Michel Déon

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Michel Déon
Michel Déon au salon du livre de Paris 2012.jpg
Born Édouard Michel
August 4, 1919 (1919-08-04) (age 94)
Paris, France
Occupation Writer, playwright, editor
Language French
Genres Novels, essays, theater
Literary movement Hussards
Notable work(s) Les Poneys sauvages (1970)
Un taxi mauve (1973)
Le Jeune Homme vert (1975)
Notable award(s) Prix Interallié
Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française
Commander of the Legion of Honour
Académie française, Seat 8

Michel Déon (French: [deɔ̃]; born 4 August 1919) is a French novelist and literary columnist.

With Antoine Blondin, Jacques Laurent and Roger Nimier, he belonged to the literary group of the Hussards.

Over the course of his career, Déon has published over 50 works. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Prix Interallié for his 1970 novel, Les Poneys Sauvages (The Wild Ponies). Déon’s 1973 novel, Un Taxi Mauve won him international attention when it received the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française. His novels have been translated into numerous languages. He is considered one of the most innovative French writers of the 21st century. In 1978, Déon was elected to the Académie française.

Déon is the son of an affluent French civil servant who died in Monaco in 1933 while serving as advisor to Prince Louis in 1933. Upon his father’s death, Déon and his mother moved to Paris, where he became a student of law. Later, as a young soldier serving in World War II, Déon initiated his writing career. He received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that allowed him to travel in the United States and work alongside William Faulkner and Saul Bellow.

Few of his works has been translated into English.

Early years[edit]

Michel Déon was born in Paris on 4 August 1919, the only child of a civil servant and his wife. His father took his family along on the many foreign trips his work required, stimulating his son's interest in travel and cross-cultural relations that came to define his writings. Déon's father died while on assignment in Monaco in 1933, and he and his mother returned to Paris, where Déon attended secondary school at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly. Although he was passionate about literature and journalism, Déon acquiesced to familial pressure and studied law in college.

Born just one year after the end of World War I, he adopted the pacifism popular with many others of his generation. Nevertheles, he was drafted into the French military. He was assigned to the 152nd regiment under General de Lattre and served alongside Charles Maurras, a member of the Académie française since 1938. He joined Maurras in championing Action Française, a counter-revolutionary, monarchist political movement that dated to 1898. Many members of Action Française opposed the French government, and some, like Maurras, even adopted a pro-German stance. At the end of the war, Maurras was imprisoned for treason and expelled from l’Académie française. While Déon never became a royalist, Maurras did instill in him a great defiance for both democracy and fascism. Déon claims his main belief is in freedom, both in life and for the individual.

Career[edit]

With the end of World War II, Michel Déon returned to Paris to dedicate himself to a literary career. In the beginning, Déon worked for a series of small-press French newspapers to support himself while drafting a novel and short stories. His first collection of short stories, Adieux à Sheila, was published in 1944.

Shortly after his first publication, Déon received a Rockefeller Foundation grant that supported his travels through the United States. While there, on a mission to craft his voice as a writer, Déon worked alongside William Faulkner and Saul Bellow. This triumvirate proved beneficial for all parties involved. Déon assisted Bellow in translating his works into French.

This period sought a significant development in Déon's writing style that won him international acclaim. Alongside his contemporary French writers, including Jacques Laurent, Antoine Blondin, and Roger Nimier, Déon staunchly opposed the existentialism of Sartre and other prominent cultural figures. Déon and his fellow authors became known as Les Hussards, named after Nimier's novel, Le Hussar Blue (The Blue Horseman), recognized for their innovative unconventionality, sympathy for the bizarre underdog, and pervasive refusal of fashionable themes and tone.

Roland Laudenbach and Jean Cocteau founded Les éditions de La Table ronde (The Round Table) in 1944. This French publishing house proved an instrumental component to the Les Hussards movement, publishing works by many of its authors. The Round Table published several of Déon's novels, including Les Gens de la Nuit, La Carotte et le Bâton, and Tout L'Amour du Monde II. Déon benefited from this relationship later in his career. Since the Round Table became a subsidiary of Éditions Gallimard around 1970, they have published more than twenty of Déon's works.

