Emmanuelle Arsan

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Emmanuelle Arsan
Marayat Andriane (1967).jpg
Born Marayat Bibidh
(1932-01-19)19 January 1932
Bangkok, Thailand
Died 12 June 2005
Chantelouve, France
Pen name Marayat, Marayat Andriane, Marajat, Kramsaseddinsh, Krasaesundh, Krassaesibor, Virajjakkam, Virajjakam, Virajjakari
Occupation Writer, novelist, actress

Marayat Rollet-Andriane (born Marayat Bibidh, 19 January 1932 – 12 June, 2005), known by the pen name Emmanuelle Arsan, was a French novelist of Eurasian origin, best known for creating the fictional character Emmanuelle, a woman who sets out on a voyage of sexual self-discovery under varying circumstances.[1]

Early life[edit]

Arsan was born Marayat Bibidh on 19 January 1932 at Bangkok, Thailand, in an aristocratic Siamese family closely connected to the royal family.[2] Marayat grew up in her family’s home in the affluent Ekkamai district of the Thai capital, where reportedly she initially discovered her sexuality in the company of her little sister Vasana.[3] After attending primary school in Thailand, Marayat’s parents sent her to Switzerland to continue her studies at the extremely selective Institut Le Rosey boarding school, located in the Swiss town of Rolle, Canton of Vaud, which offered a bilingual English-French education to the offspring of the international elite. It was at a ball there in 1948, that the 16-year-old Marayat first met her future husband, the 30-year-old French diplomat Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane. Although it was love at first sight, they did not marry until 1956 and settled in Thailand, where Louis-Jacques was given a diplomatic posting at the UNESCO mission in Bangkok.

Bangkok in the late 1950s was a relatively small, secretive and highly respectable city which was not yet the open-air brothel that it would become during the mid-1960s and early 1970s. (This was partially due to the Vietnam War, when thousands of off-duty U.S. servicemen assigned to the US Air Force airbases in Thailand flooded its streets in search of cheap sex, soon to be followed by western tourists after 1975). It was within the selective atmosphere of the Sports Club that Louis-Jacques and Marayat, with their hedonistic philosophy of communal sex, quickly created a sensation among the expat interlopers, diplomats, pseudo-spies, bored spouses and jet-setters that drifted in and out. As a result, the couple’s reputation soon spread beyond the restricted circle of the initiated and turned the Thai capital into a popular destination for swingers. It was also at this point that they made their first encounter with the idle Italian Prince Dado Ruspoli, who belonged to the international playboy elite of the 1950s and whose discourse on sex had a profound impact on Marayat and Louis-Jacques, who immediately elected Dado as their ‘spiritual guide’ and ‘high priest of love’.[4]

In 1963, Louis-Jacques was posted to Italy, and the couple resided in both Venice and Rome for five years, where they met again with Dado Ruspoli, who introduced them to the high society of transalpine libertinage.[5] From 1968 to 1980, Marayat and her husband often alternated between Paris and Bangkok.

Literary career[edit]

The novel Emmanuelle was initially published and distributed clandestinely in France without an author's name in 1959. Successive editions later bore the moniker Emmanuelle Arsan, who was subsequently revealed to be Marayat Rollet-Andriane. Though the novel was sometimes hinted to be a quasi-autobiography, it was later revealed that the actual author was her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane.[6][7][8] Several more novels were published under the Emmanuelle Arsan moniker.[9]

Following the success of the film adaptation Emmanuelle (1974) directed by Just Jaeckin, Arsan was the titular director and script-writer of the film Laure (1976) about the sexual discoveries of a younger "Emmanuelle" named Laure, again in an exotic setting. The film was in fact directed by Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane and by Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli,[10] though Rollet-Andriane, reportedly frustrated with his collaboration with the producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, asked for the Emmanuelle Arsan name not to be associated to the project, resulting in the film being credited to an anonymous director.[8]

