Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

“Sin is the only note of vivid colour that persists in the modern world.”

Oscar Wilde

Despite its philosophical quotes from Henri Bergson and Oscar Wilde (above), this novella was originally perceived as amoral by conservative critics. However, the course of the regretful narrative illustrates that the young writer was a moralist. Without dwelling on the specifics of the somewhat intricate plot, it is sufficient to note a parallel with aspects of the denouement of The Great Gatsby.

One of the features of the tale is uncertainty. To what extent do accidents happen in matters of psychology or politics? The story may make the reader think of the fate of Albert Camus. The philosopher of the absurd died in a road accident, but there has been a rumour that this was an assassination. While a biographer of the great writer has been highly critical of the lack of supporting evidence for the anti-Soviet theory, we may never know the truth. Similarly, the main character in the novella is not quite sure of what has occurred.

Sagan was apparently an admirer of Marcel Proust as well as Camus, and this is arguably reflected in her retrospective appreciation of sunlit scenery. While many may prefer works of greater depth and resonance, this novella retains a disturbing charm.


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