She is a spy of the future, a courtesan of words, a hostage of death. She is the horrid child of French literature, who washes off the dust of time in the azure sea of hedonism. Is the salt of life bitter? Is there a tax on cloudless happiness? The answer is an untied buoy drifting with the current of events.

“Here lies Françoise Sagan and this does not console her.”

The text for the gravestone inscription is her idea. She knows that she will soon be dead – either from the old curses of the Pope or because of the two cigarettes hanging from both ends of her mouth or perhaps from pleasure. She puts a bet on the third; that clot of pleasure which the doctors will call pulmonary embolism; because of that clot Jacques Chirac will politely wipe off France’s mournful nose. She will be bewildered by the huge circulation of tears even from the great beyond. Even if the last copy of Hello Sadness disappears after her death (due to the tax evasion scandal), people will come back to her as to a beautiful Mediterranean villa, thirsty for the tender cynicism of “the charming little monster” as Le Figaro called her. It happens shortly after she grabs the keys to her father’s black Buick and slams on the breaks in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in front of the publishing house Juliard. At the age of eighteen she is faced with her first serious dilemma:  how to spend the one hundred million Francs she makes after the publishing of her first novel.

Goodbye Quoirez, hello Sagan!

ʻWe are buying a Jaguar!ʼ, Sagan says to her girlfriend. She borrows her pseudonym from Proust – one of the lovers who regularly seduce her in the family library along with Cocteau, Flaubert, Faulkner, and Camus. Not only does she fail her baccalaureate because of these lads, but she also leaves the Sorbonne. All day long she discusses their merits in a Paris café in the company of writers, artists and actors. During the day she lives off the fumes of profane life and spends her nights hitting the keys of her portable Remington, working on Hello Sadness, shrouded in a cloud of smoke of her Gauloises cigarettes. Who would have guessed that one and a half months later she consults her father about some financial matters?
ʻYou have to spend it as soon as possible. At your age money will not make you happyʼ, advises her papa Pierre. The anaemic girl with a sharp rocky nose has not inherited the beauty of her mother.  Mr and Mrs Quoirez leave her something far more important: the bohemian spirit.

“I love losing. I have always loved playing with fire and living on the edge. I attribute it to the fact that one of my grandmothers was Russian…”

“Whisky, Ferraris and gambling; aren’t they rather more amusing than knitting, housekeeping and one’s savings?”

Eight million francs disappear from the green cloth, and Françoise grins from ear to ear. She adores losing. She will win it again tomorrow, right? She will buy Sara Bernard’s huge old estate in Normandy and another Jaguar with an engine so loud that she won’t be able to hear how France is clicking its tongue: Is it really possible the seventeen-year-old Cecil to have affaire de coeur right under the nose of her father?! In the 1950s Hello Sadness is a thorn in the side of the bourgeois like Fifty Shades of Grey today. Copies of the book multiply like aphids, and people buy them, disguised in the mask of indignation. At that time the innocent icon of vice speeds off towards Monte Carlo, New York, and Capri to buy designer clothes. She bathes in whisky at night at the Riviera; throws lavishing dinner parties for her new friends – Truman Capote, Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot. She sinks in cocaine clouds on François Mitterrand’s helicopter. But how does she win him? One night Monsieur Mitterrand stains his tie with red wine, and Sagan simply unties it and dips it in a glass of white… 

“Being carefree is the only feeling that can inspire our lives, but it has no arguments in its defence.”

“Love lasts about seven years. That’s how long it takes for the cells of the body to totally replace themselves.”

What does Bardot mean by calling Sagan “my twin sister in fate”? Both swim in the same sea of hedonism and permissiveness; a sea in which love is like debris washed up on its shore. That’s Françoise’s experience with men – like a bad run in poker: losing a series of games. But of course! Françoise has just come out of a coma at Georges Pompidou Hospital after an accident with her sports car Aston Martin when the great Parisian publisher Guy Schoeller proposes to her… He takes her covered in a plaster cast hand and softly whispers: ʻI am doing this to protect you from yourself, Françoise, that is why.ʼ Guy is an incurable “romantic”… One night Françoise comes home, finds him reading a newspaper on the sofa, and boils over. She leaves him without explanation. At that time, she is addicted to alcohol, pain killers, and drugs. May be because of the accident, or because her novel A Certain Smile struggles or simply because… C’est la vie.

“Family Life is nothing but baked pasta. And this dish is not served by my cuisine….“

Françoise never stops gambling. The losses she suffers from the roulette of marital life never seem to discourage her. Not before she has tried again. She remarries. Her second husband is Bob Westhof, an unrefined American playboy and would-be ceramicist. Imagine a cowboy in a Faberge shop… She gives birth to a boy. And after seven years of quinine boredom and annoying breakfasts, Sagan enters the contraflow lane of human relations. She denies when asked whether she is polysexual. Her long-time relationships with the fashion stylist Peggy Roche and the French Playboy editor Annick Geille remain unlabelled. But what difference does it make? She stopped believing in God at the age of fourteen. Even if somebody asked her to account for her actions, she would tell them one of her best stories: ʻI used to have a lovely Aston Martin. But it did not seem to have been designed for women. I crashed it at 160 km/h. When the doctors came, they thought I had died. They unbuttoned my collar and gave me the last sacrament. If I die now, I can go directly to heaven…ʼ

 “My love of pleasure seems to be the only consistent side of my character. Is it because I have not read enough?” Hello Sadness