Jocelyne François

Jocelyne François
Born 1933
Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
Language French
Genre Lesbian fiction, poetry
Notable works Joue-nous "España"
Notable awards Prix Femina

Jocelyne François (born 1933 in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle[1]) is a French writer. She is the author of five lesbian novels, and winner of the Prix Femina.[2]


François was born in Nancy as the eldest of three children; early on in her schooling she gave evidence of great memory and a gift for writing. After six years in Catholic boarding school, where she met her future partner Marie-Claire Pichaud, she studied philosophy in Nancy and married, more or less for convenience: the two oldest children of this marriage were raised by their father, the youngest by François and her partner. Her partner is a painter, whose artistic sensitivities greatly influenced François, who embarked on a career as a writer. A turning moment was meeting poet René Char in the 1960s. François and Pichaud lived in Saumane-de-Vaucluse for twenty-five years[3] before moving to Paris[1] in 1985, amid health problems.[3]

Her first novel was Les Bonheurs, published in 1970 with Laffont and republished in 1982[4] with Mercure de France, which publishes all her work. She received the Prix Femina for Joue-nous "España" in 1980[1][3][5] and the Prix Erckmann-Chatrian for Portrait d’homme au crépuscule in 2001.

Besides novels, she also writes poetry and experimental prose. She began publishing her diaries; in 2009, the fourth volume (covering 2001-2007) was released.[5]

Themes and evaluation

In the French canon, François's work and success is said to testify to the viability and strength of gay and lesbian literature,[6] and adds to the corpus of a feminist, radical lesbian literature begun by Violette Leduc, Monique Wittig, and Christiane Rochefort.[7][8] Her winning the Prix Femina helped signal that literature's "institutional consecration."[6] Alongside Jeanne Galzy and Mireille Best, she is credited with creating "images of lesbians [which] challenge both the dominant heterosexist ideology and the limiting idea of the lesbian novel as manifesto in order to offer new visions of sexual identity."[9] Love, or the "ardeur [de l'amour] qui structure les jours," is an overarching theme in all her work, poetry or prose.[3]

Les Bonheurs (1970) is the first of a series of five partly autobiographical novels (even a "lesbian memoir"[10]) that explore lesbianism, relationships, marriage, and love. It is "a study of love in a hostile context, of lesbian love in a heterosexual world, trying to survive alongside religious belief dictated by a homophobic church."[4] The novel's main characters, Sarah and Anne, have loved each other since they met, at age 16,[10] but Anne breaks off their relationship after being told to do so by her priest. Both have relationships with men as well: Anne marries, and Sarah has an affair with a married man. After ten years the two get back together again.

Les Amantes (1978) picks up a few years after Les Bonheurs left off. Sarah (a painter) lives with the unnamed narrator (a poet) in Provence. Both are also potters. There is a child, and two other children visit for school holidays. A male friend offsets this balance, but the narrator's devotion to Sarah is absolute. The man's desire, however, leaves no room for anyone else, and destroys the relationship.[4]

In Joue-nous "España" (1980), "based on the author's childhood and adolescence," François investigates the influence of a strict Catholic education on a child's understanding of religion, love, and the world.[4] The novel was translated into English as Play Us España, and referred to as an "[excellent] young lesbian's autobiography."[11]

Histoire de Volubilis (1986), like Les Amantes, features a writer and a painter, Cécile and Elisabeth. Their relationship is threatened by the machinations of a psychologist and her husband, and rendered even more difficult by the mental problems experienced by Cécile's (grown) children.[4]

La femme sans tombe (1995) is the last of the five novels; its publication was apparently delayed because of a sickness on the part of the author. Some of the autobiographical aspects have been clarified by the intermediate publication of Le Cahier vert, 1961-1989 (1990), a journal of the author's childhood, which includes an account of her long relationship with a Marie-Claire Pichaud—a painter and a potter—versions of whom inhabit the novels.[4]







  1. 1 2 3 "Jocelyne François: Comme on parle à la nuit tombée". Ombres Blanches. 2 May 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  2. "Tous les lauréats du Prix Femina". Femina. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Naudin, Marie (1996). "François, Jocelyne, n. 1933, romancière, poète". In Christiane P. Makward, Madeleine Cottenet-Hage. Dictionnaire littéraire des femmes de langue française (in French). Karthala. pp. 250–51. ISBN 978-2-86537-676-6.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Waelti-Walters, Jennifer R. (2000). "Contrasting Perspectives: François, Best, and Monferrand". Damned women: lesbians in French novels, 1796-1996. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 188–99. ISBN 978-0-7735-2110-0.
  5. 1 2 Cordier, Marcel (27 May 2009). "L'Or du temps". Vosges Matin. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  6. 1 2 Enjolras, Laurence (1997). "Gomorrah and the Word: But Where Are They?". In Dominique D. Fisher, Lawrence R. Schehr. Articulations of difference: gender studies and writing in French. Stanford UP. pp. 215–25. ISBN 978-0-8047-2975-8.
  7. Hughes, Alex (2002). "lesbian/women's writing". In Alex Hughes, Keith Reader. Encyclopedia of contemporary French culture. CRC Press. pp. 564–68. ISBN 978-0-203-00330-5.
  8. Heathcote, Owen; Alex Hughes; James S. Williams (1998). Gay signatures: gay and lesbian theory, fiction and film in France, 1945-1995. Berg. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-85973-987-7.
  9. Schechner, Stephanie (2007). "The Lesbian Body in Motion: Representations of Corporeality and Sexuality in the Novels of Mireille Best". In Renate Günther, Wendy Michallat. Lesbian inscriptions in Francophone society and culture. Durham Modern Languages. pp. 123–42. ISBN 978-0-907310-62-4.
  10. 1 2 Decottignies, Jean (1989). Physiologie et mythologie du "féminin". Presses Univ. Septentrion. ISBN 978-2-86531-036-4.
  11. Stanton, Domna C. (1987). The Female autograph: theory and practice of autobiography from the tenth to the twentieth century. U of Chicago P. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-226-77121-2.
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