Literature: “Edmonde, the flight”, the Charles-Roux itinerary of Dominique de Saint Pern


Dominique de Saint Pern, journalist and novelist.

Isabelle Nori

If we accept these conventions, how do we measure the quality of such considerable work…

Dominique de Saint Pern, journalist and novelist.

Dominique de Saint Pern, journalist and novelist.

Isabelle Nori

If we accept these conventions, how do we measure the quality of work as considerable as that which led the journalist and writer to spend several years in research (this volume is the second) around personality, life and work of Edmonde Charles-Roux? The answer comes from Aragon, evoking “Stele for a Bastard”one of the first works of the one who will obtain, in 1966, for “Forget Palermo”, the Goncourt Prize “There’s something about it… It’s a lot more written than the genre usually requires. Dominique de Saint-Pern’s study, in addition to the quality of its documentation, is marvelously written.

His subject is not ordinary. Coming from an upscale background (a family of diplomats), conventional, let’s say traditionalist, Edmonde Charles-Roux spent her childhood, depending on her father’s posts, in Roman or Prague palaces. His sister married Prince Del Drago. His brother Jean, an extravagant dandy, joined the Rosminian Fathers, an obscure order. Dressed in a high fashion cassock, wearing a tricorn, it is he who will advise Mel Gibson for his “Passion of the Christ”. She herself, at the beginning of this volume, fought in the war as a nurse and resistance fighter, served in the 5and armored division of General de Lattre, was wounded, decorated, raised to the rank of “vivandière of the Foreign Legion” (sic, she is very proud of it, will reach the rank of corporal), and therefore enters, in 1945, at the age of 25 , in Parisian life, with a singular CV.

A man-eater

Adopted by Hélène and Pierre Lazareff, she found her first job at the magazine “Elle”. For her reports, she enlists a photographer. His name is Robert Doisneau. He prefers the workers, the schoolchildren, the butchers of the Markets, to the aristos. But his portraits of high society, of the last balls, are dazzling. Quickly, the Condé Nast group notices this elegant and talented young woman, she is appointed director of “Vogue France”. A pop cover, showing a black mannequin, here it is hunted. She will never lose interest in journalism (especially in Marseille where the daily “La Provence”, property of her husband, mayor of the city, gives her an office), but her vocation now is to become a writer.

Heiress of a right-wing family, the one that Louise de Vilmorin nicknamed “Edmondaine”, resolutely attached herself to the left

There is professional life, there is love life. Who knew Edmonde Charles-Roux already aged, with her strict bun, her little teacher’s glasses, will be surprised to discover her sentimental career. She was a man-eater. Françoise Giroud, who was not exactly a rosière, said: “She slept with everyone, it was almost a mania.” Everyone, but not just anyone. Derain could be his father. He left a portrait of her in which, her hair loose but already a pearl necklace, she radiates youth and charm. Maurice Druon is very handsome, he writes “The Accursed Kings”, he needs what the English nicely call “ghost writers”. Edmonde will be the cruel Countess Mahaut, and will fall in love with the sumptuous nephew of Kessel. Comes Biarrot François-Régis Bastide. Orson Welles, General Oufkir, young Colonel Gaddafi? Do we not add a little more? The decisive meeting will be that of Gaston Defferre.

Queen in Marseilles

In Marseille, Edmonde is queen. In any case, “Minister of Culture by conjugal delegation”. After Gaston’s death, she will fight like a tigress to honor his memory and control his estate. And then everything passes. Fulco di Verdura’s translator, the best-selling author of “The Irregular, my Chanel itinerary” (when she was invited to “Apostrophes” her mother said to her: “Go be interesting”), the one who was passionate about a other irregular, Isabelle Eberhardtextraordinary woman, will not finish her last book.

Literature Edmonde the flight the Charles Roux itinerary of Dominique de

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The pages where Dominique de Saint Pern describes the visit she made to the 96-year-old old lady, in the nursing home where she died a few weeks later, are terrible. Heir to a right-wing family, the one that Louise de Vilmorin nicknamed “Edmondaine”, resolutely attached herself to the left. It is only one of the contradictions of this “flown” destiny that the biographer retraces, with a subtle talent.

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Literature: “Edmonde, the flight”, the Charles-Roux itinerary of Dominique de Saint Pern