In 1970, Déon's novel Les Poneys Sauvages (The Wild Ponies) was awarded the Prix Interallié, given annually since 1930. Recipients of this award are considered the best novels written by journalists.

Déon wrote his critical masterpiece in 1973. Un Taxi Mauve (A Purple Taxi) became an immediate literary sensation, winning the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie française. Of the sixty awards given out each year by the Académie française, the Grand Prix du Roman is the top prize awarded to novels. Un Taxi Mauve was made into a film in 1977. The following year, 1978, Déon was elected to the Académie française.[1]

In addition to his numerous individual works and awards, Déon has collaborated with a series of distinguished public figures. In 1953, he assisted Coco Chanel in writing her autobiography, though she refused to have it published. Déon destroyed the only existing copy for the sake of his friendship with her. In 1966, Déon worked with Salvador Dalí on the artist's memoirs, Diary of a Genius.

Personal life[edit]

Much of Déon's work engages his experience via travel to such locations as Switzerland, Italy, Canada, and Portugal. During the 1940s, he explored the United States by Greyhound Bus.

Déon is an affiliate member of the Portuguese Academy of Science and Letters. He is a doctor honoris causa at the universities of Athens and Ireland. He is also an honorary citizen of Nice, Aix-en-Provence, and Antibes. His works have been translated into many languages.

Déon and his wife Chantal raised their two children, Alice and Alexandre, on the small Greek island of Spetsai. When the children reached school age in 1968, France was in a state of upheaval. The Déon family settled in Ireland. For over forty years, Déon and his family have made Ireland their home, raising Chantal's fifty horses, and writing masterpieces on his Louis XVI desk. Déon visits France frequently.

Novels[edit]

Les Poneys Sauvages (1970) begins in 1937, as students George, Barry, Cyril, and Horace, each of varying backgrounds, complete their educations at the University of Cambridge. As the decade ends, the group becomes tangled in the Second World War. Those who survive the war take the reader on a journey that spans three decades and covers all of Europe, from Italy to Poland and back to Paris. As the friends age, they learn that the past is not forgotten quickly. A story of murder, intrigue, and revenge Les Poneys Sauvage is an historical epic set in the years before and after World War II. In 1981, it was the basis of a six-part television series that starred Hélène Vincent.

Un Taxi Mauve (1973) follows the story of a group of troubled European and American expatriates who have settled in rural Ireland – each for his own reason. Living in a self-punishing exile, the interactions among the group create a tangle of love and deceit. An English-language film based on the novel, released in 1977 and called The Purple Taxi in English, starred Fred Astaire, Charlotte Rampling, and Philippe Noiret.[2]

In Le Jeune Homme Vert (1975), the infant Jean, born in 1919, is adopted by a wealthy couple. The novel follows his adventures until he joins the French army at the start of World War II. Diane Johnson compared him to Fielding's 'Tom Jones, noting how "his picaresque adventures unfold in cheerful profusion, in and out of foreign countries and strange beds". She also recommended the novel for its depiction of the European political climate in the years between the world wars.[3] A sequel, Les Vingt Ans du Jeune Homme Vert, appeared in 1977.

In Un Souvenir (1990), Edward has just passed his sixtieth year and is beginning to consider himself an old man. Having acquiesced to becoming a geriatric, he is plunged into the past when he finds an old photograph from 1936. The photo is of his young self, hugging a beautiful girl named Sheila, an obscure yet unforgettable woman he met in Essex, England, during the war. Despite his age, he returns to England to find Sheila and come to terms with the regret and guilt at having lost her.

In Pages Grecques, (1993) Déon explores the multi-layered mythical and factual history of Greek culture. An eastern country responsibility for the civilizations of the West, Greece is saturated by stories on life and love. Employing the gods, muses, and legendary Greek figures, Déon weaves Greece's dual histories to create a beautiful and inspiring picture of the culture.

La Cour Des Grands (1996) follows the life of Arthur Morgan, a man from humble beginnings. The son of an impoverished French widow, Morgan is offered a first class ticket by boat to the United States in 1950. He enacts the elements of the American dream, graduating college and moving to New York City to become a successful stockbroker. When he returns to France in the face of family tragedy, he is forced to reconcile his new life with a past life, which proves shocking as he sees what his old friends have become.

