It was the beginning of the first lock-down in England and I had just finished reading a copy of Bonjour Tristesse, picked up from Waterstones Leeds’ rather desultory and currently decayed French Language section. My reaction to suddenly being faced with a general lockdown was to grab it again, and start translating. It was a way of coping, but I did also find that the story of Ceçile and the story of the book had a certain hold on my imagination – an author who became famous with such a short text at the age of 18? The tale itself was interesting, though I barely understood it at the time, with its aspiring/manipulative teenage narrator, and the particular moral valence of the relationships described. Plus the shortness itself made the project seem achievable. When one of my friends expressed exasperation at me for starting and never finishing projects like this, my determination became concrete – not because I particularly liked the story (though I do now.) Rather because I like to base my life goals around resentment /s.
I had no great experience of translating anything longer than a poem, and certainly have no claim to any particular authority over this story, but then that is only an exaggerated form of the dilemma of authority which applies to all texts. I started from ignorance, and through drafts of each chapter my approach evolved – I decided to change elements (which, you will have to discover for yourself) and bring the story forward in time to our era, a decision which has felt more or less ill advised depending on my mood. In the end, I gave it a very light touch and am interested in how the moral valence of our society has changed, or what you might call moral parallax – how the same formal relationships, uprooted or shifted, historicise society, not just in a basic sense – e.g. people (mostly men, rather) don’t have to worry so much about sex anymore for mechanical reasons – but in a subtler sense. The strangeness of the past is brought out in relief. There’s a lot of misogyny there, evidently, some of which I have tried to cool down, snowflake that I am. But much of the sexism in this story is deeply ingrained – I hereby place it under erasure.
I grew to hate Ceçile in the process, though we did later reconcile, and decided, in another stunning display of tactlessness, to add a secondary final chapter, a third part, which combines my egotistical enthusiasm for my own neon/synth-wave vision of the film version as produced in my head, with a comment on the way that the story ends and develops. If you would like a version which, though still twisted, has a straighter relation to the original story, just don’t read part 3.
During the process of writing, I read a tiny amount of that metaphysics of production called ‘copyright law’, and I guess that at some point I might receive a take-down notice for this story, given that Sagan died in 2004 and copyright for her story will therefore be released in 2074 (what an enlightened system we live in that treats arbitrary combinations of concepts as a kind of monumental, necrological investment.) And this regardless of my transformations of the story into something which isn’t Bonjour Tristesse, and is rather, Hello Sadness 2020. So access here may not be permanent.
Please let me know if you enjoy it, or, if you’re a fan of the original, and have detailed views on how what I’ve done is weird, list of all the ways it fails. Criticism from displeasure has its joys – as long as it’s intelligent.
Hello Sadness – Part 2-1
Hello Sadness – Part 2-2
Hello Sadness – Part 2-3
Hello Sadness – Part 2-4
Hello Sadness – Part 2-5
Hello Sadness – Part 2-6
Hello Sadness – Part 2-7
Hello Sadness – Part 2-8
Hello Sadness – Part 2-9