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Françoise Sagan 1935 – 2004

26 Nov

Françoise Sagan 1935 - 2004

“Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.”

Françoise Sagan

The name ‘Sagan’ was taken from a character in Marcel Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu’ (In Search of Lost Time), the ‘Princess de Sagan’. Romantic AND literary. If I were to take a new surname from a character in a novel I think it would be ‘Lambchop’, as in Stanley Lambchop from ‘Flat Stanley’, a classic children’s book from the 1980s. Not quite as romantic, but definitely more appropriate.

I have been waiting impatiently for an author with scandal to make you blush in the most extraordinary and mostly private places, and now I’ve found one. Sagan was convicted of two narcotics offenses in 1990 and 1995 for which she receive fines and suspended sentences, and she was also convicted of tax fraud in 2002 which had something exciting, and probably illegal, to do with the President of France. She was naughty and I like it, and I have a teeny bit of a girl crush.

She was married twice and had affairs with both men and women. She liked booze, drugs and fast cars. How is she not more well known? I have to admit that I’d never heard of her (the shame) but I will be ordering ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ which is her most famous books, and also her first one, which she wrote at the ridiculous age of 19. I know, annoying isn’t it?

Here are the facts according to much googling:

  • Born in Cajarc in 1935
  • Star sign Cancer – on the cusp, which I think means something to someone
  • Married Guy Schoeller in 1958 and divorced him in 1960
  • Married Bob Westhof in 1962 and divorced him in 1963
  • She had a son by Bob in 1963 called Denis. This makes me want to sing the Blonde song ‘Denise’
  • She had a long term lesbian relationship with Peggy Roche
  • Then she had a lesbian affair with Playboy editor Annick Geille and an affair with a married man who must have hoped they’d all join in, and maybe they did
  • She was mates with Truman Capote (I wrote a post about him too)
  • She had a car accident in 1957 which left her in a coma for some time
  • She died in 2004 of lung disease at the age of 69

Sagan wrote a lot of books and if you’ve read any of my other post you will know that I normally list them all. In this instance I am going to list all of her books that are available to buy at Waterstone’s. I think we can trust them to pick the most popular ones given their reputable status and upside-down golden arches that we all feel a sentimental fondness for. Deviating from my main path, did you know that Waterstone’s was set up by Tim Waterstone who was sacked from WH Smith for failing to establish the company in the United States? Neither did I. I am also purposefully putting an apostrophe in Waterstone’s because it irks me that they dropped it.

The books that Waterstone’s sell:

  • Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) – 1954
  • Un certain sourire (A Certain Smile) – 1955
  • Dans un mois, dans un an (Those Without Shadows) – 1957
  • Les merveilleux nuages (Wonderful Clouds) – 1961
  • Le garde du cœur (The Heart-Keeper) – 1968
  • Un peu de soleil dans l’eau froide (Sunlight on Cold Water) – 1969
  • Un profil perdu (Lost Profile) – 1974
  • Le lit défait (The Unmade Bed, translated) – 1977
  • Le chien couchant (A Case Study) – 1980
  • Musiques de scène (Incidental Music) – Short Stories 1981
  • Un orage immobile (The Still Storm) – 1983
  • Sarah Bernhardt, ou le rire incassable (Dear Sarah Bernhardt) – 1988
  • La laisse (The Leash) – 1989
  • Et Toute ma Sympathie – Autobiographical 1993

Bonjour Tristesse was also made into a film in 1958 starring Deborah Kerr, Jean Seberg and David Niven (I very nearly linked his name to this website). It got 6.9 on imdb, so so-so.

I was extremely disappointed that there is no Françoise Sagan fan club or society, but nothing made me happier than finding this marvellous t-shirt.

Françoise Sagan T Shirt

We salute you Ms. Sagan.


George Orwell 1903 – 1950

12 Sep

George Orwell

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

George Orwell

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair (no relation to Lionel), but he changed it because Blairian sounds like a sub-standard soft rock band from the early 80s. He was a writer and journalist who coined the term ‘Orwellian’ which is used to describe authoritarian societies such as Oceania in Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and North Korea. He didn’t like pigs.

He was born in Motihari, India and then his mother moved them to Henley-on Thames when he was a small boy.  He attended St Cyprian’s Boarding School in Eastbourne, which he hated, and then attended Wellington while waiting for his place at Eton where, when finally getting there, he was taught French by Aldous Huxley (minus the LSD). He did pretty shoddily at school (Eton shmeaton) so instead of going on to University (which was too expensive anyway) he joined the Imperial Police in Burma, now officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. They have never won an Olympic medal.

To cut a long story short (it was a long story), he was posted to various places around India, but while on leave in England he decided to sack it off and become a writer in London. Living the dream, George, li-ving-the-dream. He lived in London long enough for them to commemorate his dwelling with a blue plaque on Portobello Road. Nice. I live in Royal Leamington Spa where we have some blue plaques of our own, the most exciting one being for John Ruskin who “lodged” here in 1841.

In 1928 Orwell moved to Paris which inspired him to write ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. This title might give away the fact that his time in Paris wasn’t all Moulin Rouge and berets, and his writing career didn’t take off as planned. Like all brilliant writers through the decades he did a lot of crap jobs for mouldy cheese, cheap booze and the pong of failure.

Then he came back to Britain and did a bit of this and that, blah, blah, blah. Oh, he also did some teaching. This was his least exciting period.

In 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight as a Republican against the Nationalists, but was forced to flee for his life from the Russian communists. Haven’t we all. While there he was shot in the throat by a sniper and miraculously survived, although I bet it stung like billy-o. There is a square named after him in Barcelona. You know you’ve made it when they name something after you. For me maybe a rose, or a library, or a blunderbuss!

The facts that can’t be disputed in court:

  • Born 25th June 1903 (Cancer = moody, unsympathetic pain in the bum)
  • Attended Eton school
  • Wrote books and articles and stuff
  • Married to Eileen O’Shaughnessy from June 1936 until her death in March 1945
  • He had one adopted son, Richard Blair with Eileen
  • Married to Sonia Brownell in Oct 1949
  • He died in Jan 1950 of tuberculosis

The books:

The best place to go for your literary “in-joke” clobber is Redbubble. I particularly like this Nineteen Eighty-Four slogan t-shirt.

In 1941 Orwell started working for the BBC, countering propaganda from the Nazis.  It was okay, but he quit and went on to become the literary editor of the ‘Tribune’ (a left-wing magazine) where he wrote book reviews and had the best job ever. He also spent this time writing Animal Farm which was based on the Russian Revolution and was inspired by his time in the Spanish Civil war.  It has a pig in it called Napoleon. Not wanting to give anything away, but poor, poor Boxer. Sob.

He then wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and died.

Both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm appear in Time magazine’s 100 English language books of all time (since 1923) and the BBC’s Big Read list which cites the top 200 books voted for by the public (Terry Pratchett appears on it 14 times, just so you know).

I have a Nineteen Eighty-Four mug.

You can join The Orwell Society for a mere £20 per year. DO IT!

In summary, he wrote some marvellous stuff and was a pretty awesome guy.

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