Stephen Osborne

Françoise Sagan became famous as a very young woman with her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, in 1954. Her third novel, Dans un mois, dans un an, appeared in 1957, and in English in the same year under the ludicrous title Those Without Shadows (E.P. Dutton); the mass market edition (Popular Library; “A Sensational Bestseller”) was priced at 95 cents—a copy of which appeared recently in a box of orphaned paperbacks left at a bus stop on the Number 2 line; a sticker on the back cover from Sunset Books (now defunct) showed the reduced price of 65 cents, and an inscription on the title page, in pencil, set its final price at 25 cents. The novel, translated by Frances Frenaye, has lost none of its compelling readability during that lengthy devaluation. Sagan writes like a sensuous Simenon—of love and deception and the drifting lives of a generation saturated in ennui. The pages of my bus stop copy, as I now think of it, have been scribbled on in Japanese, in a careful hand, with underlinings in the text, perhaps by a student of English. The underlinings propose a new text as a kind of palimpsest: in Chapter One there are two such underlinings: punctuated, slug; in Chapter Two they begin to proliferate: humiliating, futile, intermittent perception, supplements, accurate, optimism, hogwash, range, on the verge of tears, remorse, deceptive kindness, inept, whatsoever, indispensable, condescending, over emphatic, palmiest days, notoriously thieving proprietor, stubbornly, excessively, rebelliously, fundamentally, ethereal, prick of ambition, trample, benevolence, fairy, clairvoyant, roving, adolescent air, spiritually akin, absurdity, brusquely, brutal, boulevard. Eleven chapters in all, 157 pages; only Chapter Eleven (two pages) is unmarked.

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at


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