Bonjour Tristesse

Sagan, Francoise

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey
  • Date of entry: Jan-29-2008
  • Last revised: Jan-28-2008


Bonjour Tristesse is a novel about a seventeen-year-old girl, Cécile, written by an eighteen-year-old, Françoise Quoirez (pen name Sagan). Published in 1954 in France and 1955 in the United States, the story was an immediate success.

Cécile's mother died when the girl was two, and she lives with her forty-year-old father, Raymond. Raymond enjoys parties, young women, drink and easy conversation. He, Cécile and his latest girlfriend, Elsa, sojourn on the southern coast of France, where Cécile meets and toys with a young law student. Cécile is mercurial in her thoughts, but once a true rival for her father's affections arrives at the summer house, her jealousy surfaces fully. Anne had been a friend of Cécile's mother, and, unlike Raymond's other love interests, is intelligent and similar in age.

Tragedy ensues from Cécile's plotting and her father's weaknesses, and the question remains whether suicide or an accident occurred.


The story was written and set in a time when teens drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes were tolerated, at least in some social circles. Issues of anorexia and body image also arise frequently in this brief novel - the main character compares her bony thin body to the more voluptuous forms of older women. The hurts, slights, desires for love and attention felt so acutely by teens are well drawn in the story, as is the conflict about studying and time management. The manipulation of actions of adults by the teen, the meaning of regret and maturity, and the difference between parenting and friendship are also explored.

The title of the novel comes from a poem by Paul Eluard which begins: "Adieu tristesse / Bonjour tristesse" and is printed at the start of the novel.


Translated from the French by Irene Ash. Sagan won the Prix des Critiques for this novel.

Primary Source

Bonjour Tristesse


E.P. Dutton

Place Published

New York



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