Bonjour Tristesse

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For the film adaptation, see Bonjour Tristesse (film).
Bonjour Tristesse
BonjourTristesse.jpg
First English edition
Author Françoise Sagan
Country France
Language French
Publisher Rene Julliard (France)
John Murray (UK)
Publication date
1954
Published in English
1955
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA

Bonjour Tristesse (French, "Hello Sadness") is a novel by Françoise Sagan. Published in 1954, when the author was only 18, it was an overnight sensation. The title is derived from a poem by Paul Éluard, "À peine défigurée", which begins with the lines "Adieu tristesse/Bonjour tristesse..." A film adaptation appeared in 1958.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Seventeen-year-old Cécile spends her summer in a villa on the French Riviera with her father and his mistress. Her father, Raymond, is a seductive, worldly, amoral man who has had many affairs. His latest woman friend is Elsa Mackenbourg: she and Cécile get on well. When Elsa comes to the villa to spend her summer with Raymond, it is clear that she is the latest of many women whom Cécile has seen enter the life of her father and exit fairly quickly: young, superficial, and fashionable. Raymond excuses his philandering with an Oscar Wilde quote about sin: "Sin is the only note of vivid colour that persists in the modern world." Cécile says, "I believed that I could base my life on it",[2] and accepts their lifestyle as typical. Cécile, at 17, is still somewhat naïve and tries to disguise this by attempting to attract men of the same age as her father. Her love life is unsuccessful until she meets a man in his 20s, Cyril, with whom she has a romantic but ultimately dissatisfying relationship.

Raymond, Elsa and Cécile are spending an uneventful summer together until Anne Larsen arrives by way of an earlier invitation from Raymond. A friend of Cécile's late mother, Anne is very different from Raymond's other girlfriends. She is cultured, educated, principled, intelligent, and is his age. Raymond eventually leaves Elsa for Anne, and the next morning Anne and Raymond announce their impending marriage. At first, Cécile admires Anne, but soon a struggle begins between Cécile and Anne for Raymond's attentions. The plot begins to focus on the relationship between the two women. Realizing that Anne will do away with their carefree lifestyle, Cécile devises a plan to prevent the marriage.

She arranges for Elsa and Cyril to pretend to be a couple, and to appear together at specific moments in the hopes of making Raymond jealous of Cyril so that if Raymond decides he wants Elsa back, he'll leave Anne. Cécile is jealous and desperate for Anne to recognize the life she and her father have shared, but she misjudges Anne's sensitivity with tragic results. When Raymond finally relents and goes into town to see Elsa, Anne leaves, only to drive her car off a cliff in a suspected suicide after she sees Elsa and Raymond in the woods together. It is later known that they were kissing.

Cécile and her father return to the empty, desultory life they were living before Anne interrupted their summer.

Characters[edit]

Cécile, a 17-year-old girl who lives with her father after her mother died when she was two.

Raymond, Cécile's father, a 40-year-old widower and philanderer.

Elsa, Raymond's mistress at the start of the book. She is 29 and tall, with red hair.

Anne, a friend of Cécile's mother, is 42. She is invited to the villa by Raymond when they begin a relationship and get engaged.

Cyril, a 26-year-old student at university studying law, who lives with his mother. He is good at sailing and is in love with Cécile.

Analysis[edit]

The book is split into two parts; during the first part Cécile is very naïve and behaves like a young child. In the second part she is more mature and acts more like an adult.

One of the most important use of symbols is that of the sea and the sun. The sea is a maternal symbol and the sun a paternal symbol. Throughout the book, Françoise Sagan uses the sea to show Cécile is missing her mother. For example, when she realises that she is losing an argument with Anne, she runs to the sea, as a child runs to their mother when something goes wrong.

There are numerous references to the fact that Cécile is missing the presence of a mother figure. Anne Larsen tries to fill this role; in the first part of the book Cecile accepts this, but as she "grows up", she begins to resent Anne.

Some argue that Cécile lacks a father as well, even though Raymond is present. Raymond's behavior is immature and he doesn't treat his daughter like a child or even a teenager. He buys her an exotic dress and takes her to casinos. This behaviour confuses Cécile and she does not know whether she is supposed to act like an adult or a teenager.

When Anne arrives she treats Cécile as a child, adding further confusion to Cécile's life.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Camper, Fred (1999). Bodies in Motion
  2. ^ Gleeson, Sinéad (2004). Bibliofemme review