Françoise Sagan

French writer (1935-2004)

Françoise Sagan (21 June 193524 September 2004), real name Françoise Quoirez, was a French dramatist, playwright, novelist, and screenwriter, most famous for works with strong romantic themes involving wealthy and disillusioned bourgeois characters.

Françoise Sagan, 1960



Bonjour Tristesse (Published in 1954)

  • Love is worth whatever it costs.

Paris Review interview (1956)

"Francoise Sagan, The Art of Fiction No. 15", by Blair Fuller & Robert B. Silvers, in The Paris Review (Autumn 1956)
  • For me writing is a question of finding a certain rhythm. I compare it to the rhythms of jazz. Much of the time life is a sort of rhythmic progression of three characters. If one tells oneself that life is like that, one feels it less arbitrary.
  • I don’t search for exactitude in portraying people. I try to give to imaginary people a kind of veracity. It would bore me to death to put into my novels the people I know. It seems to me that there are two kinds of trickery: the “fronts” people assume before one another’s eyes, and the “front” a writer puts on the face of reality.
  • Art must take reality by surprise. It takes those moments which are for us merely a moment, plus a moment, plus another moment, and arbitrarily transforms them into a special series of moments held together by a major emotion. Art should not, it seems to me, pose the “real” as a preoccupation. Nothing is more unreal than certain so-called “realist” novels — they’re nightmares. It is possible to achieve in a novel a certain sensory truth — the true feeling of a character — that is all.
  • Of course the illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is amorphous, literature is formal.
  • I never make moral judgments. All I would say is that a person was droll, or gay, or, above all, a bore. Making judgments for or against my characters bores me enormously; it doesn’t interest me at all. The only morality for a novelist is the morality of his esthétique.
  • Very broadly, I think one writes and rewrites the same book. I lead a character from book to book, I continue along with the same ideas. Only the angle of vision, the method, the lighting, change.

Scars on the Soul (1972)

Des bleus à l'âme, as translated by Joanna Kilmartin (1974)
  • Only by pursuing the extremes in one's nature, with all its contradictions, appetites, aversions, rages, can one hope to understand a little — oh, I admit only a very little — of what life is about.
  • No one, but no one, ever behaves "well" in bed unless they love or are loved — two conditions seldom fulfilled.
  • "One must cherish one's effigies, if one can tolerate them, perhaps more lovingly than one cherishes one's intrinsic self." That's the ABC of pride. And of humor.
  • The ways of love are all the same, whether infantile, childish, sexual, tender, sadistic, erotic, or whispered. It's simply a question of understanding, of understanding oneself above all: in bed, in broad daylight, madly or not at all, in shadow, in sunlight, in despair or at table. Otherwise, it's no use. Any of it. And the little time we have left for living, while we're still alive, in other words capable of giving pleasure, and the little time we have left for thinking (or pretending to) in this vast, mindless cacophony that daily life has become, ineluctable, uncontrollable, and truly unacceptable to any civilized person, we must make absolutely certain that we share.
  • Just because life is inelegant doesn't mean we have to behave likewise.

Un peu de soleil dans l'eau froide (1969, Sunlight on Cold Water, translated 1971)

  • One is never free except in relation to someone else. And when, the relation is based on happiness, it allows the greatest freedom in the world.
  • Lying stimulates one's imagination and ingenuity.

Un chagrin de passage (1994, A Fleeting Sorrow, translated 1995)

  • Desire, even the basest, kind, required the notion of futurity if it was ever to come off. A man without a future, a dying man, was no longer desirable. And however stupid such a reaction might have seemed, Paul knew that if the situation was ever reversed, he would feel the same way about the woman. Desire would have turned into compassion. Which is tantamount to saying that desire would vanish into thin air.
  • Paul had always thought that women were never more serious than when they were naked.
  • Could you love a woman you didn't respect? Could you worship someone without believeing in her? Could you be madly in love with a woman you didn't admire? Well, you could. Not only that, it might be better that way. Easier. It took Paul almost forty years to learn that carnal platitude. Nevertheless, he always took Sonia to dinners where, sooner or later, her stupidity would explode, with the result that brighter souls would inevitably pick up on it right away and cast a sympathetic, albeit ironical, look in his direction, which only excited him all the more.
  • It's not doubt that drives people crazy, it's certainty that does.
  • The fact that a woman you love reaches a point in the relationship where she ceases to love you, and despite that you can never bring yourself to scorn or despise her, is very rare indeed.
  • Women believed in death. Without exception. It was part of their makeup. Whereas men refused to face up to it. Not only death, in fact, but life, too: a man, learning that his wife or girlfriend is pregnant, reacts like some beast of the field - "I can't believe it's true!" - while women look at the same situation as either happy news or a momentary inconvenience.

Un certain sourire (1955, A Certain Smile, translated 1956)

  • It is healthier to see the good points of others than to analyze our own bad ones.
  • We always want someone we've treated badly to be gay. It's less upsetting.
  • Jazz music is a form of accelerated unconcern.
  • "I can say everything to you. It's a wonderful feeling. I never could tell Francoise that I don't really love her, that our marriage isn't based on any hones ideal. It's founded on my weariness and boredom. Although those are solid enough bases. Plenty of lasting marriages are build on them, God knows. At least, they're always present."

Dans un mois, dans un an (1957, Those Without Shadows, translated 1957)

  • She'd like to be indispensable; that's what every woman wants...
  • Nothing becomes some women more than the prick of ambition. Love, on the contrary, may make them very dull.
  • When a man has dreamed of winning something by a colossal stroke of luck, he is prone to neglect petty but more practical ways of attaining it.
  • No one ever has time to examine himself honestly, and most people look no further than their neighbors' eyes, in which they may see their own reflection.
  • Passion is the salt of life, and that at the times when we are under its spell this salt is indispensable to us, even if we have got along very well without it before.
  • Curiosity is the beginning of all wisdom.
  • In love, as in finance, only the rich can get credit.
  • No one is more conventional than a woman who is falling out of love.
  • Edouard was trying to understand, to find out what he could have done to lose Beatrice's favor. He couldn't know that his unpardonable sin was the fact that he was too deserving.
  • Unhappiness has nothing to teach, and resignation is ugly.

Quotes about Sagan

  • She clearly does not enjoy being interviewed or asked to articulate in a formal way what are, to her, natural assumptions about her writing. She is sincere and helpful, but questions that are pompous or elaborate, or about personal life, or that might be interpreted as challenging her work, are liable to elicit only a simple “oui” or “non,” or “je ne sais pas— je ne sais pas du tout” — and then an amused, disconcerting smile.
  • Her life was like a whirlwind... Generous, inspired, quick, rebellious, unclassifiable, inimitable... We loved Sagan, even if we had not read her books or no longer read them … Sagan was more than just Sagan, more than a writing phenomenon: a writer, a woman, an era. …She rushed through her life and her books at full speed, without ever taking herself seriously.
  • She almost succeeded in inspiring the creation of the adjective 'saganesque', which one might translate as nostalgic and funny, deceptively frivolous and very lucid.
    • Eulogy in Ouest-France, as translated in"French press bids farewell to 'legend'", in BBC News (25 September 2004).
Wikipedia has an article about: