THE DESPAIR OF MONKEYS AND OTHER TRIFLES, BY FRANÇOISE HARDY, TRANSLATED BY JON E. GRAHAM
At seventeen, Françoise Hardy lands a contract with Vogue record company. Later that year, she hears “Tous les garçons et les filles” on the radio, alongside Johnny Hallyday and Sylvie Vartan. The elation she feels at her sudden rise to fame is complicated, however, by her self-doubt: “No, I truly never imagined that the world of song would open its doors to me so easily,” Hardy writes, “Nor that they would close immediately on a gilded prison where, like it or not, I would spend the rest of my life.”
In her memoir, The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles, Hardy distances herself from the public persona that was crafted for her long ago. Determined to escape her role as style icon and muse, she focuses on her growth as an artist. She does so by discussing her insecurities—the discomfort she felt in her body as a young woman, the jealousy that plagued her relationship with her husband, actor and singer Jacque Dutronc. She writes, too, of the spiritual grounding she found outside her musical career, through the birth of her son and her lifelong study of astrology.
For fans of Hardy and her contemporaries (Serge Gainsbourg and France Gall, among others), The Despair of Monkeys is indispensable. It tracks the connections between the musicians and producers of the time, as well as the evolution of the Yé-Yé movement, the pop style that first captivated French audiences in the early sixties. Hardy’s memoir is sure to pique the reader’s interest with charming, celebrity-filled anecdotes, and it will also sustain it with her acute self-awareness, and her willingness to be vulnerable before her audience.
—Review by Anna Vilner