Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

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When I started reading this book this morning, I had to Google the word “Tristesse”; I never took French at school or ever in my life. So yay, I learnt something new today. It means “a state of melancholy sadness”, by the way, which sums this very short novel up quite suitably. With my copy only owning 108 pages to its name; I got through this spot of literature quite quickly on the train. Also, why does train station coffee just taste of cardboard?

Bonjour Tristesse was a very interesting short read; absolutely perfect for a train ride to Brighton, actually; just in case you were heading that way!

I find it always challenging reading a translated novel and on more than one occasion feel like I’m missing out on the real essence of the literary talent being expressed; as if I’ve walked into a room just as the punchline of a really funny joke is being told and I’m trying to laugh along. And so, I’m sad I won’t be able to read this with all the rights it deserves; sometimes language barriers do that; and as much as a translation may try, at times there simply isn’t a word which is the absolute equivalent to another in a different language.

The story was a interesting take on the mind of a 17 year old girl, who’s idea of love, passion and physical desire were extremely unconventional of its time; the mid 1950’s. This story is definitely a prime example of glorious Freud’s Oedipus complex, so lover’s of all things Freud (and frankly messed up), this is the book for you! Wracked with tragic selfish, jealously and a bitter desire for instant gratification; the reader is able to jump inside of the mind of Cécile, and watch any and every temptation rule her entirely.

To be fair, Cécile is exactly who my parents brought me up not to be.

However, I can related to Cécile from the view point of always separated parents and the prospect of many step-parents through both of my parents various relationships. I have been put in the same boat of Cécile and whilst reading Bonjour Tristesse I couldn’t help but form a kinship with our narrator; but by no means does that entail I have to like her.

I’ll give it to Françoise Sagan, who was only 18 at the time she wrote and published this novel: talent.

To add, this book is a train wreck for feminism with phrases such as “find you a good husband who will treat you well” which are almost accepted; and only occasionally challenged in Cécile’s whimsical persona; half hearted and exploratory.

An interesting read!

“I was nailed to the sand by all the forces of summer.”

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2 thoughts on “Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

  1. I read a different translation after reading an article in the Guardian comparing the opening line of this novella in two different translations, makes me tempted to read it in French to see how that compares. Thought it fabulous though.

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