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Violette Leduc

Violette Leduc
Violette Leduc
Violette Leduc
Born(1907-04-07)7 April 1907
Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France
Died28 May 1972(1972-05-28) (aged 65)
Faucon, Vaucluse, France

Violette Leduc (7 April 1907 – 28 May 1972) was a French author.


She was born in Arras, Pas de Calais, France, on 7 April 1907. She was the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl, Berthe Leduc and André Debaralle, the son of a rich Protestant family in Valenciennes, who subsequently refused to legitimize her.[1] In Valenciennes, Violette spent most of her childhood suffering from poor self-esteem, exacerbated by her mother's hostility and excessive protectiveness. She developed tender friendships with her grandmother Fideline and her maternal aunt Laure. Her grandmother died when Leduc was a young child.

Her formal education began in 1913, but was interrupted by World War I. After the war, she went to a boarding school, the Collège de Douai, where she experienced lesbian affairs with her classmate "Isabelle", which Leduc later adapted into a novel, Thérèse and Isabelle. The novel was censored until 2000.[2] It was also during this time that she was introduced to what would become her first literary passions: the Russian classics, then Cocteau, Duhamel, Gide, Proust, and Rimbaud.

In 1925, Leduc embarked on an affair with her music instructor, Denise Hertgès. The affair was later discovered and Hertgès was fired over the incident.[3]

In 1926 Leduc moved to Paris, along with her mother and step-father, and enrolled in the Lycée Racine. That same year, she failed her baccalaureate exam and began working as a press cuttings clerk and secretary at Plon publishers later becoming a writer of news pieces about their publications.[4] She continued to live with Hertgès for nine years in the suburbs of Paris.

In 1942 she met Maurice Sachs - future author of Le Sabbat - and Simone de Beauvoir, who encouraged her to write. Her first novel, L'Asphyxie (In the Prison of Her Skin), was published by Albert Camus for Éditions Gallimard and earned her praise from Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet. Her friendship with Sachs is detailed in her autobiography La Bâtarde.[5]

In 1955 Leduc was forced to remove part of her novel Ravages because of sexually explicit passages describing lesbianism. The censored part was eventually published as a separate novella, Thérèse and Isabelle, in 1966. Another novel, Le Taxi, caused controversy because of its depiction of incest between a brother and sister. Critic Edith J. Benkov compared this novel with the work of Marguerite Duras and Nathalie Sarraute.[6]

Leduc's best-known book, the memoir La Bâtarde, was published in 1964. It nearly won the Prix Goncourt and quickly became a bestseller. She went on to write eight more books, including La Folie en tête (Mad in Pursuit), the second part of her literary autobiography.

In 1968 Radley Metzger made a film of Leduc's novel Thérèse and Isabelle.[7] The film was a commercial feature about adolescent lesbian love, starring Essy Persson and Anna Gael.

Leduc developed breast cancer and died at the age of 65 after two operations. She was living at Faucon, Vaucluse, at the time of her death.[8]

Violette is a 2013 French biographical drama film about Leduc, written and directed by Martin Provost.

List of works

  • L'Asphyxie, 1946.
  • L'affamée, 1948.
  • Ravages, 1955.
  • La vieille fille et le mort, 1958.
  • Trésors à prendre, suivi de Les Boutons dorés, 1960.
  • La Bâtarde, 1964.
  • La Femme au petit renard, 1965.
  • Thérèse et Isabelle, 1966.
  • La Folie en tête, 1970.
  • Le Taxi, 1971. English translation: The Taxi. Helen Weaver (translation). Hart-Davis MacGibbon. 1973. ISBN 9780246105851. OCLC 561312438.
  • La Chasse à l'amour, 1973.
  • Therese and Isabelle (Translated), The Feminist Press 2015.[7]


  1. ^ Hughes, Alex (1 January 1994). Violette Leduc: Mothers, Lovers, and Language. MHRA. ISBN 9780901286413.
  2. ^ []
  3. ^ Stockinger, Jacob (4 February 2006). "Leduc, Violette". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
  4. ^ Leduc Violette (1964). La Batarde. Dalkey Archive Press. p. 142 onwards. ISBN 978-1564782892.
  5. ^ Leduc, Violette (1964). La Batarde. Peter Owen. pp. 260–7.
  6. ^ "Leduc, Violette", in Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature, edited by Gaétan Brulotte and John Phillips. Routledge, 2006 ISBN 978-1-57958-441-2 (pgs. 790-792).
  7. ^ a b Lezard, Nicholas (28 February 2012). "Thérèse and Isabelle by Violette Leduc – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Violette Leduc, French Novelist". New York Times. 30 May 1972. p. 40.
  • Aldrich, Robert; Wotherspoon, Garry, eds. (2002). Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to World War II. Routledge; London. ISBN 0-415-15983-0.
  • Flanner, Janet (1977). Paris Journal : 1965 - 1971 Vol. 2 (pp. 10-13). Harvest (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). ISBN 0-15-670951-1.