Cavalier, passé ton chemin! (2005) offers a social history of the Irish people that rides the line between fact and fiction. Exploring the country's extraordinary folklore and cultural legends, Déon examines the nation's collective identity. Engaging legend and law, Déon offers a glimpse of contemporary Ireland.

English translations[edit]

An English translation of Un déjeuner de soleil appeared in 1983 (UK) and 1989 (US) as Where are you dying tonight?.[4] Evans also translated Le Jeune Homme vert as The Foundling Boy, which appeared in 2014, and the publisher, Gallic Books, announced plans to publish a translation of the sequel, Les Vingt Ans du Jeune Homme Vert as The Foundling's War.[5]

Bibliography[edit]

  • 1944 Adieux à Sheila (Robert Laffont)
  • 1946 Amours perdues (Bordas)
  • 1950 Je ne veux jamais l'oublier (Plon)
  • 1952 La Corrida (Plon)
  • 1954 Le Dieu pâle (Plon)
  • 1955 Tout l'amour du monde I, récits (Plon)
  • 1955 Plaisirs (Editions de Paris) sous le nom de Michel Férou
  • 1956 Lettre à un jeune Rastignac, libelle (Fasquelle)
  • 1956 Les Trompeuses Espérances (Plon)
  • 1958 Les Gens de la nuit (La Table ronde)
  • 1960 La Carotte et le Bâton (La Table ronde)
  • 1960 Tout l'amour du monde II, récits (La Table ronde)
  • 1964 Louis XIV par lui-même (Gallimard)
  • 1965 Le Rendez-vous de Patmos, récits (Gallimard)
  • 1967 Un parfum de jasmin (Gallimard)
  • 1967 Mégalonose (La Table ronde)
  • 1970 Les Poneys sauvages (Gallimard), Prix Interallié
  • 1973 Un taxi mauve (Gallimard), (Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française)
  • 1975 Le Jeune Homme vert (Gallimard)
  • 1975 Thomas et l'infini, récit pour enfants, illustrated by Étienne Delessert (Gallimard)
  • 1977 Les Vingt Ans du jeune homme vert (Gallimard)
  • 1981 Un déjeuner de soleil (Gallimard)[6]
  • 1984 Je vous écris d'Italie (Gallimard)
  • 1987 La Montée du soir (Gallimard)
  • 1987 Ma vie n'est plus un roman (Gallimard)
  • 1990 Un souvenir (Gallimard)
  • 1992 Le Prix de l'amour (Gallimard)
  • 1992 Ariane ou l'oubli (Gallimard)
  • 1993 Pages grecques, récits (Le Balcon de Spetsai, Le Rendez-vous de Patmos, Spetsai revisité) (Gallimard)
  • 1993 Parlons-en… (in collaboration with Alice Déon) (Gallimard)
  • 1995 Je me suis beaucoup promené… (La Table ronde)
  • 1995 Une longue amitié, lettres d'André Fraigneau et Michel Déon (La Table ronde)
  • 1995 Le Flâneur de Londres (Robert Laffont)
  • 1996 La Cour des grands (Gallimard)
  • 1998 Madame Rose (Albin Michel)
  • 1999 Pages françaises, récits (Mes arches de Noé, Bagages pour Vancouver, Post-Scriptum) (Gallimard)
  • 2001 Taisez-vous… j'entends venir un ange (Gallimard)
  • 2002 Une affiche bleue et blanche (Gallimard)
  • 2002 Mentir est tout un art (Le Rocher)
  • 2004 La Chambre de ton père (Gallimard)
  • 2005 Cavalier, passe ton chemin! (Gallimard)
  • 2006 Œuvres (Gallimard)
  • 2009 Lettres de château (Gallimard)
  • 2009 Cahier Déon (L'Herne). Previously unpublished documents, essays and letters.
  • 2009 Journal (L'Herne)
  • 2011 Nouvelles complètes (Gallimard)
  • 2011 Tout l'amour du monde
  • 2013 À la légère (Finitude)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Krebs, Albin (9 June 1978). "Notes on People". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (19 February 1982). "1977 Purple Taxi". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Diane (13 June 2014). "European Pastoral". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "Where are you dying tonight?". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Foundling Boy". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Bourdain, G.S. (18 June 2014). "Fiction". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 

External links[edit]