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Rochefort, Christiane 1917–1998

Rochefort, Christiane 1917–1998

PERSONAL: Born July 17, 1917, in Paris, France; died April 28, 1998; divorced. Education: Attended the Sorbonne.

CAREER: Writer. Worked as a model, actress, and journalist; Cannes Film Festival, press attaché, 1953–68.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nouvelle Vague prize, 1958; Prix du Roman Populiste, 1961, for Les petits enfants du siècle; Medicis Prize, 1988, for La porte du fond: roman.

WRITINGS:

Le repos du guerrier (novel), Grasset (Paris, France), 1958, translation by Lowell Bair published as Warrior's Rest, D. Mckay (New York, NY), 1962.

Les petits enfants du siècle (novel), Grasset (Paris, France), 1961, translation by Linda Asher published as Children of Heaven, D. McKay (New York, NY), 1962.

Les stance à Sophie (novel), Grasset (Paris, France), 1963, translation by Helen Eustis published as Cats Don't Care for Money, Cresset (London, England), 1966.

Une rose pour Morrison (novel; title means "A Rose for Morrison"), B. Grasset (Paris, France), 1966.

Printemps au parking (novel; title means "Spring in the Car Park"), B. Grasset (Paris, France), 1969.

Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été (novel; title means "Once Again Happy That Summer Is Coming"), Grasset (Paris, France), 1975.

Les enfants d'abord (nonfiction; title means "Children First"), Grasset (Paris, France), 1976.

Journal de printemps: récit du livre, Éditions l'Étincelle (Montreal, Canada), 1977.

Ma vie revue et corrigée par l'auteur, introduction by Maurice Chavardès, Stock (Paris, France), 1978.

Quand tu vas chez les femmes (title means "How to Deal with Women"), Grassett (Paris, France), 1982.

Le monde est comme deux chevaux, Grasset (Paris, France), 1984.

La porte du fond: roman (novel; title means "The Far Door"), Grasset (Paris, France), 1988.

Conversations sans paroles: roman (novel; title means "Conversations without Words"), Grasset (Paris, France), 1997.

Adieu Andromède, Grasset (Paris, France), 1997.

Oeuvre romanesque (includes the novels Le repos du guerrier, and Printemps au parking, Grasset & Fasquelle (Paris, France), 2004.

Also author of Cendresetor, 1956; C'est bizarre l'écriture, 1970; Archaos, ou, le jardin étincelant, 1972, translation by Amos Kenan published as Archaos, or The Glittering Garden, 1974; translator of numerous books, including John Lennon en flagrant Délire, with Rachel Mizrahi, 1965; Le cheval fini, with Amos Kenan, 1966; and Holocauste II, with Amos Kenan, 1976.

ADAPTATIONS: Le repos du guerrier was adapted as the film Love on a Pillow, 1962.

SIDELIGHTS: Christiane Rochefort studied medicine, psychology, and ethnology at the Sorbonne and did not turn to writing until later in life. Her first novel was published when she was in her forties. A contributor to Contemporary World Writers noted that Roch-efort's novels present a "diligent observation of the workings of society." The reviewer went on to comment: "What she has found increasingly necessary to condemn is the determination of present-day society to make the behaviour of its individual members conform to models which are presented as 'normal' and which exclude the exceptional." For example, the reviewer wrote that the author's novel Le repos du guerrier, which was published in English as Warrior's Rest, "questions the traditional conception of female sexuality." The story is based slightly on the fable of the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice and features a young French woman who falls in love with a former soldier who has become an alcoholic following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

In Les petits enfants du siècle, published in English as Children of Heaven, the narrator's name is Josayne. The young girl's parents keep having children, a situation that the author uses to satirize French government efforts following the war to increase the country's birth rate by giving family allowances for each child born. Josayne grows up and finally meets her true love. As they look forward to marriage, however, the author warns that dreams and reality may be very different. A Contemporary World Writers contributor noted that the novel "illustrates the consequences of the material conditions of women's lives, including the generous French State child allowances that reduce women to childbearing machines." A contributor to Women Writers Talking wrote that the novel "has a perfectly linear structure, but time is handled deceptively: years can pass by in one sentence, whereas whole chapters may cover only a few hours. The love scenes at the end contain a section of puppetlike dialogue taken piecemeal from a trashy magazine, which renders a perfect cliché."

In Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été, the author turns her attention to how the schooling that children receive is responsible for "corrupting children's natural goodness, independence, vision and eagerness to learn," as noted by Times Literary Supplement contributor Barbara Wright. The story revolves around three children who are part of a group that walk out of a class, but these three do not return and try to make it on their own. Wright commented: "Groups of children come together and separate; an underground civil war develops between the fierce but frightened Kafkaesque Authorities and the network of liberty-loving children and their adult sympathizers."

Rochefort keeps her focus on children in her nonfiction book Les enfants d'abord, which means "Children First." The book focuses on children as a social class of their own, and the author examines how society forces them to conform and eventually be exploited. M. Rumeau-Smith, writing in World Literature Today, noted: "The book is a penetrating, acrid and feverish essay."

La porte du fond: roman, or "The Far Door," is a novel about a little girl who undergoes abuse at the hands of her father as told by the girl some two decades later. Wright, commenting in the Times Literary Supplement, noted: "Rochefort shows her heroine as a survivor, but it is clear that as such she is in the tiniest of minorities." Wright also noted that "the whole story comes across as the sober truth." French Review contributor Robert J. Hartwig commented: "There is no trace of titillating sensationalism, facile psychologizing, whiny or man-hating feminism. On the other hand, the novel is profoundly interesting, psychological … and feminist." Commenting on the novel in the Modern Language Review, Margaret-Anne Hutton wrote: "By manipulating points of view and setting up parallel structures, Rochefort prompts us, as readers, to engage with the central issue of responsibility and consent, confronting us with our own prejudices and preconceptions."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary World Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Todd, Janet, editor, Women Writers Talking, Holmes & Meier (New York, NY), 1983.

PERIODICALS

Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, fall, 2001, Michael Lucey, "Sexuality, Politization, May 1968: Situating Christiane Rochefort's Printemps au parking," pp. 33-68.

Forum for Modern Language Studies, July, 1995, Margaret-Anne Hutton, "'É la Guerre comme à la Guerre': A Reappraisal of Christiane Rochefort's Le repos du guerrier," pp. 234-245.

French Review, December, 1990, Robert J. Hartwig, review of La porte du fond: roman, p. 390; March, 1994, Claudine Thiré, "Les petits enfants du siècle, ou, la thématique du quotidian," pp. 580-590.

Modern Language Review, April, 1995, Margaret-Anne Hutton, "Assuming Responsibility: Christiane Rochefort's Exploration of Child Sexual Abuse in La porte du fond," pp. 333-344.

Spectator, December 10, 1998, Anita Broookner, "Prize-Winning Novels from France," p. 39.

Times Educational Supplement, August 25, 1978, Robert Béar, review of Les petits enfants du siècle, p. 14.

Times Literary Supplement, October 3, 1975, Barbara Wright, review of Encore heureux qu'on va vers l'été, p. 1152; January 27, 1989, Barbara Wright, review of La porte du fond, p. 88.

World Literature Today, summer, 1977, M. Rumeau-Smith, review of Les enfants d'abord, p. 415.

ONLINE

Matt & Andrej Koymasky Home Page, http://andrejkoymasky.com/ (February 3, 2006), brief biography of author.

Pegasos, http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ (March 4, 2006), "Christiane Rochefort (1917–1998)."

University of Sunderland Web site, http://www.sunderland.ac.uk/ (March 5, 2006), "Christiane Rochefort: Les petits enfants du siècle."

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