Bonjour Tristesse (that’s “Hello Sadness”) was published in 1954, when the author was only 18.
“I dreamt of being a writer once I started to read. I started to write ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ in bistros around the Sorbonne. I finished it, I sent it to editors. It was accepted.”
Isn’t that delightfully bohemian? If this were not depressing enough for us late-bloomers it should also be noted that the book was an overnight sensation, gaining Sagan a mention in Le Figaro (where she was described as “a charming little monster”). Oh, and did I mention it was also made into a film?
Sagan, ever the typical French gamine, had a vibrant outlook on life:
“One can never speak enough of the virtues, the dangers, the power of shared laughter.”
“You should celebrate the end of a love affair as they celebrate death in New Orleans, with songs, laughter, dancing and a lot of wine.”
No 41 in Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century, Bonjour Tristesse centers on seventeen-year-old Cécile as she spends her summer in a villa on the French Riviera with her father and his mistress, and Cecile’s struggle as a daughter trapped by her father’s relationships with women. It sounds ghastly but actually I have to admit that I enjoyed it, so maybe it was talent after all…
Sour grape anyone?
In terms of age, however, Sagan was positively geriatric compared with some modern day examples. I’m including a very entertaining link here from Parentdish about a six-year old author…yes, six: