August 4, 1919
|Occupation||Writer, playwright, editor|
|Genres||Novels, essays, theater|
|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 (born 4 August 1919) is a French writer.
Over the course of his admirable 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 masterpiece, Un Taxi Mauve garnered him international renown when it received the esteemed title of the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française. His novels have been translated into numerous languages, delivering his unique voice across cultural and continental boundaries. He is considered one of the most innovative French writers of the 21st century.
For Michel Déon, immortality is not a dream – it is his reality. In 1978, Déon was granted the prestigious title that would commemorate a brilliant, forty-plus-year literary career. Dubbed “un immortel” (an immortal) by the Académie française, Déon is one of just forty members who are elected by their peers to serve for life, cementing his position as one of the forerunners of literature and all things related to the French Language.
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 legendary career. He received a significant grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, enabling him to travel to America to work alongside the likes of William Faulkner and Saul Bellow.
Despite the breadth of his European literary career, only one of his works has been translated for English-speaking audiences.
Michel Déon was born in Paris on 4 August 1919 – the only child to a civil servant and his wife. His father’s position required a great deal of travel, and Monsieur Déon was adamant that his family accompanied him – instilling in the budding writer an endless interest in travel and cross-cultural relations that would come to define his oeuvre. While on assignment in Monaco in 1933, Déon’s father died. He and his mother returned to Paris, where Déon attended secondary school at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly. Although he was passionate for literature and journalism, Déon acquiesced to familial pressure and studied law throughout college.
Born just one year after World War I, Michel Déon was a first-hand witness to post-war depression and its existential aftermath. Nearly everyone he knew as a youth had experienced some aspect of loss because of the war, and as a result, he and many others of his generation staunchly opposed entering more conflict. However, as the 1930s drew to a close, and the situation in Germany continued to worsen, it became apparent that France, and the greater majority of the Western world, would see military action once again.
Despite his anti-war position, Déon was eventually drafted into the French military and sent to train at Rion. He was assigned to the 152nd regiment under General de Lattre, and served alongside Charles Maurras, a future-fellow member of the Académie française. Upon the liberation of German concentration camps, and the exposure of the torture associated with the Holocaust, Déon's worldview was changed forever. As a result, he joined Maurras in championing Action Française, a counter-revolutionary, monarchist political movement that started in 1898. Many members of Action Française opposed the French government, and some, like Maurras, went as far as adopting a pro-German stance. At the end of the war, Maurras was imprisoned for his radical ideology, and suspended of all affiliation from l’Académie française. While Déon never became a royalist, Maurras did instill in him a great defiance for both democracy and its pseudo-opponent, fascism. Déon claims his main belief is in freedom, both in life and for the individual.
With the end of World War II, Michel Déon returned to Paris to dedicate himself to a career of letters. In the beginning, Déon worked for a series of small-press French newspapers to support himself and his early endeavors in 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 the illustrious Rockefeller Foundation grant that would enable his travels through America. While in the States, 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 – relishing each other’s guidance, Déon assisted Bellow in translating his works into French.
This period sought a significant development in Déon’s personal writing style that would come to garner him international acclaim from the greater literary world. Alongside his contemporary French writers, including Jacques Laurent, Antoine Blondin, and Roger Nimier, Déon staunchly opposed the post-war popular 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 thematics 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 printed several of Déon’s novels, including Les Gens de la Nuit, La Carotte et le Bâton, and Tout L'Amour du Monde II. Déon would prove to benefit from this relationship later in his career. Since the Round Table became a subsidiary of Gallimard Publishing circa 1970, they have published over twenty of Déon’s works.
In 1970, Déon’s novel Les Poneys Sauvages (The Wild Ponies) was awarded with the Prix Interallié. Given out annually since 1930, recipients of this award are considered the best novels written by journalists.
Michel Déon wrote his critical masterpiece in 1973. Un Taxi Mauve (A Purple Taxi) became an immediate literary sensation, winning the distinguished title of 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 individual novels. Subsequently, Un Taxi Mauve was made into a film in 1977, produced in both English and French. The following year, 1978, Déon was deemed “un immortel” by the Académie française.
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 the writing of her autobiography, despite the fact that she refused to have it published. Déon was dutiful in turn, and destroyed the only existing copy for the sake of his friendship with Chanel. Also, in 1966, Déon worked with Salvador Dalí on the artist's memoirs, Diary of a Genius.
Michel Déon has traveled the world in pursuit of literary truth. Finding endless inspiration in his surroundings, much of Déon's work engages his experience via travel to such locations as Switzerland, Italy, Canada, and Portugal. During the 1940s, he explored America by Greyhound Bus by merit of his Rockefeller Grant.
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 literary works have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Russian, Lithuanian, Indian, Japanese, and Polish. Only one of his works has been translated for English audiences.
As a young father, Déon and his wife Chantal raised their two children – Alice and Alexandre – on the small Greek island of Spetsai. However, when the children reached school age in 1968, France was in a state of upheaval. Therefore, the Déon family settled in Ireland. For over forty years, Déon and his family have made Ireland their home, taking pride in their everyday tasks such as raising Chantal's fifty horses, and writing masterpieces on his Louis XVI desk. Despite his love of travel, Déon is a frequent, loyal visitor of France.
Un Taxi Mauve follows the story of a group of troubled Irish expatriates who have migrated to rural Ireland – each for their own reasons. Living in a self-punishing exile of their own creation, the interactions amongst the group create a tangle of love and deceit that functions as masochism of the most pervasive sort. The movie version of the novel stars Fred Astaire, Charlotte Rampling, and Philippe Noiret.
Les Poneys Sauvages 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 reaches its end, the group becomes tangled in war that plagued Western Europe for a second time. Those who survive the war take the reader on a journey that spans three decades, and covers all of Europe, from Italy to Poland, 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 volatile pre-war and post-war years, and its unwavering effect on individual consciousness.
In Un Souvenir, Edward has just passed his sixtieth year, and is beginning to consider himself and old man. Having acquiesced to becoming a geriatric, he is plunged into the pat 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 travels back to England to find Sheila, and come to terms with the regret and guilt at having lost her.
Cavalier, passé ton chemin! offers a social history of the Irish people that rides the unavoidable line between fact and fiction. Exploring the country’s extraordinary folklore and cultural legends, Déon examines the nation’s collective identity with the steely resolve of an outside observer. Engaging legend and law, Déon offers a demystified glimpse of contemporary Ireland, tapping into the very collective soul of Irish identity.
In Pages Grecques, 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 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. However, when he returns to France in the face of family tragedy, he is forced to reconcile his new life with a past life that – something that proves shocking as he sees what his old friends have become.
- 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) - Awarded 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)
- 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)
- 2009 Cahier Déon (L'Herne). Contains unpublished documents, essays and letters.
- 2009 Journal (L'Herne)