Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55

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The Independent Online
In 1953, I wrote Bonjour tristesse, which appeared in France in 1954 and provoked an uproar. At first I did not understand the scandal and today I can only think of two absurd reasons for it. People could not tolerate that a young girl of 17 or 18 made love, without being in love, with a boy of her own age and was not punished for it. What was unacceptable was that she neither fell madly in love nor had become pregnant by the end of the summer. Quite simply, that a girl of that period could use her body, and find pleasure in it, without deserving or requiring a punishment hitherto considered inexorable.

It was also unacceptable that this young girl was aware of the affaires of her father, spoke to him of them and thus gained an intimacy on matters which parents and children had previously been unable to broach. The rest, for goodness sake, had nothing particularly reprehensible about it, especially when I consider our present time, 30 years later, in which by an absurd and almost cruel about- turn, it has become indecent or ridiculous not to make love when one is old enough, and in which parents and children are separated for ever by the complicity which both parties feel and are

conscious of as being essentially false but pretend to, despite themselves.

From Avec mon meilleur souvenir by Francoise Sagan, Gallimard, 1984

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.

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