Françoise Sagan

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Françoise Sagan
Françoise Sagan.jpg
BornFrançoise Delphine Quoirez
(1935-06-21)21 June 1935
Cajarc, France
Died24 September 2004(2004-09-24) (aged 69)
Honfleur, France
Resting placeCimetière de Seuzac, Cajarc, France
SpouseGuy Schoeller
Bob Westhoff

Françoise Sagan (born Françoise Delphine Quoirez; 21 June 1935 – 24 September 2004) was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. Sagan was known for works with strong romantic themes involving wealthy and disillusioned bourgeois characters. Her best-known novel was her first – Bonjour Tristesse (1954) – which was written when she was a teenager.


Early life and career[edit]

Sagan was born on 21 June 1935 in Cajarc, Lot, and spent her early childhood in Lot, surrounded by animals, a passion that stayed with her throughout her life. Nicknamed 'Kiki', she was the youngest child of bourgeois parents – her father a company director, and her mother the daughter of landowners.

Her family spent World War II (1939–1945) in the Dauphiné, then in the Vercors.[1] Her paternal great-grandmother was Russian from Saint Petersburg.[2][3] The family had a home in the prosperous 17th arrondissement of Paris, to which they returned after the war.[4] Sagan was expelled from her first school, a convent, for "lack of deep spirituality". She was expelled from the Louise-de-Bettignies School because she had "hanged a bust of Molière with a piece of string".[5] She obtained her baccalauréat on the second attempt, at the cours Hattemer, and was admitted to the Sorbonne in the fall of 1952.[4] She was an indifferent student, and did not graduate.

The pseudonym "Sagan" was taken from a character (Princesse de Sagan [fr]) in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Sagan's first novel, Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), was published in 1954, when she was 18 years old. It was an immediate international success. The novel concerns the life of a pleasure-driven 17-year-old named Cécile and her relationship with her boyfriend and her widowed playboy father.

During a literary career lasting until 1998, Sagan produced dozens of works, many of which have been filmed. She maintained the austere style of the French psychological novel even while the nouveau roman was in vogue. The conversations between her characters are often considered[by whom?] to contain existential undertones. In addition to novels, plays, and an autobiography, she wrote song lyrics and screenplays.

In the 1960s, Sagan became more devoted to writing plays, which, though lauded for excellent dialogue, were only moderately successful. Afterward, she concentrated on her career as a novelist.

Personal life[edit]

Sagan was married twice. On 13 March 1958, she married her first husband, Guy Schoeller, an editor with Hachette, who was 20 years older than Sagan. The couple divorced in June, 1960. In 1962, she married Bob Westhoff, a young American playboy and would-be ceramicist. The couple divorced in 1963; their son Denis Westhoff was born in June 1962.[6] She then had a long-term relationship with fashion stylist Peggy Roche. She also had a male lover, Bernard Frank, a married essayist obsessed with reading and eating. She added to her self-styled "family" by beginning a long-term affair with the French Playboy editor Annick Geille, after Geille approached Sagan for an article for her magazine.[7]

Fond of traveling in the United States, she often was seen with Truman Capote and Ava Gardner. On 14 April 1957, while driving her Aston Martin sports car at speed, she was involved in an accident that left her in a coma for some time. She also loved driving her Jaguar automobile to Monte Carlo for gambling sessions.

In the 1990s, Sagan was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine.

In 2010, her son Denis established the Prix Françoise Sagan.


Her health was reported to be poor in the 2000s. In 2002, she was unable to appear at a trial that convicted her of tax fraud in a case involving the former French President François Mitterrand, and she received a suspended sentence. Sagan died of a pulmonary embolism in Honfleur, Calvados on 24 September 2004 at the age of 69.[8] At her own request she was buried in Seuzac (Lot), close to her beloved birthplace, Cajarc.

In his memorial statement, the French President Jacques Chirac said: "With her death, France loses one of its most brilliant and sensitive writers – an eminent figure of our literary life."

She wrote her own obituary for the Dictionary of Authors compiled by Jérôme Garcin: "Appeared in 1954 with a slender novel, Bonjour tristesse, which created a scandal worldwide. Her death, after a life and a body of work that were equally pleasant and botched, was a scandal only for herself."[9]


Sagan's life was dramatized in a biographical film, Sagan, directed by Diane Kurys, released in France on 11 June 2008. The French actress Sylvie Testud played the title role.



