Friday, 27 November 2015

'Bonjour Tristesse' and 'A Certain Smile' by Francoise Sagan

Two short books by famous French author Francoise Sagan. Bonjour Tristesse was her first book, written when she was only 18 years old. It is also her most famous book. Both books are about young love and complications. However banal that may sound, it is not banal at all. I was quite overtaken by both stories, they are very well written and you turn the page to see how the love stories will end.

Bonjour Tristesse is about 17 year old Cécile who lives with her father, the mother is dead. The father, Raymond, is a seductive, amorous man, with a string of mistresses coming and going. This story is mostly set in the south of France during some summer months. Elsa, the latest of the young mistresses, come to live with them in a rented villa. All is well. Cécile meets Cyril a neighbouring young man, and they fall in love with each other. In comes Anne Larsen, a woman the same age as Raymond, independent, self assured, intelligent and successful. Totally different from the usual women that hangs around. Very soon Raymond and Anne informs Cécile that they are going to get married. Anne is also a sort of guarding for Cécile and is trying to sort out, what she thinks, the too carefree life that Cécile and her father live. Cécile sees that their lives will be totally different with Anne around. She plots a scheme to separate Anne and Raymond and get Elsa back into their lives. It has devastating consequences.

A Certain Smile has a similar story, but this time Dominique is a law student and Bertrand, a fellow student, her boyfriend. One day he takes her to visit his aunt and uncle. The uncle, Luc, is a bohemian kind of man, well travelled and mentally on pair with Dominique’s mind. They are attracted to each other and manages to get away together to spend two weeks together in Cannes, where their relationship is confirmed. However, Luc, and in principal Dominique, know that it is only an affair and love has nothing to do with it. As the affair develops, Dominique realises that she is falling in love with Luc. When both Bertrand and Francoise (Luc’s wife) get to know about the affair it comes to an end. Luc is not changing his life and Dominique is devastated.
…Besides, I admired Luc. I could not help admiring his intelligence, his equilibrium, his virile way of giving to each thing its right weight and importance, without being either cynical or complacent. Sometimes in exasperation I wanted to say to him: ”Why can’t you love me? It would be so much more restful for me.” But I knew this was impossible. Ours was more an affinity than a passion, and neither of us could ever bear to be dominated by the other. Luc had neither the opportunity, the strength, nor the desire for a closer relationship.

He smiled mockingly. If i had shown him that I wanted it otherwise he would soon have changed his ’little girl and her protector’ attitude. Fortunately I felt quite adult, even rather blasé.
”No, ” I said, ”I feel perfectly responsible. But what am I supposed to be responsible for? There is only myself, and my own life, which, after all, is simple enough. Still, I am not unhappy, I’m sometimes even contented, but never really happy. I am nothing, except when I’m with you, and then I’m all right!”
Two excellent stories of love and relationships, told in a rather harsh, matter of fact way. You wonder where their feelings are? It seems to me that all the characters see love more as a means of living for the moment, rather than deeper feelings that, with the years, will evolve into something steady and truthful. Two novels, that are still interesting to read today. After all, love is universal through times.

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