Albertine Sarrazin

Albertine Sarrazin (17 September 1937 – 10 July 1967) was a French-Algerian author.

She was abandoned shortly after her birth, in Algiers, and put in the care of the social services, where she was christened Albertine Damien. In February 1939, Albertine was adopted by a childless couple, a 58-year-old military doctor stationed in Algiers, and a 55-year-old housewife. In 1947, the family left Algeria and moved to Aix-en-Provence.

At the age of ten, Albertine was raped by her uncle. She attended the Sainte Catherine de Sienne school, where she won several prizes for excellence over the years. In 1949, she started to write fiction in spiral notebooksIn 1952, while Albertine was an intern at the local Lycée, her teachers complained of her indiscipline, and her father, authorized by a judge, committed her to a reformatory school in Marseille and tried to revoke her adoption.

In 1953, after having passed with honors the first admission exams for the university, Albertine fled to Paris, where she made her living through prostitution and petty theft. That same year, after stealing her adoptive father’s service pistol, she was arrested for attempting an armed hold-up. At the Court, Albertine said about the crime: I have no remorse. When I get it, I’ll let you know.

In 1957, still in prison, Albertine was held in solitary confinement, for ten days, for kissing another girl on her mouth. That same year, she escaped by jumping from a wall ten meters high (and broke her ankle). While crawling on the road, she met a thug, Julien Sarrazin, who rescues her and hides her at his mother’s house. They soon fell in love, got married, and spent most their time in and out of jail for committing small crimes.

In prison, Albertine took courses in Classical Literary Studies and wrote her first novels, L’Astragale and La Cavale, which were published after her final release, in 1965. In 1966, following the success of her first two books, she published La Traversière.

In 1967, Albertine and Julien settled in Matelles, but she died soon thereafter, due to complications during a kidney surgery. Patti Smith wrote about her: “Albertine, the petite saint of maverick writers.”



In English

  • The Runaway, tr. Charles Lam Markmann (1967. Original: La Cavale, 1965)
  • Astragal, tr. Patsy Southgate, Patti Smith (1968. Original: L’Astragale, 1965)

In French

  • La Cavale (1965)
  • L’Astragale (1965)
  • La Traversière (1966)
  • Romans, lettres et poèmes (1969)
  • Poèmes (1969)
  • Lettres à Julien (1971)
  • Le Times, journal de prison 1959 (1972)
  • Lettres de la vie littéraire (1974)
  • La crèche (1975).
  • Les Biftons de prison (1976)
  • Journal de Fresne (1983)
    • Le Passe-peine, 1949-1967. Tome 1: Journal de Fresnes
    • Le Passe-peine, 1949-1967. Tome 2: Liberté
  • Bibiche (2012)
  • Affaire Saint-Jus et autres nouvelles de prison: Le laveurAffaire Saint-JusLa crèche (2019)

About her

  • Albertine mon amie. Essay, by Pierre Bosc (1970)
  • Albertine Sarrazin, by  Josane Duranteau (1971)
  • Albertine Sarrazin. Pathetische und ironische Elemente im Gesellschaftsbild der Autorin und in ihrer Selbstdarstellung, by Ursula Meyer (1984)
  • Werde, was du bist. Literarische Frauenportraits, by Ria Endres (1992)
  • La Cavale, mémoire d’Albertine, by Benjamin Lambert (1994)
  • Albertine Sarrazin. Biographie, by Éric Vilboux (1999)
  • Albertine Sarrazin. Une vie, by Jacques Layani (2001)
  • La Sarrazine. Theaterstück, by Julie Virel (2002, play)
  • Albertine Sarrazin, le roman d’une vie, directed by Sandrine Dumarais (2004, documentary)
  • La femme errante, by Karin Schwerdtner (2005)

4 thoughts on “Albertine Sarrazin

  1. This author had a hard life. Thanks a lot for bringing attention to her, and I will be looking forward to reading her two books that were translated to English.


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