I Shall Live Bad If I Do Not Write and I Shall Write Bad If I Do Not Live

Françoise Sagan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The French playwright and novelist Françoise Sagan whose best known novel was “Bonjour Tristesse” led a passionate and eventful life. The following remark emphasizing the duality of a literary career has been ascribed to her:

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.

I have been unable to find a good citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: A version of this statement appeared in “The New York Times” in 1956. The poet and book reviewer Harvey Breit asked an intermediary to inquire whether Françoise Sagan would be willing to write an article for the newspaper. The potential topics included: Paris, youth, or herself. Breit employed nonstandard spelling to represent the accent and speech of Sagan’s response. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

What could I say about Parees that as not been said before? And youth? I feel forty years removed from youth. About myself? I can tell in one sentence: I shall live bad if I do not write and I shall write bad if I do not live.”

A native speaker of English would have used the word “badly” instead of “bad”, but the sentence reflects Sagan’s command of English in 1956.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Shall Live Bad If I Do Not Write and I Shall Write Bad If I Do Not Live


  1. 1956 November 11, New York Times, Section: The New York Times Book Review, In and Out of Books by Harvey Breit, Quote Page 8, Column 3, New York. (ProQuest)