A tribute to Michel Déon, writer and academician
Michel Déon passed away yesterday in Ireland, at the age of 97.
He belonged to that circle of literary contemporaries – which included Roger Nimier, Jacques Laurent and Antoine Blondin – known as the « Hussars », of which he was its last surviving member.
Author of more than fifty works, he was the winner of the Prix Interallié in 1970 for Les Poneys sauvages (The Wild Ponies). In 1973 he received the Académie Française Grand Prix for his novel Purple Taxi (which is set in Ireland and was later adapted for cinema by Yves Boisset in 1977 and which brought together the diverse acting skills of Philippe Noiret, Charlotte Rampling, Peter Ustinov and Fred Astaire).
After the demise of Jean Rostand in 1977, it was Déon who was instated to the vacant (eighth) Chair by the Académie française in June 1978, later becoming its Elder Vice Dean (after René de Obaldia) and then, the Vice Dean of elections (after Jean d’Ormesson). Michel Déon was also a Commander of the Légion d’honneur
This great traveller, who had made many a sojourn to Greece, as well as discovering life in Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Canada, Portugal, Spain and Morocco, had a real “taste for the Islands” and how Island people went about their lives. Déon finally settled down in Ireland and lived in County Galway for what has turned out to be, his last thirty years, having spent the previous twenty years between living on the Greek island of Spetsai and the west of Ireland : "Greece was my obsession (...) but Ireland owns me" .
Déon had a huge appreciation of Irish writers (in particular Joyce and Beckett) as well as the wild Irish landscape and its inhabitants. As the Minister for Culture and Communication highlighted yesterday in her tribute to Michel Déon : « his romantic inspiration was nourished in particular by this land of Ireland that he loved so much». Here, he and his family experienced the feeling of being truly made welcome.
Michel Déon was closely linked with the University of Galway, notably for the donation of his books, and had strong working relationship on this project with Madame Catherine Gagneux, our Honorary Consule.
The Embassy supported the translation of his work which was published in 2005, “Horseman, pass by !” (Cavalier, Passe ton chemin) (the title being inspired from a poem by W.B. Yeats), which has just been published in the English language by (the publishing house) Lilliput Press. Michel Déon was able to receive this book into his hands just a few days ago. It deals honestly with his mémoires (experiences) of Irish life and is presented with great sincerity to his readers.
The French Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault, and all of his team at the Embassy salute the memory and work of this major figure of French Literary renown. They extend also to his family and those who knew him well, their sincere condolences as well as offering their deepest sympathy.
A requiem mass will take place in Tynagh, county Galway at 3pm on Monday 2 January.
A book of condolences will also be opened in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop in Galway (Middle Street) until January 6.