Françoise Sagan (sah-GAHN), the pseudonym of Françoise Quoirez, was born in a wealthy family in southwestern France. Her parents were able to shelter her from many of the hardships suffered by French people during World War II. Though comfortable, her childhood and adolescence were by all accounts marked by strict middle-class conformity. It was in part to escape from this stifling atmosphere that she attempted to become a writer. She sent the manuscript of her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse (1954; English translation, 1955), to the publishing house Julliard, which to her surprise (and possibly to the dismay of her parents) decided to publish it.
When it appeared in 1954, Sagan was only nineteen. It immediately became a scandalous best seller, winning a literary prize and gaining the attention of the literary world. Sagan—whose pen name was borrowed from a character in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-1931, 1981), the princesse de Sagan—became a celebrity, better known for her lifestyle consisting of glamorous parties, complicated sexual relationships, fast cars, alcohol, and drug abuse, than for her literary accomplishments. This dual fame as a writer and as a media celebrity continued throughout her life.
Sagan paid a high price for her attraction to the kind of behavior that tabloid newspapers love to document. She suffered a near-fatal accident in her Aston Martin in 1957, and yet she continued to drive recklessly. Always a heavy drinker, she became addicted to painkillers as a result of her accident, a harrowing experience she recounts in the autobiographical narrative Toxique (1964; English translation, 1964). She gambled frequently, mostly in exclusive casinos. She was arrested several times in the 1990’s for cocaine possession. Her addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs contributed to lifelong health...
(The entire section is 794 words.)