‘Aimez-Vous Brahms’ By Françoise Sagan: One woman, two men, one choice


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Wandering through the bookstore without a target and without my “Wish List” (lucky me, cause this is the essential condition to keep my head on my shoulders and an irreparable undisturbed budget), I was attracted by the unique, breathtaking Ingrid Bergman. She was smiling at me from a cover, framed by two handsome men. “Aimez-Vous Brahms?”  they asked me. You may read my answer below.

About the author

Françoise Sagan (born Françoise Delphine Quoirez), was a playwright, novelist and screenwriter born in France, in 1935, being the youngest child of bourgeois parents. Regarding the writer’s education, we may say that she was a rebel child:  expelled from two schools, obtaining her baccalaureate after a second attempt and, after that, dropping of Sorbonne University where she was admitted in 1952. The pseudonym “Sagan” is inspired by one of Marcel Proust’s characters. The writer’s best-known novel was her first novel, “Bonjour Tristesse” (“Hello Sadness” – 1954), which was written as a teenager and published when she was only 18 years old.

Her career as a writer was prolific, with numerous works published: novels, plays, short stories, screenplays, autobiographical works. Also, many of her writings became appreciated movies. The favorite themes were the romantic ones, with bourgeois characters going through personal dramas, author’s approaches being from social and psychological perspective.

About the book

“Aimez-Vous Brahms?” is the story of an amorous trio, centered on Paule, a woman in a painful “transition from young to not so young woman”, the border being represented by the age of 40, soon to be reached.

Paule has been involved in a relationship with Roger for the last five years, a relationship not obeying to social restraints, but based on freedom. An open relationship, as it is defined today. But the one who takes advantage of this freedom is only Roger, through his hedonistic style of living his life, along with an endless series of frivolous women. Paule feels this relationship as a mix of “pleasure and doubt, warmth and pain”, as she was being used to waiting for Roger and never expecting more from him. But the psychological threshold of 40 years will bring Paule anxiety about aging, loneliness, the need to be loved in the conventional sense and, implicitly, about the future of their relationship. All these worries make her look like she was suffering from something unknown, a look that proves to be absolutely seductive for young Simon, who will fall in love with her with all the madness and drama that come along with his 25 years old.

This is how the adventure of the two begins, during which Paule will try to rediscover herself. Behind the common, simple question written by Simon on a note – “Aimez-vous Brahms?” – she will discover “an enormous forgetfulness: all that she had forgotten, all the questions that she had deliberately refrained from asking herself. (…) Did she really care for anything, except for her own existence?”

Paule painfully  finds herself in a passionate plea of ​​the young lawyer, Simon, and she wonders if, somehow, the time has come to claim her right to happiness.

“I accuse you of letting love go by, of neglecting your duty to be happy, of living on evasion, subterfuge, and resignation. You ought to be sentenced to death; you will be sentenced to loneliness.”

The public affirmation of her new relationship will make Paule subject of the disapproving glances of society, whose “moral or aesthetic rules” have been violated by the age difference between the two lovers. But the couple will have other challenges to overcome, because Paule should learn to let herself be loved, to clarify the nature and the intensity of the feelings she has for Roger. She must understand if what she feels for him is love or just an emotional escape. Simon’s feelings are also debatable, cause his youth can make him susceptible of fugitive passion, and not of lasting, deep feelings.

In the sphere of uncertainty, we may find, also, Roger’s feelings who initially saw in Simon a young, harmless man in love, he but realizes that Simon can be a real rival. Roger will have to understand if what he feels for Paule is love or if the admiration he feels for her and the freedom he enjoys in their relationship, are the ones that make her indispensable in terms of comfort.

The central themes of the novel are the fear of aging, the fear of loneliness, the need to love (even in the absence of reciprocity), infidelity, freedom in the couple – its limits and repercussions. The movie inspired by the novel is famous (“Goodbye Again”, 1961) and it has in the main roles well-known and loved actors – Ingrid Bergman, Yves Montand, Anthony Perkins, the latter’s performance being rewarded at the Cannes International Film Festival with the award “The Best Actor”.

If you want to find out the denouement of this love triangle, make yourself a sweet “café au lait”, play some Edith Piaf on the background to help you enter the Parisian atmosphere of those times and sit comfortably in an armchair, with “Aimez-Vous Brahms?”. The book is Lust For Flying.

To the author:

Françoise, merci pour cet agrèable après-midi reposant!

(Françoise, thank you for a pleasant and relaxing afternoon! – Google translation, French language)


Quotes  (Dutton edition, New York, 1960)

  • “I love women who delight in money.”

“Then you love them all.”

  • “But she wondered whether honesty, the only honesty possible in this inextricable life, did not consist in loving someone enough to make him happy.”
  • “Women were like that: they appeared to demand everything and offer everything; they let you bask in complete confidence; and then one fine day they vanished, for the most futile reason.”

Read more book reviews by Raluca Neagu here.

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