  • Bonjour Tristesse (1954, (Hello Sadness), translated 1955)
  • Un certain sourire (1955, A Certain Smile, translated 1956)
  • Dans un mois, dans un an (1957, Those Without Shadows, translated by Frances Frenaye, 1957)
  • Aimez-vous Brahms? (1959, translated 1960)
  • Les merveilleux nuages (1961, Wonderful Clouds, translated 1961)
  • La chamade (1965, translated 1966 as La Chamade; newly translated 2009 as That Mad Ache)
  • Le garde du cœur (1968, The Heart-Keeper, translated 1968)
  • Un peu de soleil dans l'eau froide (1969, Sunlight on Cold Water, translated 1971)
  • Des bleus à l'âme (1972, Scars on the Soul, translated 1974)
  • Un profil perdu (1974, Lost Profile, translated 1976)
  • Le lit défait (1977, The Unmade Bed, translated 1978)
  • Le chien couchant (1980, Salad Days, translated 1984)
  • La femme fardée (1981, The Painted Lady, translated 1983)
  • Un orage immobile (1983, The Still Storm, translated 1984)
  • De guerre lasse (1985, Engagements of the Heart (UK) / A Reluctant Hero (U.S.), translated 1987)
  • Un sang d'aquarelle (1987, Painting in Blood, translated 1991)
  • La laisse (1989, The Leash, translated 1991)
  • Les faux-fuyants (1991, Evasion, translated 1993)
  • Un chagrin de passage (1994, A Fleeting Sorrow, translated 1995)
  • Le miroir égaré (1996)
  • Les Quatre coins du coeur, Paris, Plon, 2019

Short story collections[edit]

  • Des yeux de soie (1975, Silken Eyes, translated 1977)
  • Musiques de scène (1981, Incidental Music, translated 1983)
  • La maison de Raquel Vega (1985)


  • Château en Suède (Château in Sweden) (1960)
  • Les violons parfois (1961)
  • La robe mauve de Valentine (1963)
  • Bonheur, impair et passe (1964)
  • L'écharde (1966)
  • Le cheval évanoui (1966)
  • Un piano dans l'herbe (1970)
  • Il fait beau jour et nuit (1978)
  • L'excès contraire (1987)


  • Le Rendezvous Manqué (1958)[10]

Autobiographical works[edit]

  • Toxique (1964, journal, translated 1965)
  • Réponses (1975, Night Bird: Conversations with Françoise Sagan, translated 1980)
  • Avec mon meilleur souvenir (1984, With Fondest Regards, translated 1985)
  • Au marbre: chroniques retrovées 1952–1962 (1988, chronicles)
  • Répliques (1992, interviews)
  • ...Et toute ma sympathie (1993, a sequel to Avec mon meilleur souvenir)
  • Derrière l'épaule (1998, autobiography)

Published posthumously by L'Herne:

  • Bonjour New-York (2007)
  • Un certain regard (2008, compilation of material from Réponses and Répliques)
  • Maisons louées (2008)
  • Le régal des chacals (2008)
  • Au cinéma (2008)
  • De très bons livres (2008)
  • La petite robe noire (2008)
  • Lettre de Suisse (2008)

Biographical works[edit]

  • Brigitte Bardot (1975)
  • Sarah Bernhardt, ou le rire incassable (1987, Dear Sarah Bernhardt, translated 1988)

Selected filmography[edit]



  1. ^ Paris Match 2889 29 Sep 2004
  2. ^ "SAGAN Francoise, photo, biography". Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Fransuaza Sagan - Women". Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b Gaffney, John; Holmes, Diana (2007). Stardom in Postwar France. Berghahn Books. p. 178. ISBN 978-1-84545-020-5.
  5. ^ Berest, Anne (15 June 2015). Sagan, Paris 1954. Gallic Books, Limited. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-910477-15-1.
  6. ^ Paris Match 2889 29 Sep 2004
  7. ^ Campbell, Matthew, "Lesbian love triangle stirs Paris literati", The Sunday Times, 26 December 2007
  8. ^ "French literary icon Sagan dies", BBC, 25 September 2004
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Kaufman, Wolfe (21 January 1958). Written at Monte Carlo. "Francoise Sagan's Ballet Promising Though Everything Wrong at Break-In". Variety. New York (published 22 January 1958). p. 2. Retrieved 20 October 2021 – via

External links[edit]