Françoise Mallet-Joris, the bulwark of feminists
"Committed in many struggles for the cause of women, she was a novelist who bore witness to her time, endlessly reaffirming her compassion for her peers." (Audrey Azoulay)
Françoise Mallet-Joris, pen name of Françoise Lilar, was born in Antwerp, Belgium on 6 July 1930 to a family of lawyers. Her father, Albert Lilar, was the Belgian Minister of Justice for many years. Her mother, Suzanne, was one of the first women lawyers in Belgium. She was also a writer, her works including a very beautiful Journal de l'analogiste (1954) and the text Le Malentendu du "deuxième sexe" (1969), which challenged the essay of Simone de Beauvoir.
When she published under the pseudonym Françoise Mallet, she was only 21 years old. Her first novel, Le Rempart des Béguines (published in English as The Illusionist), was published by René Julliard in 1951, three years before her discovery of Françoise Sagan. For its time, the novel was quite scandalous. In a cold and foggy city in Flanders, a young woman was the mistress of an older man and also had a romantic relationship with his daughter.
The book was immediately noticed, and its author, the young Françoise Lilar, who quickly became Mallet-Joris, was launched into a long and rich literary career with around thirty titles. She published in prestigious printing houses (Julliard, Grasset, Gallimard, Flammarion, etc.), and she amassed awards and honours.
She received the Prix des libraires (Booksellers award) in 1956 for Les mensonges (House of Lies), the Prix Femina in 1958 for L'Empire céleste (Café Céleste), the Prix René-Julliard in 1963 for Lettre à moi-même (A Letter to Myself), and the Prix de Monaco in 1964 for the biography Marie Mancini, le premier amour de Louis XIV (The Uncompromising Heart: A Life of Marie Mancini, Louis XIV's First Love). She also wrote lyrics for singer Marie-Paule Belle.
Having been a member of the Prix Femina jury from 1969 to 1971, she was unanimously elected to the Goncourt Academy in November 1971. She held that seat until 2011, when she resigned for health reasons. Her last novel, Ni vous sans moi, ni moi sans vous, was published by Grasset in 2007.
Françoise Mallet-Joris died on Saturday 13 August 2016 in Bry-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne, France) at the age of 86.