Giesbert, Franz-Olivier 1949–

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Giesbert, Franz-Olivier 1949–

PERSONAL: Born January 18, 1949, in Wilmington, DE; immigrated to France, c. 1952; son of Frederick (an artist) and Marie (a nurse; maiden name, Allain) Giesbert; children: Aurélien, Claire, Alexandre, Julien. Education: Studied law; graduate of the Centre de Formation des Journalistes (journalism school; Paris, France).

ADDRESSES: Home—Paris, France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Éditions Gallimard, 5 rue Sébastien-Bottin, 75328 Paris Cedex 07, France.

CAREER: Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, France, journalist, 1971–85, editor-in-chief, 1985–88; Le Figaro, Paris, editor-in-chief, 1988–2000, publisher, 1999–2000; Le Point, Paris, publisher, 2000–.


(Editor, with Lucien Rioux) Pierre Mauroy, Heritiers de l'avenir, Stock (Paris, France), 1977.

Francois Mitterrand: ou, la tentation de l'histoire (biography), Seuil (Paris, France), 1977.

Monsieur Adrien (novel), Seuil (Paris, France), 1982.

Jacques Chirac (biography), Seuil (Paris, France), 1987.

Le President (biography of Charles de Gaulle), Seuil (Paris, France), 1990.

L'affreux (novel), Bernard Grasset (Paris, France), 1992.

La fin d'une epoque, Seuil (Paris, France), 1993.

La souille (novel), Bernard Grasset (Paris, France), 1995.

Francois Mitterrand: une vie (biography), Seuil (Paris, France), 1996.

Le sieur Dieu (novel), Bernard Grasset (Paris, France), 1998.

Dying without God: Francois Mitterand's Meditations on Living and Dying (biography; originally published in French as Vieil homme et la mort), translated by Richard Seaver, introduction by William Styron, Arcade (New York, NY), 1998.

Mort d'un berger (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2002.

L'abatteur (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.

L'Americain (memoir), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2004, translation by Barbara Johnson published as The American, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Franz-Olivier Giesbert was born in the United States to an American father and a French mother, and the family moved to France when he was a small child. His father and grandfather were both artists, his grandfather also being on the faculty of the Art Institute of Chicago. Giesbert is a career journalist and the author of novels, biographies, and other nonfiction works, several of which have been translated into English.

Among these is Dying without God: Francois Mitterand's Meditations on Living and Dying, a biography of the French president who served his country in that capacity for fourteen years and who died in 1996 of the prostate cancer that had plagued him for years. Giesbert spent a considerable amount of time with Mitterand toward the end of his life, during which they discussed history, politics, and religion. At the time that Mitterand asked for their meetings, Giesbert was editor-in-chief of Le Figaro. As Bonnie Smothers noted in Booklist, the book reflects Giesbert's "love/hate relationship over the years with Mitterand." Mitterand read the bible but rejected Catholicism for atheism, and his lack of belief is reflected in his observations about his coming death.

The American is Giesbert's memoir, which delves into his relationship with his father, whose experiences during World War II negatively impacted his and his family's lives. Frederick Giesbert was an American soldier who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy during the D-Day invasion and who stayed and married Giesbert's mother, a nurse. The couple moved to the United States, where the author was born, before returning to Normandy when he was several years old to live on a farm. Although the elder Giesbert had the benefit of a privileged childhood, he came to despise American music, culture, and materialism. Giesbert tells of the beatings he, his siblings, and particularly his mother, received at the hands of his tormented father, and how his hatred of his father dominated his life. He writes of his plans to kill his father, although he never came close to carrying them out.

A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the palpable taste of hatred lingers even as an odor of regret pervades this work." Jonathan Yardley wrote in the Washington Post that "our parents shape us whether we love them or loathe them, which is one lesson the reader can take away from Giesbert's painfully honest book."



Giesbert, Franz-Olivier, L'Americain (memoir), Galli-mard (Paris, France), 2004, translation by Barbara Johnson published as The American, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.


Booklist, March 15, 1998, Bonnie Smothers, review of Dying without God: Francois Mitterand's Meditations on Living and Dying, p. 1197.

Economist, June 30, 1990, review of Le President, p. 83; June 5, 2004, review of L'Americain, p. 79.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2005, review of The American, p. 1123.

Library Journal, April 1, 1998, Augustine J. Curley, review of Dying without God, p. 94; November 15, 2005, Susan McClellan, review of The American, p. 74.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 1998, review of Dying without God, p. 87; September 5, 2005, review of The American, p. 42.

Washington Post, December 6, 2005, Jonathan Yardley, review of The American, p. C8.


Arcade Publishing Web site, (January 4, 2006), profile of Giesbert.