We follow them through romantic entanglements, ennui, and other existential crises.
The heroes of this novel are two Swedish siblings, a brother and a sister, Eleanor and Sebastian. Eleanor and Sebastian are both beautiful individuals who are used to living at other peoples expense yet they are hard not to like, because there is something incredibly attractive about their innocence. The way that Sagan writes these two makes it impossible not to relate to them, even if their lives have nothing in common with most lives, mine own not excluded. Eleanor and Sebastian are basically idle bourgeoisie, but the kind that it is impossible not to like, the kind that makes for its laziness by its inborn sophistication and can get away with things other cannot. I loved the way Sagan herself is a part of this novel, at times this book even felt like an autobiography of sorts. Scars On the Soul feels like an extremely mature work, perhaps even too mature in the sense there is this feeling of being a bit tired with life. I think that Sagan was 39 when it was published (correct me if Im wrong), and while this book captures beautifully that feeling of entering full adulthood and leaving young adulthood behind, I felt it was even wiser than 39 years, if you know what I mean. Sagan sometimes sounds like she is tired with life and unless Im reading too much into this, she also sounds a bit wise beyond her years. Her prose made me reflect life, perhaps even smile a sad smile, but this book didnt make me feel tired in any way. As I said, I quite liked the protagonists and the story (and most of all, Sagans own interruptions) but if the writing wasnt just right, this book wouldnt have kept my interest the way it did. This somewhat unusual story following two fascinating siblings, a brother and a sister connected by ties of love and understanding, wouldnt be so haunting (after all they are quite simple once you learn their ways) if their story wasnt constantly interrupted by Sagan's own thoughts. While Sagan writes about what is going to happen to characters, she also explains what is happening in her life and makes clever observations (for example she will stop to make fun of literary critics and social conventions and that sort of thing). There is something very sincere and candid in Sagans writing, and at the same time something very non-judgmental, and these two things are very attractive to me as a reader. Moreover, when Sagan gets philosophical, she seems to know her limits and she doesnt push beyond what is right for the novel, that is, rather than trying to turn her writing into something unnaturally ambitious, Sagan respects her limitations and doesn't hint at too many things and concepts trying to make it seem like she is all knowledgeable (unlike some writers).
This is the second novel I've read by Sagan, the first one being her first "Bonjour Tristesse". While I liked her debut novel, I felt that its potential was not fulfilled. I have to stress that because it is what makes a novel like this great. I would compare "Scars on the soul" (in form mostly) to Calvino's "Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore. With me and Sagan, its going to be love at second sight.
Sébastien and Eléonore Van Milhem, though they are nearing age 40, are so gorgeous and full of natural seductive charm that they basically write their own ticket wherever they go as long as they will submit to a little sex along the way. I wont argue against this being a fine work, but I maintain that I have enjoyed many of Sagans other novels a lot more.
Its interesting reading this 40 years after was written, with the benefit of hindsight.
Later that year, She won the Prix des Critiques for Bonjour Tristesse. First married in 1958 to Guy Schoeller, a publisher, they divorced in 1960, and she was then married to Robert James Westhoff, an American ceramicist and sculptor, from 1962 to 63.