“shadow of the ogre”

Cette double identité ravit Françoise : moitié homme, moitié femme. A la fois le dandy décadent et la grande dame du monde, reçue partout comme chez elle, entourée de princesses de son rang et des colliers de perles à son cou. L’image qui collera à sa légende est déjà contenue dans son nom, car c’est un nom qui dit que l’on peut conduire, les pieds nus et vernis, des voitures de sport, que l‘on peut perdre au casino et demander au portier vingt sacs pour rentrer chez soi, que l’on aimera des hommes et des femmes parce que ce qui compte, c’est d’aimer, pas forcément d’aimer bien, mais d’aimer fort. En choisissant ce nom, elle choisit tout ce qui arrive, tout ce qui approche, à grands pas, comme l’ombre de l’ogre se projette peu à peu sur le mur dans les histoires pour enfants.

(This dual identity delights Françoise: half man, half woman. Both the decadent dandy and the great lady of the world, made to feel at home wherever she goes, surrounded by princesses of her rank and draped with pearl necklaces. The image that will stick to her legend is already contained in her name, because this is a name that says: drive your sports car with your bare feet and painted toenails, go ahead and lose at the casino and then ask the doorman for twenty bags to take home, it’s a name that says you will love men and love women because all that matters is loving, not necessarily loving well but loving fiercely. In choosing this name, she chooses everything that will happen, everything that is drawing near, looming larger and larger, like in a children’s story when the shadow of the ogre cast on the wall begins to loom.)

This excerpt is from Anne Berest’s 2014 book, Sagan 1954, which I have recently finished, and which relates in semi-fictional form the year that a very young Françoise Sagan published her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse. This section is the end of a few pages explaining how Sagan chose her pseudonym and it covers the phone book, Proust, and several fantastic & willed coincidences. Berest’s book is excellent, and has inspired me to re-read Bonjour Tristesse, along with more of Sagan’s works. Berest intertwines anecdotes of her own life with her imagining of Sagan’s life-changing year, reminding me (in the best possible way) of Kate Zambreno’s work as well as Lydie Salvayre’s Sept Femmes on Bronte, Tsvetaeva, Woolf, Colette, Plath, Bachmann and Barnes.

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