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

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 libertine.

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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