, Dans un An (Those Without Shadows) in 1957. Her works presented romantic storylines with touches of existentialism, and were populated with rich, often dissolute characters. They went on to sell millions of copies worldwide.
Sagan continued to live in Paris, working on song lyrics, screenplays and more. Writing plays began capturing more of her interest. Though well received critically, they weren’t as successful as her novels, and she eventually returned to fiction.
Read a review of Bonjour Tristesse
Marriages and relationships
Her first husband, who she married in 1958, was twenty years older than she, and the couple divorced after two years. Sagan married an American artist in 1962 and and had a son (Dennis Westhoff) with him; the marriage dissolved the following year. She had a number of affairs, including a long-term same-sex relationship with Annick Geille, the editor of French Playboy.
Sagan developed a taste for sports cars, and was nearly killed in a crash that left her in a coma in 1957. She became so well known as a speed demon that her exports behind the wheel made the newspapers with nearly as much frequency as her writing.
She was also a drug user and sometimes addict — prescription pills, cocaine, amphetamines, as well as alcohol. Some called her a free spirit, others described her as self-destructive. Either way, her habits didn’t seem to get in the way of her writing, as she was incredibly prolific, producing dozens of works in various genres.
Death and legacy
Her turbulent life eventually caught up with her health; she spent her last few years ill and and she died in 2004 of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 69. Her passing was noted by then-president Jacques Chirac, who state: “With her death, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive writers — an eminent figure of our literary life.”
You might also like: Françoise Sagan Quotes on Love, Life, and Writing
Sagan’s output was prodigious and included plays, short story collections, and posthumous works not in the list below of a selection of her novels and short story collections.
- Bonjour Tristesse (1954, 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)
- Le Garde du Cœur (1968, The Heart-Keeper, translated 1968)
- La Chamade (1969)
- Un Profil Perdu (1974, Lost Profile, translated 1976)
- Les Yeux de Soie (1975, Silken Eyes, short stories, translated 1977)
- Le Lit Défait (1977, The Unmade Bed, translated 1978)
- Le Chien Couchant (1980, Salad Days, translated 1984)
- Musiques de Scène (1981, Incidental Music, short stories, translated 1983)
- Les Faux-Fuyants (1991, Evasion, translated 1993)
- Un Chagrin de Passage (1994, A Fleeting Sorrow, translated 1995)
Biographies and autobiographies
- Toxique (1964, journal, translated 1965)
- Réponses (1975, Conversations with Françoise Sagan, translated 1980)
- Avec Mon Meilleur Souvenir (1984, With Fondest Regards, translated 1985)
- Et Toute Ma Sympathie (1993, sequel to above)
- Derrière l’Epaule (1998, autobiography)
- Sagan et Fils by Dennis Westhoff (Sagan’s son)
Articles, news, etc.
- Sagan’s 2004 obituary
- Rhapsody to My Bohemian Mother
- Françoise Sagan: She Did What She Wanted
- 1956 Interview in Paris Reviews
- Sagan (biopic) – 1968
- John Kaiser Collection of Françoise Sagan at Penn State University
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