France’s ‘prince of letters’, dies aged 92

PARIS:- Jean d’Ormesson, an aristocrat and prolific author who was among France’s most popular intellectuals, died early Tuesday, his daughter told AFP. He was 92. Hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as the “prince of letters”, d’Ormesson became the youngest member of the Academie Francaise, France’s elite literary body, in 1973. The count – whose full name was Jean Bruno Wladimir Francois-de-Paule Le Fevre d’Ormesson but went by the nickname Jean d’O – wrote around 40 largely autobiographical novels.

He made his cinema debut aged 87 in 2012 playing former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in a comedy, “Haute Cuisine”, based on the true story of the leader’s chef. D’Ormesson had been a regular guest at Mitterrand’s table. Thin, elegantly turned out with mischievous blue eyes, the bon vivant d’Ormesson was a frequent face on French television. Little known abroad because his novels were not translated, he was honoured in 2015 by the publication of his body of work by the prestigious Pleiade publishing house. Born in Paris on June 16, 1925, d’Ormesson spent his childhood as the son of a diplomat, in Germany, Romania and Brazil. He took a degree in philosophy at the prestigious Ecole Normale, held a number of political posts and headed the conservative daily Le Figaro from 1974 to 1977. His literary career took off with the publication of “La Gloire de l’Empire” (The Glory of the Empire) in 1971, awarded by the Academie Francaise. After a protracted battle with bladder cancer in 2013, his book “Comme un Chant d’Esperance” (Like a Song of Hope) pondered the origins of the universe and the vagaries of fate.

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