She and her husband Rollet-Andriane, in association with Just Jaeckin, even published in France the erotic magazine Emmanuelle, le magazine du plaisir (‘Emmanuelle, the pleasure magazine’), from 1974 to 1976, contributing with photographs and texts.[11]

Film and TV career[edit]

Arsan also appeared on screen under the stage name Marayat Andriane in the film The Sand Pebbles (1966) and in an episode of the American series The Big Valley ("Turn of a Card", 1967). Although Marayat actually signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, she never worked as an actress for that company again.[12] Her only other film appearance, credited as Emmanuelle Arsan, was in Laure, which was also released under the title Forever Emmanuelle.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Marayat spoke fluent Thai, French and English. Her hobbies and passions included writing, reading, photography, cinema and antiques, among others. Marayat was married only once, to the French writer, novelist and diplomat Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane; the couple had two daughters. She is known to have had relationships with the French beatnik writer, mime and photographer, Théo Lesouac’h,[14] and allegedly with the American actor Steve McQueen during the shooting of The Sand Pebbles, although what really went on between them remains a mystery.[15]

Later life[edit]

At the beginning of the 1980s, Louis-Jacques and Marayat eventually decided to settle down for a much quieter life in France. An Iranian friend offered the couple a plot of land in the south of the country, near the commune of Callas, in the Var. It was in this woodland domain they constructed their retirement place, Chantelouve d’Emmanuelle, an isolated single-storey house built around a vast patio. Louis-Jacques continued with his writing, happy to correspond with Emmanuelle’s fans under his old pen name Emmanuelle Arsan, while Marayat, her dreams of stardom far behind her, was content to grow old gracefully, with the occasional visit to Bangkok. It was at this point that Nitya Phenkun entered their lives. She was an old acquaintance of Louis-Jacques, being his secretary (and mistress) during his diplomatic posting in Bangkok and on moving to Chantelouve, she took up her former functions, reportedly forming a threesome with the Rollet-Andriane couple.[16]

Illness and death[edit]

However, their idyll was shattered in 2001, when Marayat suddenly fell ill. She was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a rare and incurable genetic disease which had first given her trouble at the age of 20. After a period of remission that lasted for 49 years, the disease returned and attacked her legs, causing her acute suffering and rapidly affecting her mobility. Her health condition further deteriorated when gangrene rapidly ensued and both of her legs had to be amputated above the knee. She was therefore forced to spend the remaining four years of her life bedridden, treated at home by a private nurse. Marayat Rollet-Andriane died in 12 June 2005 at Chantelouve, aged 73; her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane joined her three years later, in April 2008.[17] Nitya Phenkun, sole beneficiary of the copyrights of Emmanuelle, returned to Thailand soon after Louis-Jacques’ death and Chantelouve is up for sale.[18]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The New York Times
  2. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 130.
  3. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 132.
  4. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 130.
  5. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 133.
  6. ^ Magazine-litteraire.com
  7. ^ Francis Leroi, 70, années érotiques, éditions La Musardine, 1999.
  8. ^ a b Laure
  9. ^ Bibliographie d'Emmanauelle Arsan
  10. ^ Ovidio G. Assonitis, Beyond the Screen. Il cinema di Ovidio G. Assonitis, "Nocturno dossier", n° 82, May 2009, pp. 46–51.
  11. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), pp. 131; 133-134.
  12. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 128.
  13. ^ Forever Emmanuelle, IMDB
  14. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), pp. 130-132.
  15. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 128.
  16. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 134.
  17. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 134.
  18. ^ Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme (2014), p. 134.


  • Clovis Goux, Emmanuelle était un homme, Lui magazine n.º 4, 4 February 2014, pp. 128-134.
  • Francis Leroi, 70, années érotiques, éditions La Musardine, 1999.
  • Ovidio G. Assonitis, Beyond the Screen. Il cinema di Ovidio G. Assonitis, "Nocturno dossier", n.° 82, May 2009, pp. 46–51.

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