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DEON Michel


Œuvres (Gallimard, 2006)

Michel DEON
© J. Sassier_Gallimard

Michel Déon was born in 1919 into a family with a military and civil service tradition. He was mobilised after his law studies and remained in the military until November of 1942. He stayed in the Southern zone and worked as a subeditor for the Action Française newspaper.
He returned to Paris in the fall of 1944 and worked for various newspapers while writing his debut novel. He also served for a time as a press correspondent in Switzerland and Italy before going to the United States. Upon his return from the USA, he continued working as a journalist and started publishing novels.
He went on to work as a literary advisor at Plon before leaving for Portugal where he spent a year, after which he moved to Ticino and then Greece. Back in Paris in 1961, he worked for the Table Ronde publishers and wrote the literary review for Nouvelles littéraires taking over from Gabriel Marcel.
He returned to Greece in 1963 and spent five years in Spetsai before moving on to Portugal for a long stay. Afterwards he shared his time between Ireland, Greece and Paris.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Irish universities and made associate member of the Portuguese academy of sciences, literary section. He was elected to the Jean Rostand seat of the French Academy on June 8, 1978. He received the Giono prize for his oeuvre in 1996.

In french

Partial bibliography :

  • Œuvres (Gallimard, 2006)
  • Where Are You Dying Tonight (H Hamilton, 1983)
  • Diary of a Genius (Salvador Dali, foreword and notes by Michel Déon - Pan Books, London : 1980)

A summary of Oeuvres :

The writings in this book were chosen in close cooperation with Michel Déon. The idea was to publish a collection of Michel Déon’s writings that made him famous in the 70’s and 80’s such as Les Poneys sauvages et Un taxi mauve, which sold 300,000 copies each. But it also includes Un déjeuner de soleil the most complex and well constructed of his writings. At the start of the collection, after the original preface, the reader will find one of the most moving texts, usually considered children’s literature, Thomas et l’infini (reproduced here with illustrations by Delessert). The collection also includes biographical texts, such as La chambre de ton père, and La montée du soir and recollections of the past in Cavalier passe ton chemin. The poetic dimension of his œuvre is underscored by the short texts illustrated by contemporary artists (published in limited or non commercial editions) that Michel Déon was willing to lend the publisher with a view to printing. The reader will discover an unknown and often surprising aspect of the writer’s personality.

Michel Déon says (loosely translated) :
“ I’ve been writing novels since I was four or five years old. I remember returning from school, from le Petit Cours La Fontaine in du Ranelagh street. I’d skinned my knee slightly at recess and I claimed I’d been attacked by a wolf on Mozart avenue. I said it was lucky I’d managed to kill it with a stick. That was my first novel. As I was as yet unable to write, I’d simply told the story. I’m happy to give my parents their due eighty years later. Indeed, instead of laughing at me, and as I was extremely sensitive it could have had disastrous results on my career, they pretended to believe me and even told the story to their circle of friends who welcomed it with cries of dread and admiration.
Today, I feel I should have found them too credulous and even laughed at them. But as everyone knows, writers tend to be very vain and in any event, it could very well be that I heard this story so often I may even have ended believing it myself.
My first audience, my parent’s circle of friends, did not get much bigger, but I was just starting off and it is easy to understand that any audience, albeit small, would have wanted to encourage a young, even very young talent to persevere and so I persevered. It just became necessary later on to inject a dose of realism in these childish stories, the story of the wolf was not the only one.
A five-year-old child can tell a story of being attacked by a wolf in a chic Paris district in the middle of the afternoon, but if an adult starts telling the same kind of story, he will be quickly taken to the madhouse, which is what happened to Maupassant with Horla. I would never have remembered this anecdote, had no one recounted it to me much later on as an adult.
This story was reconstituted thanks to bits and pieces of images just like a human being dead for centuries can be reconstituted thanks to his DNA. Fortunately, parents are their children’s memory banks.”